Jun 15, 2020
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms Press Conference: Talks Police Reforms, Rayshard Brooks Death
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms held a June 15 press conference in which she spoke about the killing of Rayshard Brooks by police, and announced police reform in the city. Read the full news conference transcript here.
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Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms: (00:01)
Good afternoon everyone. I am joined by our interim police chief Rodney Bryant and also Captain [Price 00:00:11] of the Atlanta Police Department. I want to provide a couple of updates for you, beginning with a string of recent deaths involving people who are experiencing homelessness in the City of Atlanta. Since June 1, we have had shootings involving three people and I want to provide what details we do have around those shootings. This morning a woman was found shot to death with multiple gunshot wounds inside of a tent at Pryor Road and Rawson Streets in Southwest Atlanta. The suspect was described as a black male approximately 5’10” to six feet tall, 170 to 200 pounds, and I know this is a very general description, last seen wearing a dark ball cap, a long-sleeve white T-shirt, dark jeans, and carrying a drawstring type backpack. We are also asking for the public’s assistance in identifying anyone in the area on Friday morning, June 12 at around 9:40 a.m. of where units were called to the area of 300 Ted Turner Drive on a report of a person who had been injured there. On the scene officers discovered the body of an adult male who had suffered from at least one gunshot wound and this was under the I-20 overpass at Windsor Street. I’m sorry, those are two separate.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms: (01:59)
I’m going to have Captain Price clarify these locations for you because I have Ted Turner Drive and also under the I-20 overpass at Windsor Street. Also on Monday, June 1 at around 1:40 p.m., officers were dispatched to Baker Highland, the Baker Highland Connector Northeast at Piedmont Avenue to another person who had been shot as well. Again, we know that the first two incidents have been linked and we suspect that the third is also related and we are continuing to gather information but ask for the public’s health in providing any additional information that you may have, if there are any surveillance camera video footage or if you were in the area during any of these times, we ask that you provide that information and again I will have Captain Price clarify the times and the locations. We are also working with our Continuum of Care and our service providers to help ensure that we are communicating with our homeless population in the same way that we have done in other emergency events to make sure that the word is out and that they are also on high alert.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms: (03:23)
I again want to publicly express my condolences to the family of Rayshard Brooks and update you on additional actions that I am taking today on behalf of the City of Atlanta to address many of the issues that over the past few days have become abundantly clear are problematic within the City of Atlanta. As many of you all know, over a week ago, we announced the creation of a task force and this was in response to President Obama’s challenge to cities across the country to take a proactive look at our use of force policies and to make recommendations. That task force convened for the first time last week and we anticipated having initial recommendations within 14 days with community input and final recommendations within 45 days.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms: (04:32)
On Friday evening, we saw the murder of Rayshard Brooks and as I’ve said before, I am often reminded of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “There is a fierce urgency of now in our communities.” That fierce urgency of now says that while our advisory committee continues to work to make recommendations to help us implement and review all of our policies in the City of Atlanta, it is clear that we do not have another day, another minute, another hour to waste. So as we look forward to receiving the very thoughtful recommendations and I appreciate their work, in the interim, I am signing an administrative order, a series of administrative orders today, calling upon our chief operating officer Joshua Williams to coordinate with the interim chief of police Rodney Bryant to immediately adopt and implement reforms of the standard operating procedures and work rules of APD concerning their use of force policies. Specifically, these reforms must comply with state law concerning the use of force and they will include addressing APD’s officers’ response to resistance, generally and specifically regarding the use of deadly force in accordance with the principle that officers should use only the amount of objectively reasonable force necessary to successfully protect themselves or others, to affect an arrest or to bring an incident under control when dealing with members of the community, suspects, detainees, et cetera.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms: (06:24)
I’m also requiring de-escalation generally and specifically prior to the use of deadly force in accordance with the principles that officers should use de-escalation techniques to gain voluntary compliance and avoid or minimize the use of physical force and to continuously develop, update and train officers in de-escalation techniques. Also requiring the reporting of all uses of deadly force by a police officer to our Citizens Review Board, adopting and implementing a duty to intervene, whereby a police officer sees another officer using force which is beyond reasonable under the circumstances, that they are duty bound to intercede and present that use of force and must immediately report the use of such force to an on-duty supervisor, and also provide lawful restrictions on when an officer may use deadly force toward a suspect who is in a moving vehicle.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms: (07:30)
We understand in Atlanta and across the nation that this is the beginning of a great deal of work that lies ahead of us to make sure that we are doing all that we can do to protect our communities and to follow the principles that were set forth by the Obama-Biden administration on 21st century policing. It’s very clear that our police officers are to be guardians and not warriors within our communities. We stand on the strong legacy of civil rights in this city and in this country and it’s for that reason I am also signing an additional executive order that will hopefully allow us, as we continue to grieve and show our frustration and anger as a nation, that will create the framework that will allow us to move to action and in an effort for us to develop a succinct appeal for human rights, I am signing an administrative order that will convene a body to begin to succinctly articulate our grievances and what we see as our solutions. We hope that this will be a framework in Atlanta and possibly the nation.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms: (09:02)
The actions that I am taking today are a continuation of the criminal justice reform efforts that I began at the beginning of my administration as mayor which have included the elimination of cash bail bonds in our city, meaning if you get stopped for a traffic ticket and you don’t have $200.00 to pay, you don’t stay in jail simply because you are poor. It’s also meant that we have asked our city council to reallocate a significant portion of our corrections budget towards community-based programming because after we closed our detention center to ICE, it gave us an opportunity along with the elimination of cash bail bonds to begin to reimagine and to begin the work to transform our city jail into a center of equity, health and wellness and I believe that is more important than ever that we continue that work in earnest.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms: (10:06)
As we continue to work with our advisory council on the use of force, we expect our first recommendations by June 24 with final recommendations by July 24 and it is my assurance to you that we will continue to do the work that we need to do to make sure that all of our communities, each and every person in our community, is treated with dignity and respect.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms: (10:36)
We saw the worst happen on Friday night with Mr. Brooks. It angered me and it saddened me beyond words but I know that it is my responsibility as mayor of this great city for us to continue to work to put that anger and that sadness into action and so this is the first of a series of actions and steps that we will take and I continue … I look forward to continuing to work with all of our community stakeholders so that we can begin to heal as a nation and as a city, but as someone who has experienced the sudden death of a loved one, I know that there are no words and no actions that will ever bring them back and will ever fill that void, but I do hope that the public and all of our community partners know that there is a deep and abiding commitment on behalf of this administration to make sure that we’re doing all that we can do so that another child does not miss the opportunity to have her father present on her birthday.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms: (11:51)
So with that, I’ll take any questions that you have and I’ll also turn it over to Chief Bryant and to Captain Price.
Mayor, [inaudible 00:12:01] Chief Bryant, could you just … For the sake of clarification, go through the orders. What is different with the orders here today compared to the current policy that is already in place for use of force and for de-escalation techniques [inaudible 00:12:17]?
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms: (12:18)
So let me just say … Based on what we saw happen on Friday, it became abundantly clear very quickly that there is a need for us to take an immediate look at our training policy. So some of these policies in my opinion, while we are speaking these policies, they are not necessarily integrated into our training. I’m going to let Chief Bryant speak in more detail on the difference on what our current standard operating procedures are and what the difference will be given this administrative order.
Chief Rodney Bryant: (13:04)
Good afternoon. Based on the policies that are being set by the administration and the police department, the alignment are very close, but the executive policies are actually a little bit more detailed and there are a few more requirements as opposed to the standards that we have currently. Right now there is no defined indication that one has to intervene in an act and that executive policy does spell that out directly. [inaudible 00:13:41] announcing that throughout many police departments are going to that model based on what we saw happen in the Floyd case, where officers have not to intervene with other officers when they see something that may not be appropriate.
Is that the biggest change that you see with these executive orders compared with the policy [inaudible 00:14:11] the policy is relatively new already –
Chief Rodney Bryant: (14:12)
As well as for us to … Being that this is an executive policy, for those policies to change, generally what you have is a policy that is created through the police department and we have the authority to change it as we deem fit, but an executive policy requires us to go through the mayor’s office and have that level of conversation before we can change that policy.
Speaker 4: (14:34)
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms: (14:38)
I’ll just add something to that. Part of the debate in looking at the shooting from Friday night is was that training, is that how our officers are trained, if someone has your taser, do our policies then allow you to respond with a weapon? So again, as we are taking a look at our use of force policies through our advisory committee, it is abundantly clear that through my executive powers, we need to reiterate our desire that there be de-escalation and that there not be an immediate use of force when there are other options that are available and to the extent that we need to codify that and to the extent that we need to formally change our standard of operating procedures, this executive order, this administrative order is a first step?
Speaker 4: (15:40)
Mayor Bottoms –
Do you anticipate the city council getting involved in perhaps putting these into the city code as an ordinance?
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms: (15:47)
Well the city council will not need to be involved from my understanding with our operating procedures as it relates to our police department but as it relates to anything that needs to be codified, certainly that will have to go through the legislative process and approval.
Speaker 4: (16:03)
Mayor Bottoms, the officer who was fired could face, possibly could face, charges in this case. Would you support charges being [inaudible 00:16:12] against this officer?
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms: (16:14)
Just like with the officers who were previously charged, that’s a decision from the district attorney’s office. What’s before me is working to implement policy and to change our operating procedures in the City of Atlanta. That decision was an independent decision made by a separately elected district attorney and I’m sure in the way this decision will be made but I have said this privately to the district attorney and I will say this publicly, we have other use of force cases sitting on the district attorney’s desk, including … At least two with men who were shot in the City of Atlanta and we have not gotten a response or a path forward on those cases so if it is his will to take a look at this case and go forward with criminal charges, it’s just my request that he look at all of our use of force cases that are s till pending in the district attorney’s office so that we can offer some finality for those families as well.
Mayor, could you talk about what this means to police officers on the street and these changes and also talk about morale within the department?
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms: (17:28)
The morale is bad right now. My understanding is that it’s really bad and understandably so. It’s bad across the country because of what is happening across the country and the scrutiny and focus and a lot of the anger and frustration that’s directed at our police department and I don’t think Atlanta is any different and I think you layer on … I spent Saturday afternoon looking at body cam footage. This is the third time in two weeks that I’ve spent the better part of day looking at body cam footage related to excessive use of force. So it is bad, but what I will say to our officers is that there is a shift of expectations across this country and that shift will be no different than here in Atlanta and I think in the long run it will be better for the men and women who work within our Atlanta Police Department.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms: (18:31)
If we are very clear on what our expectations or policies are so that they can also be clear in return as to how they are to police and partner with our communities, and I can’t say this enough. We have a police force full of people who work each and every day alongside our communities and they are a valued part of our communities, they are greatly respected within our communities, they volunteer at our Police Athletic League with our kids, they volunteer at our At-Promise Youth Center but clearly on the fact that I am standing here, speaking about the shooting and killing of a black man who was sleeping in a drive-through restaurant shows that there is a significant disconnect and it’s incumbent upon all of us to make sure that we address that disconnect.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms: (19:29)
I would just say it’s in the same way at some point in the nation we had to look at how we dealt with domestic violence cases, how we dealt with sexual assault cases. It is the same evolution I believe that police departments across this nation will have to take as it relates to racial interaction between our officers and how we police in our communities.
Speaker 5: (19:54)
Speaker 4: (19:55)
Mayor, what message do you have for the protestors? The ones who are out there every day. They have been out on the streets to the early morning hours, some are very upset. Some want to hear your voice. What message do you have for them?
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms: (20:10)
You know what I will say is my anger and my frustration matches theirs. The difference is that I am using the bully pulpit that I have as mayor to effectuate long-lasting change in this city, but I am equally if not more concerned. I am equally mad, I am sad. The entire range of emotions to watch Mr. Brooks on Friday night talk about wanting to go home for his daughter’s birthday. It breaks my heart, and there is nothing that I can say and that I can do as mayor that will bring him back, and that will change what happened on Friday. But what it does mean is that I will continue to try each and every day to make sure it doesn’t happen again and what I will also say and what … This is something that Carolyn Long Banks said to me, who was part of our city council for many years and was also one of the organizers of the student movement in the 1960s. She said, “Stop calling them protesters. They are demonstrators.”
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms: (21:47)
So we have to be careful, the language that we speak, and by in large, we have had peaceful gatherings in this city. Burning down buildings will not get us change in this city because if anything, it is going to erase the message and it is going to eclipse what this is all about and the Wendy’s that was burned down, 40 people from the community who worked inside of that Wendy’s, a minority-owned Wendy’s. We also have pictures that we put out of the young woman who burned down the Wendy’s and we also have a reward for her arrest because the reality is and I heard Joy [Shepherd 00:22:38] say this today, this is a food desert that we’re standing in. That’s one of the few fast food places in the entire area, so not only is an employment center gone, but also a place that somebody can go and get a salad is now gone. Those are the things that the demonstrators need to think about and call out the violence on our streets. People are frustrated, they’re crying out, I’m frustrated. But there has to be a better way because we saw it, we’ve seen it before. We saw it with the Civil Rights Movement and we saw the change that happened in this country and it did not happen by us burning down our communities and our cities and it’s not going to happen that way today.
Mayor, as a mother, when you saw that family today, you saw the pain in that family today, [inaudible 00:23:38]?
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms: (23:40)
Ryan, it broke my heart. I mean I lost my father at 24 and I still cry about my daddy and I would venture to say when I saw him run, if you all haven’t watched the entirety of that body cam video, he talked about his daughter’s birthday and the first thing I thought when he ran was that he probably didn’t want to be locked up over the weekend and I know that because I know … I’ve had family members in that position. They get locked up on the wrong day for something stupid. It didn’t have to end that way. It didn’t have to end that way. It pissed me off. It makes me sad and I’m frustrated and nothing I can do is going to change what happened on Friday. All right. Thank you.