BLOCS UPDATE & ACTION ALERT
9 ALLIES JOIN BLOCS TO CALL FOR QUALIFIED POLICE OVERSIGHT EXECUTIVE.
Are you with us?
On April 10, 2012, Atlanta Jobs with Justice, The Coalition for the People’s Agenda, Convened by Dr. Joseph E. Lowery, Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR), Pastor Anthony Motley of Lindsay Street Baptist Church, Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office, Project South, Inc. and The Southern Center for Human Rights join BLOCS in demanding that the Atlanta Citizen Review Board (ACRB) select a qualified executive director. Since that time, Grassroots Action Team has rendered its endorsement.
The ACRB conducts independent investigations of allegations of police misconduct lodged against Atlanta Police Department officers. Concerns about the board's ability to hire a qualified director arose after a community forum on March 22nd revealed that only one of four finalists for the job has experience in police oversight and legal practice. Only days before that, the ACRB made the news for suddenly removing information about complaints from their website. The board restored the information to the website only after hearing your comments at their March meeting!
The board is scheduled to vote on their next executive director on Thursday, April 12, 2012 at 6:30 PM during their regular meeting in Committee Room 2 of Atlanta City Hall. Meetings are open to public comment. Please come out and show the ACRB that the community has not forgotten the circumstances that created scandals like Neal Street. Let them know that our communities will not wait for another wake-up call!
Read the open letter to the ACRB (below and attached) and don't forget to meet us at City Hall on Thursday to raise your voices!
Dear Atlanta Citizen Review Board Members:
We write on behalf of concerned communities and organizations in Atlanta regarding the selection of our next Atlanta Citizen Review Board Executive Director.
The selection of Executive Director is a critical step in fulfilling the ACRB’s self-stated purpose to “promote public confidence in law enforcement and lessen the possibility that future incidents of unrest will occur.” The public’s faith in the ACRB rests largely on our belief that it serves the best interests of the people, even when faced with political pressure and hardship. Recent events, including the sudden removal of information from the ACRB website, have already caused the public trust to be shaken.
We acknowledge that the universe of qualified police oversight executives is quite small. Moreover, the number of those capable of leading reform efforts to change Atlanta’s institutional culture of police unaccountability and sanctioned misconduct is even smaller. Notwithstanding the highly specialized field of police oversight, we are concerned that of 160 applicants for ACRB Executive Director, the public is left with three of four candidates not possessing the necessary qualifications to successfully lead a major city in dire need of an overhaul.
A survey of progressive major cities with civilian oversight boards suggest that qualified executives should possess the following qualities:
(1) Licensed to practice law;
(2) Significant litigation experience;
(3) Extensive and current knowledge of constitutional and statutory law;
(4) Police oversight experience;
(5) Community organization and/or civil rights advocacy work;
(6) Notable managerial experience;
(7) Contemporary knowledge of best practices in policing; and
(8) Contemporary knowledge of best practices in police oversight.
We agree. It is also absolutely imperative that Atlanta’s new executive director be entirely free from conflicts of interest with the Atlanta Police Department and City of Atlanta government. At the ACRB community forum on March 22nd, three of four candidates refused to publicly acknowledge racially-biased policing as a problem in Atlanta (despite 93% of all marijuana arrests being of African-Americans) and touted their relationships with the Atlanta Police Department as assets. We are hardly assured that these individuals are capable of making independent decisions that will benefit our city.
The formation of the ACRB resulted from the public outcry caused by the slaying of English Avenue grandmother Kathryn Johnston at the hands of the Atlanta Police Department. Ms. Johnston’s death was the product of racially-biased policing, a culture of corruption, and institutionally-sanctioned cover-ups, among other ills. As we dealt with our demons as a city, we also became an unfortunate national spectacle of grave police misconduct.
Over the past five years, the board has reviewed numbers of complaints filed by people who were abused by officers engaged in some of the same practices that led to the Neal Street tragedy. Many communities have yet to heal from the trauma caused by continued irresponsible police practices and harassment. We trust that your sense of urgency and purpose have not now been subdued by the passage of time.
Strong police oversight is an asset to any city striving to achieve the very best for those within its gates. Leading an oversight board in a city like Atlanta is no small feat. As organizations and individuals, we urge you to choose an executive director who is qualified to take on such a major task and will not cause Atlanta to remain behind the curve in police oversight. Our communities cannot afford it.
Building Locally to Organize Community Safety (BLOCS)
Atlanta Jobs with Justice
The Coalition for the People’s Agenda, Convened by Dr. Joseph E. Lowery
Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR)
Grassroots Action Team
Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office
Pastor Anthony Motley, Lindsay Street Baptist Church
Project South, Inc.
The Southern Center for Human Rights