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Opinion - Keisha Lance Bottoms' double-duty debacle

Bottoms should step down from either Council or AFCRA for the good of the city.

On the evening of May 6, Keisha Lance Bottoms met some of her constituents at the Andrew & Walter Young Family YMCA. The second-term Atlanta City Councilmember, who represents much of southwest Atlanta, updated approximately four-dozen people about the city's budget, her new "Invest in Southwest" economic development task force, and other issues. The update was remarkable, not because of what she had to say, but because it was her first appearance at a Neighborhood Planning Unit-R meeting in a more than year.

"I'm sorry, but for those of us who aren't familiar, what's your name?" one resident asked.

Bottoms also informed her constituents that she would soon become the next executive director of the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority. Starting on June 1, Bottoms will head the state-created agency responsible for overseeing properties including Turner Field, Philips Arena, Zoo Atlanta, and several smaller sites. She glossed over some details about her hiring: the cries of cronyism, potential conflicts of interest, and her lack of qualifications.

Bottoms has said that her decision to hold both positions is above board and points to a city ethics opinion saying as much. But while it's technically legal, that doesn't mean it's right. Bottoms' insistence on pulling double-duty not only denies full representation to southwest Atlanta residents, it undermines the city's best interests. Bottoms should pick one gig and resign from the other.

Bottoms is set to become one of the highest-paid public officials in the state. She'll make a total of $195,300 for her "part-time" Council work and "full-time" AFCRA position. Bottoms is an experienced lawyer and former magistrate judge and has plenty of experience inside courtrooms. But she lacks the professional background needed to most effectively lead AFCRA.

The AFCRA Board, which is comprised of six appointees from the mayor and three appointees from the Fulton County Commission, held an emergency meeting on April 14 with only five members present. They unanimously voted on two items: current Executive Director Violet Ricks would step down, and Bottoms would take her place. No job ads had been placed for the public position with a six-figure salary. No applications had been accepted. No interviews had been conducted. Fulton County Chairman John Eaves blasted the surprise decision over how it "smacks of cronyism" by giving a cushy gig to one of Mayor Kasim Reed's strongest allies.

Prior to the surprise hiring announcement, Bottoms asked the city's ethics officer for a formal opinion to determine if a conflict of interest existed by holding both positions. Atlanta Ethics Officer Nina Hickson found no apparent problems as long as Bottoms recused herself from AFCRA-related votes on Council. Hickson's ruling did not look at potential "appearances of impropriety" from AFCRA's perspective, however. Nevertheless, Bottoms claims that she's in the clear.

But Eaves noted that a real-life precedent was set 18 years ago. During the height of former Mayor Bill Campbell's corruption-tinged administration, then-Councilwoman Davetta Johnson Mitchell was in Bottoms' exact same position. She resigned from Council to take the AFCRA gig. If Bottoms needs a more recent example, look no further than last week, when Interim DeKalb County CEO Lee May resigned from his commission seat following calls from his constituents in southeast DeKalb to let them have full representation.

In the coming years, the sleepy agency will become more active than it's been in more than a decade. AFCRA will play a pivotal role in the city's biggest development deal at Turner Field. The nearly 80-acre site, which has at least one interested developer, will likely be sold in the near future with the Atlanta Braves leaving for Cobb County in 2017. How the stadium and its sprawling parking lots are redeveloped will determine whether southeast Atlanta neighborhoods can fully reverse the stadium effect.

With new Atlanta Hawks ownership being finalized, AFCRA's executive director could have to make important decisions regarding cash spent on upgrades at Philips Arena. Let's not forget about the forthcoming expansion of Zoo Atlanta, the uncertain future of FanPlex, and other properties. The right person — an expert in planning, development, and negotiations — needs to be chosen for this position. The right person would hold up in a formal hiring process. The right person wouldn't get the gig simply because they were a frequent supporter of Reed's initiatives on Council. (Reed's office did not respond when asked multiple times after the announcement what role he played in Bottoms' hiring.)

Bottoms recently rationalized her dual role by telling residents they "won't feel the impact" of her new gig on her elected duties. However, they've grown accustomed to the effects of an ineffective legislator who has rarely attended neighborhood meetings and has passed a small number of meaningful pieces of legislation. Now the residents who voted for Bottoms to fight for their needs won't have their full interests represented when votes regarding Atlanta's biggest development deal come before Council. In accepting the AFCRA role to further her political ambitions, Bottoms ultimately compromises her ability to serve the public if she keeps both positions.



More By This Writer

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  string(103) "Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed the 'religious liberty' bill and should do the same with the dangerous gun bill"
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  string(4593) "On March 28, Gov. Nathan Deal stood in the ceremonial governor's office and did the right thing. Deal announced he would veto House Bill 757, a controversial piece of "religious liberty" legislation that opponents claimed would have effectively legalized discrimination based on religious views. The governor said his actions were "not just about protecting the faith-based community or providing a business-friendly climate for job growth in Georgia. This is about the character of our state and the character of its people." He was right.

After weeks of pressure from human rights organizations, movie studios, and corporate giants, one of the most unnecessary and divisive issues that had popped up in Georgia was shot down. Just a few days earlier, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law a bill prohibiting transgender people from using public bathrooms that do not correspond to their biological sex and blocked cities from passing non-discrimination ordinances. The outcry and exodus by the business community has been strong to say the least.

Another bill awaits Deal's signature, this time to legalize concealed firearms on Georgia university campuses. HB 859, or Campus Carry as it's come to be known, would allow licensed gun owners 21 years or older to tote their weapons in classrooms, day cares, and virtually everywhere on campus except athletic events, student housing, and fraternity and sorority houses. Many students, professors, and members of the Board of Regents, the body that governs the state's public colleges and universities, have protested the measure, concerned for the safety of those working and learning on campuses across the state.

In a front-page editorial in February, UGA student paper the Red & Black confronted the bill's safety claims: "Supporters of the bill suggest that campus carry would increase the safety of campus. However, of the states that have implemented such a system, there is no data to suggest violence on campus has been reduced. A study conducted by Texas A&M — which is in a state with a campus carry law — found no correlation whatsoever between concealed carry laws and crime on campus."

Even Deal, who showed some early signs of support for the bill, ultimately expressed concern with the final language. As with the religious freedom legislation, Deal asked legislators to amend Campus Carry's scope. In handwritten letters to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston, Deal requested that they revise to keep the weapons ban on child care centers, office spaces, and disciplinary hearings. But as with the religious freedom legislation, lawmakers refused to budge.

In both instances, Deal has weighed the consequences of polarizing legislation rather than offering knee-jerk approval to his party's pet projects. Deal showed he could prioritize the well-being of the many over the special interests of the few when he vetoed the "religious liberty" legislation. He should apply the same thinking here and veto the broad and dangerous Campus Carry bill.

Another veto on what's considered a conservative-friendly bill by Deal, who has said he's retiring from politics when his second and final term ends in 2019, would likely be met with backlash. There's a good chance state lawmakers would try to override a veto when the Legislature convenes next January. Or a few vocal members could call for a special session before then, similar to what happened after the governor nixed the religious liberty legislation. We say let them do so. Government can be messy and a transparent dialogue is healthy. If conservative lawmakers want to continue spending their oxygen on guns on campuses rather than solutions for their communities and the state as a whole, that's their decision. Maybe while they're drafting the next round of legislation they can include the Gold Dome in the list of places people can carry guns. Georgia gun legislation always manages to omit the Capitol.

Deal exercised good judgment on religious liberty and criminal justice reform (we're still waiting for action on other important issues such as Medicaid expansion). We hope he'll show it again and push lawmakers to try and address how to increase safety on campus. Directly addressing rape and sexual assaults would be a good place to start. Much like with religious liberty, Georgia is stepping out in a void. It is dangerously close to approving a policy that would increase the number of lethal weapons on campuses when there's little research saying doing so actually makes a difference. It is the wrong move to make.

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  string(4900) "On March 28, Gov. Nathan Deal stood in the ceremonial governor's office and did the right thing. Deal announced he would veto House Bill 757, a controversial piece of "religious liberty" legislation that opponents claimed would have effectively legalized discrimination based on religious views. The governor said his actions were "not just about protecting the faith-based community or providing a business-friendly climate for job growth in Georgia. This is about the character of our state and the character of its people." He was right.

After weeks of pressure from human rights organizations, movie studios, and corporate giants, one of the most unnecessary and divisive issues that had popped up in Georgia was shot down. Just a few days earlier, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory [http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/23/politics/north-carolina-gender-bathrooms-bill/|signed into law] a bill prohibiting transgender people from using public bathrooms that do not correspond to their biological sex and blocked cities from passing non-discrimination ordinances. The outcry and exodus by the business community has been strong to say the least.

Another bill awaits Deal's signature, this time to legalize concealed firearms on Georgia university campuses. HB 859, or Campus Carry as it's come to be known, would allow licensed gun owners 21 years or older to tote their weapons in classrooms, day cares, and virtually everywhere on campus except athletic events, student housing, and fraternity and sorority houses. Many students, professors, and members of the Board of Regents, the body that governs the state's public colleges and universities, have protested the measure, concerned for the safety of those working and learning on campuses across the state.

In a [http://www.redandblack.com/opinion/campus-carry-has-no-benefits-at-uga-or-any-university/article_5301651e-dc91-11e5-ab36-33f093c3dffe.html|front-page editorial] in February, UGA student paper the ''Red & Black'' confronted the bill's safety claims: "Supporters of the bill suggest that campus carry would increase the safety of campus. However, of the states that have implemented such a system, there is no data to suggest violence on campus has been reduced. A study conducted by Texas A&M — which is in a state with a campus carry law — found no correlation whatsoever between concealed carry laws and crime on campus."

Even Deal, who showed some early signs of support for the bill, ultimately expressed concern with the final language. As with the religious freedom legislation, Deal asked legislators to amend Campus Carry's scope. In handwritten letters to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston, Deal requested that they revise to keep the weapons ban on child care centers, office spaces, and disciplinary hearings. But as with the religious freedom legislation, lawmakers refused to budge.

In both instances, Deal has weighed the consequences of polarizing legislation rather than offering knee-jerk approval to his party's pet projects. Deal showed he could prioritize the well-being of the many over the special interests of the few when he [http://clatl.com/freshloaf/archives/2016/03/28/deal-will-veto-religious-liberty-bill|vetoed the "religious liberty" legislation]. He should apply the same thinking here and veto the broad and dangerous Campus Carry bill.

Another veto on what's considered a conservative-friendly bill by Deal, who has said he's retiring from politics when his second and final term ends in 2019, would likely be met with backlash. There's a good chance state lawmakers would try to override a veto when the Legislature convenes next January. Or a few vocal members could call for a special session before then, similar to what happened after the governor nixed the religious liberty legislation. We say let them do so. Government can be messy and a transparent dialogue is healthy. If conservative lawmakers want to continue spending their oxygen on guns on campuses rather than solutions for their communities and the state as a whole, that's their decision. Maybe while they're drafting the next round of legislation they can include the Gold Dome in the list of places people can carry guns. Georgia gun legislation always manages to omit the Capitol.

Deal exercised good judgment on religious liberty and criminal justice reform (we're still waiting for action on other important issues such as Medicaid expansion). We hope he'll show it again and push lawmakers to try and address how to increase safety on campus. Directly addressing rape and sexual assaults would be a good place to start. Much like with religious liberty, Georgia is stepping out in a void. It is dangerously close to approving a policy that would increase the number of lethal weapons on campuses when there's little research saying doing so actually makes a difference. It is the wrong move to make.

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  string(4968) "    Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed the 'religious liberty' bill and should do the same with the dangerous gun bill   2016-04-19T08:00:00+00:00 Opinion - Veto Campus Carry   Editorial Board 1576285 2016-04-19T08:00:00+00:00  On March 28, Gov. Nathan Deal stood in the ceremonial governor's office and did the right thing. Deal announced he would veto House Bill 757, a controversial piece of "religious liberty" legislation that opponents claimed would have effectively legalized discrimination based on religious views. The governor said his actions were "not just about protecting the faith-based community or providing a business-friendly climate for job growth in Georgia. This is about the character of our state and the character of its people." He was right.

After weeks of pressure from human rights organizations, movie studios, and corporate giants, one of the most unnecessary and divisive issues that had popped up in Georgia was shot down. Just a few days earlier, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law a bill prohibiting transgender people from using public bathrooms that do not correspond to their biological sex and blocked cities from passing non-discrimination ordinances. The outcry and exodus by the business community has been strong to say the least.

Another bill awaits Deal's signature, this time to legalize concealed firearms on Georgia university campuses. HB 859, or Campus Carry as it's come to be known, would allow licensed gun owners 21 years or older to tote their weapons in classrooms, day cares, and virtually everywhere on campus except athletic events, student housing, and fraternity and sorority houses. Many students, professors, and members of the Board of Regents, the body that governs the state's public colleges and universities, have protested the measure, concerned for the safety of those working and learning on campuses across the state.

In a front-page editorial in February, UGA student paper the Red & Black confronted the bill's safety claims: "Supporters of the bill suggest that campus carry would increase the safety of campus. However, of the states that have implemented such a system, there is no data to suggest violence on campus has been reduced. A study conducted by Texas A&M — which is in a state with a campus carry law — found no correlation whatsoever between concealed carry laws and crime on campus."

Even Deal, who showed some early signs of support for the bill, ultimately expressed concern with the final language. As with the religious freedom legislation, Deal asked legislators to amend Campus Carry's scope. In handwritten letters to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston, Deal requested that they revise to keep the weapons ban on child care centers, office spaces, and disciplinary hearings. But as with the religious freedom legislation, lawmakers refused to budge.

In both instances, Deal has weighed the consequences of polarizing legislation rather than offering knee-jerk approval to his party's pet projects. Deal showed he could prioritize the well-being of the many over the special interests of the few when he vetoed the "religious liberty" legislation. He should apply the same thinking here and veto the broad and dangerous Campus Carry bill.

Another veto on what's considered a conservative-friendly bill by Deal, who has said he's retiring from politics when his second and final term ends in 2019, would likely be met with backlash. There's a good chance state lawmakers would try to override a veto when the Legislature convenes next January. Or a few vocal members could call for a special session before then, similar to what happened after the governor nixed the religious liberty legislation. We say let them do so. Government can be messy and a transparent dialogue is healthy. If conservative lawmakers want to continue spending their oxygen on guns on campuses rather than solutions for their communities and the state as a whole, that's their decision. Maybe while they're drafting the next round of legislation they can include the Gold Dome in the list of places people can carry guns. Georgia gun legislation always manages to omit the Capitol.

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Tuesday April 19, 2016 04:00 am EDT
Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed the 'religious liberty' bill and should do the same with the dangerous gun bill | more...
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  string(74) "Opinion - Grand jury law allowing cops to testify unchallenged needs to go"
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  string(71) "Granting police special privileges creates a potentially biased process"
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  string(4130) "U.S. Air Force veteran Anthony Hill was killed at his Chamblee apartment complex in March 2015 by DeKalb County Police Officer Robert Olsen. The day Olsen shot Hill, the 27-year-old, who had been diagnosed as bipolar, was naked and wandering around his apartment complex knocking on neighbors' doors. He jumped off a balcony. Neighbors called 911. Olsen arrived in response and ultimately shot the unarmed and naked Hill twice in the chest, killing him.

The lethal events that unfolded between Olsen, who is white and had access to a taser, and Hill, who was black, occurred at a time of increased scrutiny nationwide of police interactions with black and minority citizens. In the months following Hill's death, Hill's family, former girlfriend, supporters, and the public waited to see if an indictment would come. In January, a grand jury indicted Olsen on six charges, including two counts of felony murder, one count of aggravated assault, one count of making a false statement, and two counts of violation of oath by a public officer. It is unusual for officers to be indicted — Olsen's is the first indictment of a police officer in Georgia in more than five years.

In an interview published the day before the announcement, Hill's former girlfriend Bridget Anderson told Creative Loafing, "I do have faith that the grand jury will make the right decision in indicting Officer Olsen. However, I am wary that Georgia is the only state that allows a police officer to speak last to a jury without any questioning or cross-examination. I've made it my goal to change that law."

Anderson, who's been advocating for reforms since Hill's death, was referring to an anomaly unique to Georgia's already secretive grand jury process that allows police officers not only to sit in on the process and hear all evidence against them, but also to make final, unchallenged statements to the jury. This provision has the potential to skew the outcome in favor of the defendant and alter the course of justice. As DeKalb District Attorney Robert James noted earlier this month to the Associated Press, that law also allows officers' attorneys to "see the hand that we're holding, but we don't necessarily get an opportunity to see the hand that they're holding."

Defenders of the law say it protects police who must make quick decisions in dangerous circumstances. But granting police special privileges creates a potentially biased process. The law should be changed to disallow unchallenged closing statements by police in order to ensure that decisions to proceed — or not — to trial are made based on evidence, not emotional appeals.

On Feb. 8, a bill was introduced in the legislature that would do just that. House Bill 941 offers a series of changes to the current law with the intention of increasing transparency and accountability. As of press time, the bill proposed limiting officers' time with the jury and permitting cross-examination by the prosecution and juror questioning. The bill would also create a one-year statute of limitations on grand jury reviews and increase the lead time notification officers receive of a hearing by five days.

In 2015, the AJC and Channel 2 published a deep investigation into Georgia's grand jury process. Their reporting found that between 2010-2015 zero prosecutions followed 171 fatal police shootings in Georgia.

It's hard to say definitively how Georgia's law affected that statistic. Some of those shootings might have been justified. But the fact that the privilege exists creates an unfair environment where police officers, who in courts of law are often given the benefit of the doubt, are able to personally plea to a group of people asked to judge cases based on the facts. That should happen during a trial.

Police officers have difficult and often thankless jobs. But that alone should not grant them leniency in the judicial system with special privileges. The goal is not to indict more police officers just to indict them. It's to make sure people are being held accountable for their actions, especially when their decisions result in taking a person's life."
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  string(4605) "U.S. Air Force veteran Anthony Hill was killed at his Chamblee apartment complex in March 2015 by DeKalb County Police Officer Robert Olsen. The day Olsen shot Hill, the [http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/22/us/georgia-police-officer-robert-olsen-anthony-hill-shooting.html|27-year-old], who had been diagnosed as bipolar, was naked and wandering around his apartment complex knocking on neighbors' doors. He jumped off a balcony. Neighbors called 911. Olsen arrived in response and ultimately shot the unarmed and naked Hill twice in the chest, killing him.

The lethal events that unfolded between Olsen, who is white and had access to a taser, and Hill, who was black, occurred at a time of increased scrutiny nationwide of police interactions with black and minority citizens. In the months following Hill's death, Hill's family, former girlfriend, supporters, and the public waited to see if an indictment would come. In January, a grand jury indicted Olsen on [http://www.11alive.com/story/news/local/decatur/2016/01/21/grand-jury-indicts-officer-robert-olson-death-anthony-hill/79122270/|six charges], including two counts of felony murder, one count of aggravated assault, one count of making a false statement, and two counts of violation of oath by a public officer. It is unusual for officers to be indicted — Olsen's is the first indictment of a police officer in Georgia in [http://investigations.myajc.com/overtheline/prosecuted/|more than five years].

In an interview published the day before the announcement, Hill's former girlfriend Bridget Anderson told ''Creative Loafing'', "I do have faith that the grand jury will make the right decision in indicting Officer Olsen. However, I am wary that Georgia is the only state that allows a police officer to speak last to a jury without any questioning or cross-examination. I've made it my goal to change that law."

Anderson, who's been advocating for reforms since Hill's death, was referring to an anomaly unique to Georgia's already secretive grand jury process that allows police officers not only to sit in on the process and hear all evidence against them, but also to make final, unchallenged statements to the jury. This provision has the potential to skew the outcome in favor of the defendant and alter the course of justice. As DeKalb District Attorney Robert James noted earlier this month to the Associated Press, that law also allows officers' attorneys to "see the hand that we're holding, but we don't necessarily get an opportunity to see the hand that they're holding."

Defenders of the law say it protects police who must make quick decisions in dangerous circumstances. But granting police special privileges creates a potentially biased process. The law should be changed to disallow unchallenged closing statements by police in order to ensure that decisions to proceed — or not — to trial are made based on evidence, not emotional appeals.

On Feb. 8, a bill was introduced in the legislature that would do just that. [http://www.myajc.com/news/news/state-regional-govt-politics/law-would-curb-police-grand-jury-privileges-in-ga/nqMZw/|House Bill 941] offers a series of changes to the current law with the intention of increasing transparency and accountability. As of press time, the bill proposed limiting officers' time with the jury and permitting cross-examination by the prosecution and juror questioning. The bill would also create a one-year statute of limitations on grand jury reviews and increase the lead time notification officers receive of a hearing by five days.

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Police officers have difficult and often thankless jobs. But that alone should not grant them leniency in the judicial system with special privileges. The goal is not to indict more police officers just to indict them. It's to make sure people are being held accountable for their actions, especially when their decisions result in taking a person's life."
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  string(4567) "    Granting police special privileges creates a potentially biased process   2016-02-18T09:00:00+00:00 Opinion - Grand jury law allowing cops to testify unchallenged needs to go   Editorial Board 1576285 2016-02-18T09:00:00+00:00  U.S. Air Force veteran Anthony Hill was killed at his Chamblee apartment complex in March 2015 by DeKalb County Police Officer Robert Olsen. The day Olsen shot Hill, the 27-year-old, who had been diagnosed as bipolar, was naked and wandering around his apartment complex knocking on neighbors' doors. He jumped off a balcony. Neighbors called 911. Olsen arrived in response and ultimately shot the unarmed and naked Hill twice in the chest, killing him.

The lethal events that unfolded between Olsen, who is white and had access to a taser, and Hill, who was black, occurred at a time of increased scrutiny nationwide of police interactions with black and minority citizens. In the months following Hill's death, Hill's family, former girlfriend, supporters, and the public waited to see if an indictment would come. In January, a grand jury indicted Olsen on six charges, including two counts of felony murder, one count of aggravated assault, one count of making a false statement, and two counts of violation of oath by a public officer. It is unusual for officers to be indicted — Olsen's is the first indictment of a police officer in Georgia in more than five years.

In an interview published the day before the announcement, Hill's former girlfriend Bridget Anderson told Creative Loafing, "I do have faith that the grand jury will make the right decision in indicting Officer Olsen. However, I am wary that Georgia is the only state that allows a police officer to speak last to a jury without any questioning or cross-examination. I've made it my goal to change that law."

Anderson, who's been advocating for reforms since Hill's death, was referring to an anomaly unique to Georgia's already secretive grand jury process that allows police officers not only to sit in on the process and hear all evidence against them, but also to make final, unchallenged statements to the jury. This provision has the potential to skew the outcome in favor of the defendant and alter the course of justice. As DeKalb District Attorney Robert James noted earlier this month to the Associated Press, that law also allows officers' attorneys to "see the hand that we're holding, but we don't necessarily get an opportunity to see the hand that they're holding."

Defenders of the law say it protects police who must make quick decisions in dangerous circumstances. But granting police special privileges creates a potentially biased process. The law should be changed to disallow unchallenged closing statements by police in order to ensure that decisions to proceed — or not — to trial are made based on evidence, not emotional appeals.

On Feb. 8, a bill was introduced in the legislature that would do just that. House Bill 941 offers a series of changes to the current law with the intention of increasing transparency and accountability. As of press time, the bill proposed limiting officers' time with the jury and permitting cross-examination by the prosecution and juror questioning. The bill would also create a one-year statute of limitations on grand jury reviews and increase the lead time notification officers receive of a hearing by five days.

In 2015, the AJC and Channel 2 published a deep investigation into Georgia's grand jury process. Their reporting found that between 2010-2015 zero prosecutions followed 171 fatal police shootings in Georgia.

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Police officers have difficult and often thankless jobs. But that alone should not grant them leniency in the judicial system with special privileges. The goal is not to indict more police officers just to indict them. It's to make sure people are being held accountable for their actions, especially when their decisions result in taking a person's life.             13086433 16980543        http://dev.creativeloafing.com/image/2016/02/031a30_news_opinion1_1_43.png                  Opinion - Grand jury law allowing cops to testify unchallenged needs to go "
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Article

Thursday February 18, 2016 04:00 am EST
Granting police special privileges creates a potentially biased process | more...
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  string(64) "Lower rents, WRAS' rebirth, and a triumphant return for Manuel's"
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  string(5300) "It seems like only yesterday we were sitting in our reasonably priced apartments making plans for beers at Manuel's before a concert at the Masquerade. Those days may be gone — or at least put on hold — as Atlanta moves into 2016, but that doesn't mean we'll stop holding our city to a high standard. Here are CL staffers' humble wishes for the coming year.

REIN IN THE RENTS: Atlanta needs an affordable housing policy with teeth. The city's not adding affordable housing units, it's losing them. According to Georgia Tech Professor Dan Immergluck, approximately 5,000 low-cost apartments and homes went bye-bye from 2010 to 2013. Atlanta City Councilman Andre Dickens is expected to unveil a proposal and Mayor Kasim Reed wants to see movement on the issue. May the gods who want vibrant, sustainable cities look down upon Atlanta and give us a policy without loopholes that make it pretty on paper but useless in reality. Oh, and make it citywide.

REAL TALK ABOUT AFFORDABILITY: At the same time, we need an end to the stigma attached to "affordable housing." Atlanta's rampant income inequality has put such a squeeze on the middle class that even the conversations around affordable housing don't include us. We need a development boom of true lower-middle-class housing inside the city. That includes different multi-family housing options and styles that can accommodate more people. Otherwise, as Reed recently acknowledged, we'll be headed the way of San Francisco.

HELP THE HOMELESS: Homelessness is a serious issue and deserves to be treated as such. It requires funding and attention from a wide variety of government and medical groups. It warrants innovative approaches that combat the root causes of homelessness rather than playing musical chairs with one of our most vulnerable populations.

PUT WRAS BACK ON THE AIR 24-7: The beloved college radio station being booted off the air during the day has deprived local music lovers — all music lovers, really — of hearing new bands and sounds. We still miss it. And we still want it back.

A TRIUMPHANT RETURN FOR MANUEL'S TAVERN: Green Street Properties and the bar's owners have promised that the Poncey-Highland watering hole's renovation is focused on its guts rather than its charm. Pictures and old beer cans will be returned to their previous spots, they say. We hope they don't take the vowels out of the name so it will be MNL's or the Gastro Pub at 602 N. Highland Ave.

NO MORE NO-MAN'S-LANDS: More sidewalks! Fixed sidewalks! Bike lanes! Better development! Whatever it takes, just fill the gaps between neighborhoods. That doesn't mean we have to line every street with mixed-use developments. But make it easier to go from neighborhood to neighborhood if you're not in a car. We should not have to drive to walkable places.

TRANSPARENCY: We need transparency in officer-involved shootings — and less of them. Waiting months for the release of surveillance footage in the death of Alexia Christian, a 26-year-old woman who was shot and killed by Atlanta Police after they say she opened fire from the back of a patrol car, makes no sense. And it does nothing to ease community concerns about police powers. Better training and officers connecting with the communities they patrol could help reduce unnecessary violence and build bonds between police and residents.

KEEP SOUTH DOWNTOWN REAL: Now that Downtown renovation seems like a reality in the foreseeable future, it's time we consider what that future should look like. The last thing Atlanta needs is another homogenized, over-gentrified section of town. Whatever we do, dear God, please, let's preserve a sense of South Downtown's urbanity. Don't knock down Underground to turn it into a replica of Midtown.

NO CASINOS: We repeat, NO CASINOS.

REDUCE FOOD LOSS: According to the USDA, an estimated 133 billion pounds of food was wasted in 2010. In recent years, forward-thinking individuals have advocated for more sustainable practices in the restaurant industry. Many local eateries have already incorporated the responsible sourcing of locally grown ingredients into their business models. In an effort to reduce the amount of food that ends up in landfills, however, in 2016 we'd like to see Atlanta restaurants begin to adopt practices such as repurposing less desirable animal parts and vegetable scraps in creative ways, forging partnerships with charities or shelters that might accept usable food, as well as growing food on-site and composting when possible.

BE GONE, PARKATLANTA: End the private company's contract and put someone in charge of parking enforcement who will be transparent and operate with oversight. Designate some of the fines to go toward public transit, bike lanes, and sidewalk repairs — infrastructure that encourages people not to use their cars.

WHILE WE'RE AT IT: Fill the damn potholes and get rid of metal plates in the road. End binary public restrooms. Open a good record store in Downtown. Don't let the Atlanta Hawks scare the city into caving to giving ridiculous incentives to renovate Philips Arena. Above all, may all transplants and natives, ITPers and OTPers, liberals and conservatives, blues and reds and every other cultural extreme in Atlanta find a shared sense of identity and empathy in 2016."
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  string(5593) "It seems like only yesterday we were sitting in our reasonably priced apartments making plans for beers at Manuel's before a concert at the Masquerade. Those days may be gone — or at least put on hold — as Atlanta moves into 2016, but that doesn't mean we'll stop holding our city to a high standard. Here are ''CL'' staffers' humble wishes for the coming year.

__REIN IN THE RENTS:__ Atlanta needs an affordable housing policy with teeth. The city's not adding affordable housing units, [http://news.wabe.org/post/analysis-atlantas-low-cost-rentals-are-disappearing|it's losing them]. According to Georgia Tech Professor Dan Immergluck, approximately 5,000 low-cost apartments and homes went bye-bye from 2010 to 2013. Atlanta City Councilman Andre Dickens is expected to unveil a proposal and Mayor Kasim Reed wants to see movement on the issue. May the gods who want vibrant, sustainable cities look down upon Atlanta and give us a policy without loopholes that make it pretty on paper but useless in reality. Oh, and make it citywide.

__REAL TALK ABOUT AFFORDABILITY:__ At the same time, we need an end to the stigma attached to "affordable housing." Atlanta's rampant income inequality has put such a squeeze on the middle class that even the conversations around affordable housing don't include us. We need a development boom of true lower-middle-class housing inside the city. That includes different multi-family housing options and styles that can accommodate more people. Otherwise, [http://clatl.com/atlanta/mayor-kasim-reed/Content?oid=16599248|as Reed recently acknowledged], we'll be headed the way of San Francisco.

__HELP THE HOMELESS:__ Homelessness is a serious issue and deserves to be treated as such. It requires funding and attention from a wide variety of government and medical groups. It warrants innovative approaches that combat the root causes of homelessness rather than playing musical chairs with one of our most vulnerable populations.

__PUT WRAS BACK ON THE AIR 24-7:__ The beloved college radio station being booted off the air during the day has deprived local music lovers — all music lovers, really — of hearing new bands and sounds. We still miss it. And we still want it back.

__A TRIUMPHANT RETURN FOR MANUEL'S TAVERN:__ Green Street Properties and the bar's owners have promised that the Poncey-Highland watering hole's renovation is focused on its guts rather than its charm. Pictures and old beer cans will be returned to their previous spots, they say. We hope they don't take the vowels out of the name so it will be MNL's or the Gastro Pub at 602 N. Highland Ave.

__NO MORE NO-MAN'S-LANDS:__ More sidewalks! Fixed sidewalks! Bike lanes! Better development! Whatever it takes, just fill the gaps between neighborhoods. That doesn't mean we have to line every street with mixed-use developments. But make it easier to go from neighborhood to neighborhood if you're not in a car. We should not have to drive to walkable places.

__TRANSPARENCY:__ We need transparency in officer-involved shootings — and less of them. Waiting months for the release of surveillance footage in the death of [http://clatl.com/freshloaf/archives/2015/05/01/what-happened-in-the-death-of-alexia-christian|Alexia Christian], a 26-year-old woman who was shot and killed by Atlanta Police after they say she opened fire from the back of a patrol car, makes no sense. And it does nothing to ease community concerns about police powers. Better training and officers connecting with the communities they patrol could help reduce unnecessary violence and build bonds between police and residents.

__KEEP SOUTH DOWNTOWN REAL:__ Now that Downtown renovation seems like a reality in the foreseeable future, it's time we consider what that future should look like. The last thing Atlanta needs is another homogenized, over-gentrified section of town. Whatever we do, dear God, please, let's preserve a sense of South Downtown's urbanity. Don't knock down Underground to turn it into a replica of Midtown.

__NO CASINOS:__ We repeat, NO CASINOS.

__REDUCE FOOD LOSS:__ According to the USDA, an estimated 133 billion pounds of food was wasted in 2010. In recent years, forward-thinking individuals have advocated for more sustainable practices in the restaurant industry. Many local eateries have already incorporated the responsible sourcing of locally grown ingredients into their business models. In an effort to reduce the amount of food that ends up in landfills, however, in 2016 we'd like to see Atlanta restaurants begin to adopt practices such as repurposing less desirable animal parts and vegetable scraps in creative ways, forging partnerships with charities or shelters that might accept usable food, as well as growing food on-site and composting when possible.

__BE GONE, PARKATLANTA:__ End the private company's contract and put someone in charge of parking enforcement who will be transparent and operate with oversight. Designate some of the fines to go toward public transit, bike lanes, and sidewalk repairs — infrastructure that encourages people not to use their cars.

__WHILE WE'RE AT IT:__ Fill the damn potholes and get rid of metal plates in the road. End binary public restrooms. Open a good record store in Downtown. Don't let the Atlanta Hawks scare the city into caving to giving ridiculous incentives to renovate Philips Arena. Above all, may all transplants and natives, ITPers and OTPers, liberals and conservatives, blues and reds and every other cultural extreme in Atlanta find a shared sense of identity and empathy in 2016."
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  string(5639) "    Lower rents, WRAS' rebirth, and a triumphant return for Manuel's   2016-01-06T09:00:00+00:00 Opinion - CL's 2016 Wish List   Editorial Board 1576285 2016-01-06T09:00:00+00:00  It seems like only yesterday we were sitting in our reasonably priced apartments making plans for beers at Manuel's before a concert at the Masquerade. Those days may be gone — or at least put on hold — as Atlanta moves into 2016, but that doesn't mean we'll stop holding our city to a high standard. Here are CL staffers' humble wishes for the coming year.

REIN IN THE RENTS: Atlanta needs an affordable housing policy with teeth. The city's not adding affordable housing units, it's losing them. According to Georgia Tech Professor Dan Immergluck, approximately 5,000 low-cost apartments and homes went bye-bye from 2010 to 2013. Atlanta City Councilman Andre Dickens is expected to unveil a proposal and Mayor Kasim Reed wants to see movement on the issue. May the gods who want vibrant, sustainable cities look down upon Atlanta and give us a policy without loopholes that make it pretty on paper but useless in reality. Oh, and make it citywide.

REAL TALK ABOUT AFFORDABILITY: At the same time, we need an end to the stigma attached to "affordable housing." Atlanta's rampant income inequality has put such a squeeze on the middle class that even the conversations around affordable housing don't include us. We need a development boom of true lower-middle-class housing inside the city. That includes different multi-family housing options and styles that can accommodate more people. Otherwise, as Reed recently acknowledged, we'll be headed the way of San Francisco.

HELP THE HOMELESS: Homelessness is a serious issue and deserves to be treated as such. It requires funding and attention from a wide variety of government and medical groups. It warrants innovative approaches that combat the root causes of homelessness rather than playing musical chairs with one of our most vulnerable populations.

PUT WRAS BACK ON THE AIR 24-7: The beloved college radio station being booted off the air during the day has deprived local music lovers — all music lovers, really — of hearing new bands and sounds. We still miss it. And we still want it back.

A TRIUMPHANT RETURN FOR MANUEL'S TAVERN: Green Street Properties and the bar's owners have promised that the Poncey-Highland watering hole's renovation is focused on its guts rather than its charm. Pictures and old beer cans will be returned to their previous spots, they say. We hope they don't take the vowels out of the name so it will be MNL's or the Gastro Pub at 602 N. Highland Ave.

NO MORE NO-MAN'S-LANDS: More sidewalks! Fixed sidewalks! Bike lanes! Better development! Whatever it takes, just fill the gaps between neighborhoods. That doesn't mean we have to line every street with mixed-use developments. But make it easier to go from neighborhood to neighborhood if you're not in a car. We should not have to drive to walkable places.

TRANSPARENCY: We need transparency in officer-involved shootings — and less of them. Waiting months for the release of surveillance footage in the death of Alexia Christian, a 26-year-old woman who was shot and killed by Atlanta Police after they say she opened fire from the back of a patrol car, makes no sense. And it does nothing to ease community concerns about police powers. Better training and officers connecting with the communities they patrol could help reduce unnecessary violence and build bonds between police and residents.

KEEP SOUTH DOWNTOWN REAL: Now that Downtown renovation seems like a reality in the foreseeable future, it's time we consider what that future should look like. The last thing Atlanta needs is another homogenized, over-gentrified section of town. Whatever we do, dear God, please, let's preserve a sense of South Downtown's urbanity. Don't knock down Underground to turn it into a replica of Midtown.

NO CASINOS: We repeat, NO CASINOS.

REDUCE FOOD LOSS: According to the USDA, an estimated 133 billion pounds of food was wasted in 2010. In recent years, forward-thinking individuals have advocated for more sustainable practices in the restaurant industry. Many local eateries have already incorporated the responsible sourcing of locally grown ingredients into their business models. In an effort to reduce the amount of food that ends up in landfills, however, in 2016 we'd like to see Atlanta restaurants begin to adopt practices such as repurposing less desirable animal parts and vegetable scraps in creative ways, forging partnerships with charities or shelters that might accept usable food, as well as growing food on-site and composting when possible.

BE GONE, PARKATLANTA: End the private company's contract and put someone in charge of parking enforcement who will be transparent and operate with oversight. Designate some of the fines to go toward public transit, bike lanes, and sidewalk repairs — infrastructure that encourages people not to use their cars.

WHILE WE'RE AT IT: Fill the damn potholes and get rid of metal plates in the road. End binary public restrooms. Open a good record store in Downtown. Don't let the Atlanta Hawks scare the city into caving to giving ridiculous incentives to renovate Philips Arena. Above all, may all transplants and natives, ITPers and OTPers, liberals and conservatives, blues and reds and every other cultural extreme in Atlanta find a shared sense of identity and empathy in 2016.             13086048 16676424        http://dev.creativeloafing.com/image/2016/01/e7646_news_opinion1_1_37.png                  Opinion - CL's 2016 Wish List "
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Wednesday January 6, 2016 04:00 am EST
Lower rents, WRAS' rebirth, and a triumphant return for Manuel's | more...
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  string(4594) "Nearly eight months ago, Atlanta Police officers killed a suspected car thief who they say opened fire while sitting in the back of their patrol car. According to police, 26-year-old Alexia Christian somehow got her hands on a weapon and started shooting at them. Officers fired 10 rounds into the vehicle. Christian died at Grady Memorial Hospital that day.

??
Since her death, Christian's family has asked for answers, even pleaded in person to APD Chief George Turner. Family members want to see video captured on the squad car's dashcam and nearby surveillance cameras. They want to know what happened. But APD and Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, citing an ongoing investigation, have declined the family's requests to view the footage. It's time the Christians, and the public, know what happened outside a Downtown parking deck, just before rush hour, in broad daylight on April 30.

??
Until there is a thorough explanation of what took place, the family and public are left guessing, which can lead to speculation or outright distrust. The officers are also living under a cloud of uncertainty. That's not how a family heals, officers clear their names, or a city rebuilds the delicate and necessary relationship between police and the community.

??
The shooting was APD's second officer-involved shooting of 2015 and came at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, when officers' use of their extraordinary authority was under greater scrutiny than ever. In the months since Christian died, the country has seen police departments, including Atlanta's, implement reforms such as bodycams and additional training. The nation has also seen police departments go to great lengths to be opaque, such as Chicago did with the killing of Laquan McDonald. The latter is not the way you rebuild trust. You do that with transparency.

??
The evidence presented by APD immediately after the incident paints a portrait of officers acting in self-defense. According to APD, Officers Omar Thyme and Jeffery Cook, both of whom are black, were dispatched at the request of Fulton County Police to a parking deck at Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Pryor Street. Christian, who was also black, was observed sitting in a white Ford F-150 reported stolen from Fulton Industrial Boulevard. She was taken into custody, handcuffed, and placed in the back of their patrol car. According to Turner, Cook and Thyme did not conduct a thorough search of Christian.

??
In the shooting's aftermath, police were quick to release details about Christian's past, which included multiple arrests, but tight-lipped about the other details. Many questions remain: How did Christian manage to escape from her handcuffs? Why didn't officers discover a weapon on her before putting her in the car?

??
Cook and Thyme might very well have been firing back to protect their lives. Neither officer was injured in the shooting. Cook, an 18-year APD veteran at the time of the shooting, is back on duty. Thyme, who had been on the force for 10 months, is still on administrative assignment. But even if the shooting was justified, the accounting of what happened is incomplete. When questions arise about the actions of law enforcement officers, the public, and especially the family, deserve to be kept informed.

??
The release of footage from nearby cameras — one is directly above the area where the patrol car was parked and the dashcam points toward the street, not the car's interior — might not answer all questions related to the case, but it could provide some sense of closure. In Seattle, policy is to release video footage immediately, with few exceptions, according to ABC News. These are painful events — just look at what's happening in Chicago. But to move forward and learn from them, and to bring justice to all those involved, there must be disclosure.

??
Following APD's internal investigation, the case was sent in September to Howard. After CL made numerous requests for updates, Howard responded, saying he is conducting an independent probe.

??
"My job is to uncover the truth and, so far, we have not reached that point in this investigation," he said in a statement to CL. "Once we have, we will gladly share our findings." ??
Felecia Christian, Alexia's mother, tells CL that she has not been contacted by APD or Howard since September. It's important to allow the legal process to play out. But there's a fine line between taking one's time on an investigation and delaying justice. It's time to release the footage and fill in the gaps of what happened on April 30.

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  string(4828) "Nearly eight months ago, Atlanta Police officers killed a suspected car thief who they say opened fire while sitting in the back of their patrol car. According to police, 26-year-old Alexia Christian somehow got her hands on a weapon and started shooting at them. Officers fired 10 rounds into the vehicle. Christian died at Grady Memorial Hospital that day.

??
Since her death, Christian's family has [http://clatl.com/atlanta/still-no-answers/Content?oid=15328663|asked for answers], even [http://clatl.com/freshloaf/archives/2015/09/01/mother-of-alexia-christian-confronts-apd-chief-turner-demands-transparency-in-police-shooting-investigation|pleaded in person] to APD Chief George Turner. Family members want to see video captured on the squad car's dashcam and nearby surveillance cameras. They want to know what happened. But APD and Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, citing an ongoing investigation, have declined the family's requests to view the footage. It's time the Christians, and the public, know what happened outside a Downtown parking deck, just before rush hour, in broad daylight on April 30.

??
Until there is a thorough explanation of what took place, the family and public are left guessing, which can lead to speculation or outright distrust. The officers are also living under a cloud of uncertainty. That's not how a family heals, officers clear their names, or a city rebuilds the delicate and necessary relationship between police and the community.

??
The shooting was APD's second officer-involved shooting of 2015 and came at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, when officers' use of their extraordinary authority was under greater scrutiny than ever. In the months since Christian died, the country has seen police departments, including Atlanta's, implement reforms such as bodycams and additional training. The nation has also seen police departments go to great lengths to be opaque, such as Chicago did with the killing of Laquan McDonald. The latter is not the way you rebuild trust. You do that with transparency.

??
The evidence presented by APD immediately after the incident paints a portrait of officers acting in self-defense. According to APD, Officers Omar Thyme and Jeffery Cook, both of whom are black, were dispatched at the request of Fulton County Police to a parking deck at Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Pryor Street. Christian, who was also black, was observed sitting in a white Ford F-150 reported stolen from Fulton Industrial Boulevard. She was taken into custody, handcuffed, and placed in the back of their patrol car. According to Turner, Cook and Thyme did not conduct a thorough search of Christian.

??
In the shooting's aftermath, police were quick to release details about Christian's past, which included multiple arrests, but tight-lipped about the other details. Many questions remain: How did Christian manage to escape from her handcuffs? Why didn't officers discover a weapon on her before putting her in the car?

??
Cook and Thyme might very well have been firing back to protect their lives. Neither officer was injured in the shooting. Cook, an 18-year APD veteran at the time of the shooting, is back on duty. Thyme, who had been on the force for 10 months, is still on administrative assignment. But even if the shooting was justified, the accounting of what happened is incomplete. When questions arise about the actions of law enforcement officers, the public, and especially the family, deserve to be kept informed.

??
The release of footage from nearby cameras — one is directly above the area where the patrol car was parked and the dashcam points toward the street, not the car's interior — might not answer all questions related to the case, but it could provide some sense of closure. In Seattle, policy is to release video footage immediately, with few exceptions, according to ABC News. These are painful events — just look at what's happening in Chicago. But to move forward and learn from them, and to bring justice to all those involved, there must be disclosure.

??
Following APD's internal investigation, the case was sent in September to Howard. After ''CL'' made numerous requests for updates, Howard responded, saying he is conducting an independent probe.

??
"My job is to uncover the truth and, so far, we have not reached that point in this investigation," he said in a statement to ''CL''. "Once we have, we will gladly share our findings." ??
Felecia Christian, Alexia's mother, tells ''CL'' that she has not been contacted by APD or Howard since September. It's important to allow the legal process to play out. But there's a fine line between taking one's time on an investigation and delaying justice. It's time to release the footage and fill in the gaps of what happened on April 30.

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??
Since her death, Christian's family has asked for answers, even pleaded in person to APD Chief George Turner. Family members want to see video captured on the squad car's dashcam and nearby surveillance cameras. They want to know what happened. But APD and Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, citing an ongoing investigation, have declined the family's requests to view the footage. It's time the Christians, and the public, know what happened outside a Downtown parking deck, just before rush hour, in broad daylight on April 30.

??
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??
The shooting was APD's second officer-involved shooting of 2015 and came at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, when officers' use of their extraordinary authority was under greater scrutiny than ever. In the months since Christian died, the country has seen police departments, including Atlanta's, implement reforms such as bodycams and additional training. The nation has also seen police departments go to great lengths to be opaque, such as Chicago did with the killing of Laquan McDonald. The latter is not the way you rebuild trust. You do that with transparency.

??
The evidence presented by APD immediately after the incident paints a portrait of officers acting in self-defense. According to APD, Officers Omar Thyme and Jeffery Cook, both of whom are black, were dispatched at the request of Fulton County Police to a parking deck at Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Pryor Street. Christian, who was also black, was observed sitting in a white Ford F-150 reported stolen from Fulton Industrial Boulevard. She was taken into custody, handcuffed, and placed in the back of their patrol car. According to Turner, Cook and Thyme did not conduct a thorough search of Christian.

??
In the shooting's aftermath, police were quick to release details about Christian's past, which included multiple arrests, but tight-lipped about the other details. Many questions remain: How did Christian manage to escape from her handcuffs? Why didn't officers discover a weapon on her before putting her in the car?

??
Cook and Thyme might very well have been firing back to protect their lives. Neither officer was injured in the shooting. Cook, an 18-year APD veteran at the time of the shooting, is back on duty. Thyme, who had been on the force for 10 months, is still on administrative assignment. But even if the shooting was justified, the accounting of what happened is incomplete. When questions arise about the actions of law enforcement officers, the public, and especially the family, deserve to be kept informed.

??
The release of footage from nearby cameras — one is directly above the area where the patrol car was parked and the dashcam points toward the street, not the car's interior — might not answer all questions related to the case, but it could provide some sense of closure. In Seattle, policy is to release video footage immediately, with few exceptions, according to ABC News. These are painful events — just look at what's happening in Chicago. But to move forward and learn from them, and to bring justice to all those involved, there must be disclosure.

??
Following APD's internal investigation, the case was sent in September to Howard. After CL made numerous requests for updates, Howard responded, saying he is conducting an independent probe.

??
"My job is to uncover the truth and, so far, we have not reached that point in this investigation," he said in a statement to CL. "Once we have, we will gladly share our findings." ??
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Wednesday December 16, 2015 04:00 am EST
Nearly eight months have passed since controversial officer-involved killing | more...
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  string(5393) "In Georgia, racism is chiseled into stone and law. That's right. It's written into state law that Stone Mountain remain a memorial to the Confederacy. If nothing else has changed, the times certainly have, especially in the wake of this summer's massacre of nine African-Americans in one of South Carolina's most historic black churches during a Bible study. Instead of sparking the race war the gunman allegedly intended, his act kicked off a firestorm of criticism against Old South symbols such as the Confederate flag.

??
The outcry ultimately helped bring down the flag at the South Carolina state Capitol and criticism eventually made its way to Stone Mountain, metro Atlanta's 825-foot shrine to leaders in the fight to uphold slavery. It resulted in protests by local activists and an unsuccessful boycott at the park on Independence Day.

??
In an attempt to quell the new wave of Confederate criticism, the Stone Mountain Memorial Association has proposed to let freedom ring by placing a Liberty Bell replica in honor of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. atop the mountain. According to the AJC, the bell would be framed by an 18-foot-tall arch and bear the inscription, "Let freedom ring from the Stone Mountain of Georgia," from King's "I Have a Dream" speech. The display would not be visible to park visitors from the ground, unlike the massive three-acre carving of Confederate generals on the mountain's side. Instead of addressing the Confederacy's pro-slavery legacy — and the Ku Klux Klan that it gave rise to and nurtured on top of Stone Mountain — the SMMA is trying to subvert the criticism by placating protests with a damn bell.

??
There's plenty to be said about Confederate pride and the attempt by culture preservationists to detach symbols such as the flag from their racist legacies. But we already wrote that column.

??
Plainly put, in good ole boy terminology, this is pure hogwash. The Sons of the Confederacy and local NAACP chapters stand in agreement against the MLK tribute but for totally different reasons. What's worse is that many so-called progressives are swallowing the suggestion that the literal ringing of a bell is the cause for which King died. They believe that we should take this pittance of an offering in the hope that one day soon a real "change is gonna come," as Georgia native Otis Redding once sung. But that's the same kind of moderate logic that inspired King to pen his Letter from a Birmingham Jail to white Christian clergymen who suggested he "go slow" when fighting for change.

??
Symbols and monuments possess a great deal of power. They remind us of where we come from, both good and bad. But their context matters. When we have statues of white supremacists on the grounds of the Georgia Capitol and Confederate flags flying on government property throughout the South, it offers those symbols approval and calls up a history when all were not welcome. An MLK memorial on Stone Mountain would only help perpetuate the myths Stone Mountain upholds by distracting from the Confederate monument's reality. And arguably that's the intended purpose — you get your hero, we keep ours.

??
Nodding along with this monument represents a failure by many to recognize old racism in new forms. Racism is not always as obvious as fire hoses and police dogs, burning crosses and public lynchings in the courthouse square. It is insidious. It now shields itself behind professional courtesies and systemic laws rather than bedsheets.

??
Today's racism comes with its own political platform that labels Mexican immigrants as rapists to stir up the xenophobes. It co-opts the language of yesterday's radicals in an attempt to camouflage its intentions. It fails to see the relevance of cries that Black Lives Matter. And it refuses to acknowledge the systemic injustices that have led to a disproportionate number of black people — 228 as of this writing — being killed by police in the U.S. so far this year. That type of statistic is exactly the kind of injustice King fought and died for — not the sort of symbolic gesture the SMMA has proposed.  

??
For too long, we've learned to live with the carving on Stone Mountain. We've pretended to overlook the explicit carving and its inherent meaning. But if we're all in agreement that now is the time to address it head-on, surely we can advocate for something better and more holistic than placing an out-of-context bell on top of a mountain.

??
King's legacy has been tainted by American conservatives who, unable to deny his importance, have sought to diminish his radicalism. Why further taint and dilute the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. by associating him with the mountainous Confederate memorial with an object that, to the uninformed visitor, could almost be viewed as an endorsement by King of everything the mountain stands for? A nod of the head saying "everything's all good now?"

??
When King commanded the nation's leaders to let freedom ring, he wasn't referring to symbolism. The civil rights hero shouldn't be mocked under the guise of change proposed by those who stood in opposition to everything King represented. The solution is making clear at Stone Mountain the Confederacy's reality — that it was a lost and unjust cause from the beginning. We need a true reckoning with the history that Stone Mountain heralds, not a tribute void of context."
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  string(5942) "In Georgia, racism is chiseled into stone and law. That's right. It's written into state law that [http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/geography-environment/stone-mountain|Stone Mountain] remain a memorial to the Confederacy. If nothing else has changed, the times certainly have, especially in the wake of this summer's massacre of nine African-Americans in one of South Carolina's most historic black churches during a Bible study. Instead of sparking the race war the gunman allegedly intended, his act kicked off a firestorm of criticism against Old South symbols such as the Confederate flag.

??
The outcry ultimately helped bring down the flag at the South Carolina state Capitol and criticism eventually made its way to Stone Mountain, metro Atlanta's 825-foot shrine to leaders in the fight to uphold slavery. It resulted in protests by local activists and an unsuccessful boycott at the park on Independence Day.

??
In an attempt to quell the new wave of Confederate criticism, the Stone Mountain Memorial Association has proposed to let freedom ring by placing a Liberty Bell replica in honor of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. atop the mountain. According to the ''[http://www.myajc.com/news/news/local/civil-rights-groups-ask-deal-to-halt-stone-mountai/nn3Xr/|AJC]'', the bell would be framed by an 18-foot-tall arch and bear the inscription, "Let freedom ring from the Stone Mountain of Georgia," from King's "I Have a Dream" speech. The display would not be visible to park visitors from the ground, unlike the massive three-acre carving of Confederate generals on the mountain's side. Instead of addressing the Confederacy's pro-slavery legacy — and the Ku Klux Klan that it gave rise to and nurtured on top of Stone Mountain — the SMMA is trying to subvert the criticism by placating protests with a damn bell.

??
There's plenty to be said about Confederate pride and the attempt by culture preservationists to detach symbols such as the flag from their racist legacies. But [http://clatl.com/atlanta/waving-the-white-flag/Content?oid=14676147|we already wrote that column].

??
Plainly put, in good ole boy terminology, this is pure hogwash. The Sons of the Confederacy and local NAACP chapters stand in [http://politics.blog.ajc.com/2015/10/13/civil-rights-groups-join-confederate-enthusiasts-in-opposition-to-mlk-monument/|agreement against] the MLK tribute but for totally different reasons. What's worse is that many so-called progressives are swallowing the suggestion that the literal ringing of a bell is the cause for which King died. They believe that we should take this pittance of an offering in the hope that one day soon a real "change is gonna come," as Georgia native Otis Redding once sung. But that's the same kind of moderate logic that inspired King to pen his Letter from a Birmingham Jail to white Christian clergymen who suggested he "go slow" when fighting for change.

??
Symbols and monuments possess a great deal of power. They remind us of where we come from, both good and bad. But their context matters. When we have statues of white supremacists on the grounds of the Georgia Capitol and Confederate flags flying on government property throughout the South, it offers those symbols approval and calls up a history when all were not welcome. An MLK memorial on Stone Mountain would only help perpetuate the myths Stone Mountain upholds by distracting from the Confederate monument's reality. And arguably that's the intended purpose — you get your hero, we keep ours.

??
Nodding along with this monument represents a failure by many to recognize old racism in new forms. Racism is not always as obvious as fire hoses and police dogs, burning crosses and public lynchings in the courthouse square. It is insidious. It now shields itself behind professional courtesies and systemic laws rather than bedsheets.

??
Today's racism comes with its own political platform that labels Mexican immigrants as rapists to stir up the xenophobes. It co-opts the language of yesterday's radicals in an attempt to camouflage its intentions. It fails to see the relevance of cries that Black Lives Matter. And it refuses to acknowledge the systemic injustices that have led to a disproportionate number of black people — 228 as of this writing — being [http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2015/jun/01/the-counted-police-killings-us-database|killed by police] in the U.S. so far this year. That type of statistic is exactly the kind of injustice King fought and died for — not the sort of symbolic gesture the SMMA has proposed.  

??
For too long, we've learned to live with the carving on Stone Mountain. We've pretended to overlook the explicit carving and its inherent meaning. But if we're all in agreement that now is the time to address it head-on, surely we can advocate for something better and more holistic than placing an out-of-context bell on top of a mountain.

??
King's legacy has been tainted by American conservatives who, unable to deny his importance, have sought to diminish his radicalism. Why further taint and dilute the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. by associating him with the mountainous Confederate memorial with an object that, to the uninformed visitor, could almost be viewed as an endorsement by King of everything the mountain stands for? A nod of the head saying "everything's all good now?"

??
When King commanded the nation's leaders to let freedom ring, he wasn't referring to [http://clatl.com/atlanta/of-monuments-and-mlk/Content?oid=10159660|symbolism]. The civil rights hero shouldn't be mocked under the guise of change proposed by those who stood in opposition to everything King represented. The solution is making clear at Stone Mountain the Confederacy's reality — that it was a lost and unjust cause from the beginning. We need a true reckoning with the history that Stone Mountain heralds, not a tribute void of context."
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  string(5725) "    Don't dilute the civil rights leader's legacy with a token gesture   2015-10-28T08:00:00+00:00 Opinion - Proposed MLK tribute on Stone Mountain is an insult   Editorial Board 1576285 2015-10-28T08:00:00+00:00  In Georgia, racism is chiseled into stone and law. That's right. It's written into state law that Stone Mountain remain a memorial to the Confederacy. If nothing else has changed, the times certainly have, especially in the wake of this summer's massacre of nine African-Americans in one of South Carolina's most historic black churches during a Bible study. Instead of sparking the race war the gunman allegedly intended, his act kicked off a firestorm of criticism against Old South symbols such as the Confederate flag.

??
The outcry ultimately helped bring down the flag at the South Carolina state Capitol and criticism eventually made its way to Stone Mountain, metro Atlanta's 825-foot shrine to leaders in the fight to uphold slavery. It resulted in protests by local activists and an unsuccessful boycott at the park on Independence Day.

??
In an attempt to quell the new wave of Confederate criticism, the Stone Mountain Memorial Association has proposed to let freedom ring by placing a Liberty Bell replica in honor of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. atop the mountain. According to the AJC, the bell would be framed by an 18-foot-tall arch and bear the inscription, "Let freedom ring from the Stone Mountain of Georgia," from King's "I Have a Dream" speech. The display would not be visible to park visitors from the ground, unlike the massive three-acre carving of Confederate generals on the mountain's side. Instead of addressing the Confederacy's pro-slavery legacy — and the Ku Klux Klan that it gave rise to and nurtured on top of Stone Mountain — the SMMA is trying to subvert the criticism by placating protests with a damn bell.

??
There's plenty to be said about Confederate pride and the attempt by culture preservationists to detach symbols such as the flag from their racist legacies. But we already wrote that column.

??
Plainly put, in good ole boy terminology, this is pure hogwash. The Sons of the Confederacy and local NAACP chapters stand in agreement against the MLK tribute but for totally different reasons. What's worse is that many so-called progressives are swallowing the suggestion that the literal ringing of a bell is the cause for which King died. They believe that we should take this pittance of an offering in the hope that one day soon a real "change is gonna come," as Georgia native Otis Redding once sung. But that's the same kind of moderate logic that inspired King to pen his Letter from a Birmingham Jail to white Christian clergymen who suggested he "go slow" when fighting for change.

??
Symbols and monuments possess a great deal of power. They remind us of where we come from, both good and bad. But their context matters. When we have statues of white supremacists on the grounds of the Georgia Capitol and Confederate flags flying on government property throughout the South, it offers those symbols approval and calls up a history when all were not welcome. An MLK memorial on Stone Mountain would only help perpetuate the myths Stone Mountain upholds by distracting from the Confederate monument's reality. And arguably that's the intended purpose — you get your hero, we keep ours.

??
Nodding along with this monument represents a failure by many to recognize old racism in new forms. Racism is not always as obvious as fire hoses and police dogs, burning crosses and public lynchings in the courthouse square. It is insidious. It now shields itself behind professional courtesies and systemic laws rather than bedsheets.

??
Today's racism comes with its own political platform that labels Mexican immigrants as rapists to stir up the xenophobes. It co-opts the language of yesterday's radicals in an attempt to camouflage its intentions. It fails to see the relevance of cries that Black Lives Matter. And it refuses to acknowledge the systemic injustices that have led to a disproportionate number of black people — 228 as of this writing — being killed by police in the U.S. so far this year. That type of statistic is exactly the kind of injustice King fought and died for — not the sort of symbolic gesture the SMMA has proposed.  

??
For too long, we've learned to live with the carving on Stone Mountain. We've pretended to overlook the explicit carving and its inherent meaning. But if we're all in agreement that now is the time to address it head-on, surely we can advocate for something better and more holistic than placing an out-of-context bell on top of a mountain.

??
King's legacy has been tainted by American conservatives who, unable to deny his importance, have sought to diminish his radicalism. Why further taint and dilute the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. by associating him with the mountainous Confederate memorial with an object that, to the uninformed visitor, could almost be viewed as an endorsement by King of everything the mountain stands for? A nod of the head saying "everything's all good now?"

??
When King commanded the nation's leaders to let freedom ring, he wasn't referring to symbolism. The civil rights hero shouldn't be mocked under the guise of change proposed by those who stood in opposition to everything King represented. The solution is making clear at Stone Mountain the Confederacy's reality — that it was a lost and unjust cause from the beginning. We need a true reckoning with the history that Stone Mountain heralds, not a tribute void of context.             13085427 15905679                          Opinion - Proposed MLK tribute on Stone Mountain is an insult "
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Wednesday October 28, 2015 04:00 am EDT
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