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Georgia lawmakers plan policing bills next year

State Rep. Sandra Scott, D-Rex, third from right, said at the state Capitol on Nov. 15, 2016, that she and her allies will look for Republican support on policing bills next year.
State Rep. Sandra Scott, D-Rex, third from right, said at the state Capitol on Nov. 15, 2016, that she and her allies will look for Republican support on policing bills next year.

A group of Georgia lawmakers say they are going to propose bills next year to require police body cameras statewide, increase reporting and training requirements for law enforcement officers and other policing measures.

“This hearing today is to address excessive force by law enforcement and to receive input,” said state Rep. Sandra Scott, D-Rex, opening a state Capitol hearing where she and other Democrats asked the public what they would like to see in policing bills.

The hearing was the first public result of a conference call of some Georgia House Democrats in the wake of several high-profile shootings of blacks by police this year and in previous years.

Scott said she and her allies plan to repeat some bills they’ve filed over the past few years: banning no-knock warrants, mandating police body cameras and requiring that out-of-town district attorneys handle cases involving police officers accused of wrongdoing.

Those bills got little traction in the GOP-dominated Legislature.

Scott said her group of lawmakers will be looking for partners on the other side of the aisle. She said she’s hopeful she and her allies may have some common ground with a task force Republican Gov. Nathan Deal appointed this year to overhaul police training.

Also, she said body cameras are already being used in more and more places.

The Bibb County Sheriff’s Office is rolling out cameras. The Macon-Bibb County commission agreed in June to a $1.4 million five-year contract for body cameras for deputies.

Several activists testified in favor of bills similar to ones Democrats have already tried, as well as new ideas.

Gerald Griggs, a criminal defense attorney and chairman of the Criminal Justice Committee of the state NAACP, called for widespread adoption of a report that came from a panel convened by President Barack Obama, the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

That report suggests things like regular meetings between community members and command staff; youth outreach; police training in cultural sensitivity and recognizing mental illness; and helping officers take care of their own health and safety.

Those measures would “increase transparency, increase public trust, increase training, increase conversation,” Griggs said.

Others talked about training police, hiring police liaisons for the LGBT community, how prosecutors charge poor and black defendants and how to get people into jobs and homes once they have served their sentences.

Maggie Lee: @maggie_a_lee

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