Resignations Are Not Enough—Georgia Needs Structural Police Reform to Stop Systemic Racism

WASHINGTON, D.C. – NOW applauds Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms for announcing the departure of police chief Erika Shields, and calling for the immediate termination of Garrett Rolfe, the officer who killed Rayshard Brooks in the parking lot of a Wendy’s drive through.  But firing Officer Rolfe won’t quiet the outrage, or address the injustice, felt by Black communities whose civil rights have been violated for generations. 

Before Rayshard Brooks there was Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed by a racist vigilante while running in a South Georgia neighborhood.  Before Ahmaud Arbery, there were countless others, and we know that without immediate changethere will likely be more names added to this heartbreaking list.    

Mayor Lance Bottoms, along with Georgia NOW, has advocated to end the cash bail and direct city funds away from the police department and toward community programs.  Georgia is fortunate to have leaders like the Mayor and the activists and leaders of Georgia NOW who have been on the front lines for racial justice – for example holding a rally centered around Breonna Taylor and bringing attention to no-knock warrants – but they can’t change the system alone.   

We demand a change to our entire culture so that racial prejudice will no longer pull the trigger on police violence and armed vigilantism.  The George Floyd Justice in Policing Bill introduced by House Democrats delivers on much needed police reform: iproposes ban on chokeholds, establishes a national database to track police misconduct, and prohibits certain no-knock warrants, among other features. It also would make it easier to hold officers accountable in civil and criminal court. The versions favored by Donald Trump and Senate Republicans fall woefully short. 

We demand comprehensive, bold reform on both a national and local level, transparency in hiring practices and regarding citizen complaints against police officers, and vigorous prosecution for criminal conduct.  Officers must be held accountable for racially motivated police violence – both for their own individual actions and for their complicity in not taking action to stop other officers. And those officers who are willing to come forward, must continue to be encouraged to do the right thing, and not have to fear retribution.  

We demand justice for Rayshard Brooks and Ahmaud Arbery.  We demand justice for Black lives in Georgia and Minnesota—and every other state, city, and community in America.  Changing the names of police on the street, or chiefs at City Hall, is not enough.  We must end structural racism.  And we must do it now.  

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