Atlanta mayor announces series of police reforms: Live updates

Atlanta mayor announced immediate police reforms requiring officers to de-escalate situations.

Atlanta polcie
An Atlanta SWAT officer aiming his weapon during a rally against racial inequality and the police shooting death of Rayshard Brooks, in Atlanta, Georgia, US [Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters]
  • The UN’s top human rights body agreed to a request by African countries to urgently debate racism and police brutality on Wednesday following unrest in the US and beyond over George Floyd’s death.

  • The killing of Rayshard Brooks by Atlanta police on June 13 reignited a push for protest in the US city. Atlanta initially saw heavy protests after the death of George Floyd.
  • Floyd, a Black man, died on May 25 after a policeman knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. His death sparked calls across the US for policing reforms and triggered global protests.

Here are the latest updates:

Tuesday, June 16

05:25 GMT – New York police officers sickened after drinking tainted milkshake

At least three police officers from New York fell ill and were hospitalised after dining at a popular restaurant chain in Lower Manhattan, according to a news report.

The three officers reportedly found substance, “believed to be some sort of cleaning solution or disinfectant” mixed in their milkshake drink, NBC News reported.

“When New York City police officers cannot even take (a) meal without coming under attack, it is clear the environment in which we work has deteriorated to a critical level,” a statement from a police union said.

03:28 GMT – Australia to probe arrest of Aboriginal man

An Aboriginal man, whose violent arrest by South Australian Police was caught on video, has been released from custody with all charges dropped, reports said, as police launched an investigation on the incident.

Henry Noel, 28, has been released from the Port Adelaide Police Station after a social media video appeared to show an officer striking him several times during an arrest on Monday night. 

A person familiar with the case told NITV that Noel had “really bad injuries to his face, his arms, his legs”.

03:05 GMT – Trump to sign order creating police database

A senior administration official says an executive order that President Donald Trump is expected to sign on Tuesday would set up a database for tracking police officers who have complaints about excessive use of force in their records.

The official says the administration wants to keep such officers from moving between police departments.

The president’s executive order comes as lawmakers work quickly in response to outrage over the death of George Floyd. Senate Republicans are also poised to unveil an extensive package of policing changes.

02:45 GMT – New York City to disband plain-clothes anti-crime units

New York City’s police department is disbanding the type of plain-clothes anti-crime units that were involved in the 2014 death of Eric Garner and have long been criticised for aggressive tactics, Commissioner Dermot Shea announced.

The units, which focused primarily on seizing illegal guns, were responsible for a disproportionate number of shootings and complaints, Shea told reporters after meeting with top deputies to discuss the move. About 600 officers working in the unit will be given new assignments.

Garner died when an officer enforcing a ban on the sale of loose cigarettes used a chokehold to wrestle him to the ground.

02:21 GMT – Seattle City Council votes to ban tear gas, pepper spray

The Seattle City Council has voted unanimously to bar police from using tear gas, pepper spray and several other crowd-control devices after officers repeatedly used them on mostly peaceful demonstrators protesting racism and police brutality.

The 9-0 vote came amid frustration with the Seattle Police Department, which used tear gas to disperse protesters in the city’s densest neighbourhood, Capitol Hill, just days after Mayor Jenny Durkan and Chief Carmen Best promised not to.

A federal judge on Friday issued a temporary order banning Seattle police from using tear gas, pepper spray, foam-tipped projectiles or other force against protesters, finding that the department had used less-lethal weapons “disproportionately and without provocation”.

01:54 GMT – Feds to review cases into hanging deaths of 2 Black men

Federal authorities will review local investigations into the hanging deaths of two Black men in southern California to determine whether federal law had been violated, AP news agency reported, quoting officials.

Local authorities have said there is no evidence of foul play in the deaths of Robert Fuller in Palmdale and Malcolm Harsch in Victorville and early indications point to suicide in both cases, but sheriffs have pledged to continue the investigations.

The announcement follows protests prompted by the initial determination of suicide as the likely cause of death for Fuller.

People who participated in a town hall hosted by Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva on Monday voiced concerns that Fuller and Harsch may have been lynched and urged investigators to look into the possibility that hate crimes were committed.

01:14 GMT – Family of Rayshard Brooks demands criminal justice reform

Pleading through tears Monday, the family of a Black man killed by Atlanta police outside a drive-through demanded changes in the criminal justice system.

An autopsy found that 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks was shot twice in the back late Friday by a white officer who was trying to arrest him at a fast-food restaurant for being intoxicated behind the wheel of his car. Brooks tried to flee after wrestling with the officers and grabbing a stun gun from one of them.

“Not only are we hurt, we are angry,” said Chassidy Evans, Brooks’ niece. “When does it stop? We’re not only pleading for justice. We’re pleading for change.”

Atlanta - Shooting
The Brooks family and their attorneys spoke to the media on Monday days after Rayshard Brooks was shot and killed by police at a restaurant parking lot in Atlanta [Ron Harris/AP]

Monday, June 15

20:50 GMT – Second man charged in death of retired St Louis police captain

A second man has been charged with murder in the fatal shooting of retired St Louis police Captain David Dorn during a pawn shop break-in that followed a night of violent protests on June 2.

That night, four officers were shot, officers were pelted with rocks and fireworks, and dozens of businesses were damaged.

Mark Jackson was charged with second-degree murder, robbery, burglary, stealing and three counts of armed criminal action. Stephan Cannon was earlier charged with first-degree murder, robbery and other crimes. Both men are jailed without bond.

20:45 GMT – Activists create petition calling for justice for Rayshard Brooks

Activists created an online petition demanding justice for Rayshard Brooks. The petition has gathered over 52,000 signatures.

20:00 GMT – Atlanta mayor announces series of police reforms

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms has announced immediate reforms within the police department, including orders requiring police officers to de-escalate situations and imposing a duty to intervene when officers see another officer using excessive force.

Bottoms said that, when she saw the death of Rayshard Brooks, “It was clear that we do not have another day, another minute, another hour, to waste.”

She said the police must find a better way to handle confrontations, and that she is heartbroken over Brooks’ death.

19:39 GMT – New Jersey police ordered to release names of disciplined officers

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S Grewal issued an order requiring all law enforcement agencies in the state to begin publicly listing officers who commit serious disciplinary violations. 

The order mandates “every state, county, and local law enforcement agency in New Jersey” to annually publish a list of officers “who were fired, demoted, or suspended for more than five days due to a disciplinary violation, with the first list to be published no later than December 31, 2020”, according to a release issued by his office.

The order is meant to build public trust, according to Colonel Patrick J Callahan, superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “By releasing the names of State Troopers who committed serious disciplinary violations, we are continuing the long, hard work of earning and maintaining the trust of the communities we serve”, Callahan said.

17:28 GMT – Protest reaches Georgia Capitol, mayor says use of force needs review

The “March on Georgia”, organised by the state’s NAACP, reached the Georgie State Capitol building in Atlanta on Monday. Demonstrators delivered a list of demands to the state legislature.

These demands included ending Citizen’s Arrest and Stand Your Ground laws, among other measures regarding voter disenfranchisement, which are “necessary to end systemic racism in the criminal justice system and voter suppression in Georgia”, the organisation said in a release.

The march came as Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms she would issue a series of administrative orders to accelerate a review of policing in the wake of the police shooting of Rayshard Brooks.

16:08 GMT – Black Lives Matter banner in Seoul removed after Trump complaints

Black Lives Matter - Gay Pride
A man walks near a Black Lives Matter and a Gay Pride banner at the US Embassy in Seoul on Sunday [Lee Jin-man/AP]

A large “Black Lives Matter” banner draped on the outside of the US embassy in Seoul was removed on Monday after President Donald Trump expressed his displeasure about it, two people familiar with the matter told the Reuters News Agency.

The banner – seen as a rare show of open support for the Black Lives Matter movement by a Trump appointee, Ambassador Harry Harris – had hung on the building on Saturday as the embassy tweeted in support of the anti-racism campaign across the US and worldwide in response to the killing of Floyd.

Bloomberg News reported earlier that both Trump and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were displeased about the banner.

15:48 GMT – Family of Rayshard Brooks calls for reforms, ‘justice’

During a news conference on the killing of Rayshard Brooks, his family called for “drastic change” in the Atlanta Police Department.

“The trust that we have with the police force is broken,” Tiara Brooks, Rayshard’s cousin, said at the news conference. 

“True justice will never prevail” because Rayshard will not come back, Tiara said, calling for demonstrations to continue in order to make sure another case like his will not occur.

Lawyer L Chris Stewart, who is representing the Brooks family, questioned whether there was an acceptable definition of justice. He presented what he said were photos of vehicles that had been shot by police during the fatal incident. “It should never have happened,” Stewart said.

Protests Erupt In Atlanta After The Police Killing Of Rayshard Brooks
A man and two children mourn at the site of a Wendy’s restaurant where Rayshard Brooks, 27, was shot and killed by police in a struggle following a field sobriety test [Dustin Chambers/Getty Images/AFP]

Rayshard’s widow, Tomika Miller, said she wanted to thank everyone for their protests and support.

Miller called on protests to remain peaceful, as the family wants to “keep his name positive and great”. 

The news conference ended suddenly as one of Brooks’s cousins broke down at the mention of his funeral. The man departed in tears, saying: “I want y’all to know, you took my cousin from me … you took the wrong person,” presumably speaking to the Atlanta police.

14:03 GMT – Supreme Court will not consider ‘qualified immunity’ case

The US Supreme Court declined to hear a number of cases involving a legal defence called qualified immunity that can be used to shield government officials from lawsuits, including police officers accused of excessive force.

The justices are rejecting appeals in cases that had been pending before the court for months, including a dispute over whether officers in Tennessee can be sued for using a dog on a man who says he had surrendered.

The decision to reject the cases comes as a national spotlight is once again trained on the police’s use of force after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Democrats and Republicans in Washington have been pulling together their own versions of police reform legislation.

12:45 – Alabama to place removed Confederate statue in a museum

A Confederate statue removed from Alabama’s port city earlier this month has been relocated to the History Museum of Mobile, Mayor Sandy Stimpson said on Sunday on Twitter.

The statue of Admiral Raphael Semmes stood near the Mobile waterfront for 120 years until June 5; the museum “will develop a plan to protect, preserve and display” it and “place it into the appropriate historic context”.

Attorney General Steve Marshall had sent a letter to the mayor after the statue’s removal, saying the city could be subject to a $25,000 fine for permanently moving the statue, an action that would violate a state law protecting monuments more than 40 years old, reported.

The statue was dedicated in 1900, the year before Alabama ratified a Constitution that established white supremacy in the state by essentially disenfranchising Black people and poor white people.

12:35 GMT – British PM praises Black Lives Matter demonstrator who carried suspected far-right protester from danger

The instincts of the Black Lives Matter protester who emerged from chaotic scenes in London carrying an injured white man, suspected of being a far-right demonstrator, during scuffles with counterprotesters on Saturday represented the best of us, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said.

Patrick Hutchinson has been hailed a hero for carrying the injured man over his shoulder, an image that has gone viral on social media after it was taken by a Reuters photographer.

“Patrick Hutchinson’s instincts at that moment represent the best of us,” the spokesman told reporters.

10:40 GMT – Black Americans disproportionately die in police Taser confrontations: Reuters

As police confront protesters across the US, they are turning to rubber bullets, pepper spray, tear gas and other weapons meant to minimise deaths.

But some are using a weapon that has the potential to kill: the Taser. When those encounters have turned fatal, Black people make up a disproportionate share of those who die, according to a Reuters analysis.

Protest - Atlanta
‘RIP Rayshard’ is spray-painted on a sign as as flames engulf a Wendy’s restaurant during protests in Atlanta, Georgia. The restaurant was where Rayshard Brooks was shot and killed by police following a struggle in the restaurant’s drive-thru line [Brynn Anderson/AP Photo]

Reuters documented 1,081 cases through the end of 2018 in which people died after being shocked with a Taser by police. At least 32 percent of those who died were Black, while at least 29 percent were white. African Americans make up 14 percent of the US population, and non-Hispanic whites 60 percent

09:22 GMT – UN rights council agrees to debate on racism, police violence

The UN’s top human rights body will hold an urgent debate on allegations of “systemic racism, police brutality and violence against peaceful protests” in the US on Wednesday, a statement said.

The decision by the UN Human Rights Council followed a request last week by Burkina Faso on behalf of African countries, it said in a statement on Monday.

“The death of George Floyd is unfortunately not an isolated incident,” the letter said.

Catch up on previous updates here.

Source: Al Jazeera