Story at a glance
- Last May, two unarmed college students were tased by Atlanta Police officers.
- Even though they were fired the next day, two of the officers responsible have been reinstated.
- Six officers were charged in the incident, which is still under investigation.
Days after the death of George Floyd and just weeks before the police shooting of Rayshard Brooks, two college students returning from protests against police violence were yanked out of their car and tased by six Atlanta police officers. Less than 24 hours later, two officers were fired. Now, they’re getting their jobs back.
The Civil Service Board ruled that the city “did not follow the personnel regulations of the Atlanta Code of Ordinances in the dismissal” of Mark Gardner and Ivory Streeter. The code requires that employees must receive written notice about disciplinary actions at least 10 working days before they take effect or, in an emergency situation, “the adverse action may become effective immediately following the employee’s response, if any.” In this case, the board decided that Gardner and Streeter were not given an appropriate amount of time to respond, reversing the decision.
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“The circumstances were exceptional,” former Atlanta Police Department Chief Erika Shields testified, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We did, I did, what I had to do to make sure the city was stabilized.”
Six officers were charged in the immediate aftermath of the attack on Messiah Young, who attends Morehouse College, and Taniyah Pilgrim, a Spelman College student, reported local news outlets. Sgt. Lonnie Hood and Officer Armon Jones, who were charged with aggravated assault and battery respectively, were fired on June 10. Two others, Roland Claud and Willie Sauls, were placed on administrative leave. All of the officers except Claud, who was charged with criminal damage for punching the windows of Pilgrim’s car, were Black. Black officers make up more than half of the police department in Atlanta, where almost one-third of the population is Black.
In a statement reported by WSBTV, Young’s family said they were “stunned and saddened” at the news not long after learning that the case was being turned over to the Georgia Attorney General’s Office.
“In two consecutive weeks they have experienced the pain of the justice system continuing to fail them as victims of police brutality. The family is grateful for those who continue to organize and protest to change a system that remains unjust where ‘Black Lives’ are concerned. They will not stop demanding justice for Messiah, Taniyah and all of the victims of police violence,” said the statement.
Gardner and Streeter sued the department for reinstatement and back pay, alleging that their use of force was proper and in compliance with the law, the policies of the Atlanta Police Department, prevailing standards of law enforcement, and the training provided to them through the City of Atlanta Police Department and the State of Georgia. Now on administrative leave, Gardner and Streeter could face the internal investigation they were previously denied.
“While the Civil Service Board has reversed the termination of the officers, given the unrest across our city and nation at the time, and the disturbing video footage before us, I still believe that the right decision was made,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said in a statement. “It is also important to note that the CSB did not say that the officers’ conduct was lawful. This incident, and others, have resulted in changes to our use-of-force policy, including de-escalation training and guidance on when and how to intervene in specific situations.”
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