Atlanta Civil Rights Attorneys Unite To Criticize City's Handling Of Police Brutality
In a show of solidarity, several of Atlanta's prominent civil rights attorneys united in a joint press conference in front of City Hall on Monday morning to criticize what they said was a two-faced effort on behalf of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the city attorney's office in the handling of police brutality cases.
One of the biggest issues flagged by the coalition of attorneys was that Atlanta does not insure their police officers, often forcing them to fight legal battles with their own assets on the line.
L. Chris Stewart, one of the attorneys representing the family of Rayshard Brooks, said that he has encountered situations in which the city will offer up an accused officer behind closed doors and then claim the city itself is not liable.
"Police officers do not know they are not insured," Stewart said. "Their police car has more insurance than you do for a police brutality situation."
Attorney Shean Williams of the Cochran Firm echoed that sentiment, arguing that the city has put victims' families seeking justice through years of red tape in the legal system.
"You can't publicly say that you're sorry and show compassion, and then in the courtroom do the opposite," he said.
Attorney Tanya Miller said the issue makes the mayor look hypocritical against her own campaign promises. She argued that while the mayor has been vocal on social media about her support of families such as that of Brooks, the city's legal team has not been accommodating the families of those affected by police brutality.
"Those placated acts seem to be the limit," Miller said. "We ask you to be intentional in your leadership, in this space, as you are on the campaign trail."
Craig Jones, an attorney who has argued several cases in front of the Supreme Court and has practiced civil rights law for over three decades, said the city has a "split personality."
"The city will say one thing on television," he said. "Then they'll send their lawyers into the court to say something else."
He said that while this is an issue for victims, it also pertains to police officers in Atlanta who could be "left out to dry" by the city when they make an error.
"Eventually, they'll want to work somewhere else," he said.
Attorney Mawuli Davis, who represents the family of Secoriea Turner, the 8-year-old girl shot and killed outside a Wendy's restaurant on University Avenue where Brooks was killed by Atlanta police weeks earlier, said the city's public and private actions do not align.
"Publicly, the mayor and city council side with our client," he said. "Privately, we are going through hell."
Attorney Brian Spears, who has practiced since 1978, said little has changed since he began working in law.
"That is too long," he said. "That is not a condition that this city should be allowed to continue."
Managing deputy city attorney Elisia Frazier told GPB News that she had no comment and directed any questions to the mayor's office. The mayor's office did not return a request for comment by the time of publication.