Atlanta, Georgia’s, community leaders are lashing out at that city’s mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, over what they say are disastrous “police reform” efforts that have left residents feeling unsafe — and may have resulted in a child’s death.
Atlanta, like many major cities, is in the midst of a violent crime wave that began in July, following massive, national anti-racism protests that demanded law enforcement agencies be defunded and in some cases, disbanded.
“As of July 11, 106 people were shot over a 28-day period, marking a sharp increase from 40 people during the same period in 2019, according to data compiled by the Atlanta Police Department,” The Wall Street Journal reported over the summer.
The situation hasn’t gotten better, and this past weekend, a 7-year-old girl was struck by a stray bullet outside of a mall where her family had been Christmas shopping, according to local media.
“Kennedy Maxie remains in critical condition after the shooting on Monday night. Maxie was in a car with her aunt when gunshots rang out,” local media reported. “Kennedy’s aunt says she didn’t realize her niece had been hit until a few miles later when she noticed she wasn’t feeling well in the back seat. She rushed her to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite.”
The girl remains in critical condition.
Leaders, who say the incident is evidence that violence in Atlanta has gotten out of hand, blame the mayor and her police reform policies which, they claim, have made them and their communities less safe.
“It is obvious that the civilian authorities do not control the streets and cannot provide even a token feeling of safety,” one former city council member said in a statement.
“It will take a lot to turn this around, he said, adding that there “are the three things we need to begin: Leadership; Some leadership; Any leadership.”
Another referenced Bottoms’ police reform efforts specifically.
“I don’t think that we’re doing effective policing right now because I don’t think we’re putting enough resources and attention to it like we are with the police reform work that we’re doing. We have to do both,” current city council member J.P. Matzigkeit said. “We have to tackle this. I have said that we are at war with crime, and we need to act like it.”
“I think society has overreacted,” another leader said of “defund the police” efforts. “I think it was an unfortunate reaction, and it had some serious morale results in the force. It would be great if the city did what I think is the government’s very first primary obligation, and that is to keep people safe.”
Atlanta hasn’t “defunded the police” — the city council voted down efforts to strip the Atlanta Police Department of funding — but Lance Bottoms has spoken approvingly of efforts to reform law enforcement and to “reallocate” its funding to alternative community efforts, per local media.
“I think that a very simplified message is ‘defund the police,’ but I think the overarching thing is that people want to see a reallocation of resources into community development and alternatives to just criminalizing…behavior, so I think it’s incumbent upon us to help people articulate that frustration,” she told reporters over the summer.
The city council, fearful that police have responded to calls for reform by scaling back their crime control efforts, is even saying they’ll consider hiring a private security force to supplement the Atlanta PD if that becomes necessary.
About the weekend’s shooting, Bottoms seemed at a loss, saying, in a statement that, “We owe it to our children, as well as to all of our communities, to do everything in our power to eliminate gun violence. If there are solutions that we have not explored and enacted, I welcome the suggestions.”
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