Atlanta, GA – The mayor of Atlanta and that city’s police chief pulled all their police officers off of the federal task forces on which they were serving after a request to have the officers wear bodycams was declined.
The impetus for the decision was a shooting that occurred during a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) task force service of a warrant in January, WXIA reported.
Jimmy Atchison, 21, was fatally shot by Atlanta Police Officer Sung Kim during that raid.
Atchison was wanted on an armed robbery charge and was hiding in a closet at his apartment complex when he was killed, WGCL reported.
Afterward, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms and Police Chief Erika Shields insisted that, in the future, all Atlanta police officers wear bodycams during all operations, WXIA reported.
But federal agencies informed Atlanta officials that officers on task forces would not be allowed to wear bodycams.
“The Mayor and the Chief have insisted that Atlanta Police officers on that task force – as well as the Drug Enforcement Administration’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area and the U.S. Marshal’s Southeast Regional Task Force – wear body-worn cameras when on duty,” the Atlanta Police Department said in a statement to WGCL. “When it was made clear that APD officers would not be allowed to wear body-worn cameras while serving on these task forces, the decision was made to pull them from those duties.”
In the wake of that officer-involved shooting, the police chief called for new bodycam policies with stricter penalties for officers who do not activate their bodycams, according to WXIA.
Chief Shields proposed a 16-day suspension for the first offense of failing to activate a bodycam and termination for a second offense.
"Mayor Bottoms and Chief Shields have said repeatedly that they believe in creating a culture of transparency at APD through widespread deployment and use of body-worn cameras," Atlanta Police Public Affairs Officer Stephanie Brown said in a statement.
"The City believes that the public trust we lose from not wearing body cameras is not worth whatever gains we achieve by continuing to serve on these missions without the accountability that body cameras can provide," Officer Brown said.
The federal agencies who have lost Atlanta officers from their task forces have expressed regret and said they will still support the police department.
“The United States Marshals Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force has had a long and successful partnership with the Atlanta Police Department. Our collaborative effort has resulted in several hundred fugitives wanted by the APD for violent felonies being located and arrested every year,” the U.S. Marshals told WGCL in a statement.
“We are sad to see this partnership come to an end, but are always willing to assist the APD if asked in the future. Our task force’s mission is to locate and arrest those charged with committing violent felony crimes. This is an important mission that we will continue to perform for the citizens of Atlanta, the Metropolitan area, and the rest of the state of Georgia,” the statement said.
Atchison’s family has looked to the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office for answers on what happened the night the 21 year old was killed, but haven’t gotten much information from that avenue because the FBI was handling the death investigation, not the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
That means the district attorney’s office does not have access to the weapons and physical evidence involved in the incident, WGCL reported.
“It’s also important to point out, even though the local police departments require their officers to wear and use body cameras, for some reason, federal law enforcement are not required to do the same,” the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement. “We understand that the local law enforcement officers involved in the incident erroneously believed they were not required to wear the cameras. The lack of body camera footage creates a substantial gap in the normal investigative process.”
“We will conduct an investigation, but because of the circumstances that I’ve outlined, it will probably take more time and present a greater degree of difficulty in reaching a conclusion,” the prosecutor’s office said.