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Study: City of Atlanta's deadly force rules fall short

Group says tighter rules could spare cops and civilians' lives.

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Police Department has fewer deadly-force protocols than most large cities – according to a research group called Project Zero, which advocates for police to tighten up those policies.

“We need to make sure that they have less power to do harm,” DeRay McKesson told Chicago’s NBC affiliate this week. He is behind a 2016 study that concludes that more restrictions on deadly force save the lives of civilians and police.

The study calls on police departments to adopt eight deadly force guidelines. They would require:

  • Officers to de-escalate situations first when possible
  • Departments to create a “matrix” that defines how force can be used, with what weapons, under what circumstances
  • Departments to restrict or prohibit choke holds
  • Officers to mostly refrain from shooting people in moving vehicles.
  • Officers to exhaust all other reasonable alternative before resorting to deadly force
  • Officers to intervene to prevent another officer from using excessive force
  • And comprehensive reporting of use of force or when officers threaten civilians with a firearm.

The site says the City of Atlanta’s policies require the “matrix” defining how force can be used, and restricts choke holds. But none of the others.

“Mayors across the country could do this tomorrow. Every mayor in a big city could get up and say you know what? We’re going to ban choke holds. We’re going to ban shooting at moving vehicles. We’re going to require officers to give a warning before they shoot. They could do this tomorrow,” McKesson told WMAQ-TV.

But former Gwinnett County police officer Mike Puglise, who now practices law in Snellville, says police need more deadly force training – not tighter policies.

“Putting more policies on the front line street officer? It’s just too much to ask. It’s crazy,” Puglise told 11Alive News.  “You just don’t have that time to carry an SOP (standard operating procedure) around and open the book when you’re in those deadly situations. And remember, it’s not just the police officer’s life that’s in jeopardy, but those he’s called to protect in those situations.”

Puglise says more procedural hoops will drive good cops away from police work – in a professional that is already chronically short of workers.

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