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Atlanta Journal-Counstitution - Lawmakers: Either Fund or Disband Police Review Board

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Atlanta Journal-Counstitution - Lawmakers: Either Fund or Disband Police Review Board

Two state lawmakers from Atlanta demanded Monday that the City Council invest more money into a group formed to investigate law enforcement misconduct or disband the panel.

The officials said at a news conference that the city's Civilian Review Board — formed largely in response to the police shooting death of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston in November 2006 — is woefully underfunded to carry out its mission.

The panel's proposed budget is $311,940 for the fiscal year that starts July 1. State Rep. "Able" Mable Thomas (D-Atlanta) said about $1 million should be allocated.

"There's been a great level of disappointment in the community [about the board and the funding]." said Thomas, who lives in the northwest Atlanta neighborhood where Johnston was killed during a botched police drug raid.

Comprised of 11 volunteers — including four attorneys and a public relations staffer — the board is still at least a month or two away from being functional. It has not hired an executive director or finished writing its rules and bylaws.

Thomas said residents have complained they do not know how to contact the board about possible police wrongdoing. She said some residents have little confidence in taking their concerns to the Police Department's Internal Affairs division because they think officers won't seriously investigate the complaints.

State Sen. Vincent Ford (D-Atlanta) said he planned to deliver a letter to the City Council today expressing his concerns about the board's funding.

"Our message is either fund it or disband it," he said.

The council is scheduled to approve a budget for the upcoming fiscal year by the end of the month. However, Atlanta is facing a projected $140 million shortfall.

Thomas said she understood the city's financial challenges, but stressed additional funding for the board is vital.

"What's more important than citizens feeling safe in their homes?" she asked.

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