ZACHARY: Transparency in policing essential

DomeLight by CNHI Deputy National Editor Jim Zachary 

Policing must change. 

Law enforcement reform is happening across the nation, and lawmakers in Georgia must have their eyes wide open and realize reform is needed statewide, not just in the City of Atlanta. 

Law enforcement agencies must completely unpack the way they think about use of force and understand deescalation must be priority No. 1. 

There is a lot of uncertainly about what forms any reforms should take.

One thing is certain — transparency is absolutely essential. 

The Georgia First Amendment Foundation has joined a nationwide call for more transparency in law enforcement misconduct processes. 

Georgia lawmakers are being urged to make police body, dashboard and drone camera video immediately available in all use-of-force cases.

It is simply the right thing to do. 

The Georgia First Amendment Foundation has joined the National Freedom of Information Coalition and the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information in calling for greater law enforcement transparency and accountability.

More than 50 organizations signed on to support the statement, which urges states to enact reforms opening every aspect of the police misconduct oversight process to public scrutiny. The call to action was first prompted by the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and the unrest that has erupted around the nation. The officer charged in Floyd’s death had multiple complaints filed against him.

In a statement released a few days ago, the First Amendment Foundation said, “The Georgia General Assembly resumed the 2020 legislative session on June 15, and pressure is mounting for lawmakers to pass a hate crimes law and take action on police reforms in response to the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who was shot during a confrontation with a white father and son near Brunswick. Arbery was killed in February; two months passed before police made an arrest. 

The foundation believes legislators can take further steps to increase fairness and accountability in law enforcement in our state. Both Floyd’s and Arbery’s deaths were captured on video.

The Georgia First Amendment Foundation encourages Georgia lawmakers to make all police body, dashboard and drone camera video in use-of-force complaints and investigations immediately available and easily accessible to the public.

Such action would move us closer to the increased public oversight of law enforcement that we so desperately need.” 

People with nothing to hide simply don’t hide. 

Transparency will quickly exonerate those who act professionally as they serve and protect the public and quickly expose the bad, and lawless, actors. 

 CNHI Deputy National Editor Jim Zachary is editor of the Valdosta Daily Times and president of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation. 

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