Atlanta City Council pushes for body cameras on state troopers

City officials want state lawmakers to require body cameras for all state law enforcement officers.
Published: May. 1, 2023 at 5:09 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Atlanta city lawmakers renewed their push to get body cameras on Georgia Bureau of Investigations and Georgia State Patrol personnel on Monday.

An item on Monday’s city council agenda urged “the representatives of the Georgia state government to mandate body-worn cameras for all responding Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Georgia Patrol Officers.” Essentially, city officials want state lawmakers to require body cameras for all state law enforcement officers.

The resolution passed 13-1.

The resolution was favorably reported by Public Safety and Legal Administration Committee last month, but the decision is ultimately in the hands of the GOP-led state legislature.

The resolution passed the same day some city lawmakers asked the federal Department of Justice to investigate the police killing of protestor Manuel Teran, who was shot to death by officers during a raid of the proposed Atlanta Public Safety Training Facility, which opponents call “Cop City.”

The Teran family attorney, Jeff Filipowitz, spoke to Atlanta News First on Monday ahead of the city council meeting, stressing the importance of body camera footage in deadly investigations.

“It’s incredibly important,” said Filipowitz. “It protects the officers; it protects the public. If these officers had body cameras on and everything they are saying is true, they would not have to live with the doubt that there will always be, no matter what, about what they did, whether something was planted, who shot first, if Manuel shot at all. Those doubts will be there and they will be there because there is no objective evidence other than taking the police officer’s word.”

Filipowitz said there may not be enough evidence for the DOJ to open their own investigation, partly due to the lack of body camera footage, but added it was a promising gesture from city officials to call for one anyways.

“It’s encouraging, but there’s a lot of legislators at the Capitol and it’s easy to get a handful of them onto an issue,” he said. “I would, at this point, prefer those voices to be devoted to calling to look into the domestic terrorism charges and the demonization of these protestors, and the use of the state’s authority to quell this protest right now. I say that because we don’t have evidence yet, we don’t know what it’s going to look like. It may be appropriate for the DOJ to become involved, but for now, the first step isn’t what happened to Manuel, the first step is why were they going in with guns drawn against someone who is camped in on public land?”

An independent autopsy of Teran commissioned by his family shows they were shot 57 times and were sitting “cross-legged,” with their hands showing “exit wounds” in both palms at the time of their death on Jan. 18.

A separate autopsy report released by DeKalb County showed Teran did not have gunpowder residue on their hands. Police had initially said Teran fired shots at police, who returned with deadly fire.

Filipowitz said there would be less speculation if the responding officers were recording the incident as it unfolded.

“The decision-makers for these law enforcement agencies have decided against transparency,” he said. “But again, we go through this cycle and we’re going to keep going through this cycle until something changes with the body cams.”