- Associated Press - Monday, December 8, 2014

ATLANTA (AP) - Dozens of people discussed recent cases of unarmed black men being fatally shot by police and potential ways to improve how officers interact with the public as they met at a community meeting at Ebenezer Baptist Church Monday.

Neighbors met to propose solutions to police brutality and other issues, including how community resources could help families navigate the criminal justice system. The Atlanta church last week hosted U.S. Attorney Gen. Eric Holder, who discussed a new approach to regulations governing the way federal law enforcement handles racial profiling.

Holder spoke following days of protests over a grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Since that speech, a grand jury in New York City also declined to indict an officer accused of using a chokehold to subdue a man who later died.

The U.S. Department of Justice on Monday released new guidelines barring federal law enforcement agencies from profiling on several grounds. However, there are exceptions to the rules and they don’t offer blanket protection from scrutiny by Department of Homeland Security agents at airports, border patrol or local police unless they’re working as part of a federal task force.

Ebenezer Baptist Senior Pastor Raphael Warnock said some civil rights activists are disappointed that the guidelines don’t apply to local law enforcement. Unarmed men who were fatally shot in the cases that sparked nationwide protests were involved in disputes with local police. The guidelines Holder recently announced have been in the works for years and replace those from the Bush administration.

“I read these today and was like, we didn’t have these before?” Warnock said. “Perhaps, one of the demands that comes out of a coalition like this is that all local law enforcement agencies in the state of Georgia adopt these federal guidelines that disallow any kind of profiling,” Warnock said.

Some members of the panel also shared concerns over transparency in equipping police with body cameras and said they hoped to meet with Atlanta city officials to discuss that in the near future.

The meeting’s organizers said Moral Monday Georgia is planning to examine the militarization of local police departments and attorney Mawuli Davis is looking into the roles of local police advisory commissions.


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