Maya T. Prabhu
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
ATLANTA — Less than a year after Rayshard Brooks was killed by an Atlanta police officer who had questioned him for being asleep and intoxicated in his car, the Georgia Senate backed legislation to require drivers to learn how best to interact with law enforcement.
Senate Bill 115 would require the Department of Driver Services to collaborate with the Department of Public Safety in creating an education course that would teach “best practices of what a driver should do during a traffic stop.”
The bill passed 36-13 mostly along party lines and with no debate. Democratic state Sens. Michelle Au of Johns Creek, Emanuel Jones of Decatur, David Lucas of Macon and Sheikh Rahman of Lawrenceville voted in favor of the bill.
State Sen. Randy Robertson, a Cataula Republican and former police officer, said there was a disconnect between law enforcement protocols and what the public expects to encounter during a traffic stop.
“I feel that a strong curriculum put throughout the state will reduce a lot of violence and a lot of confusion when citizens come in contact with law enforcement officers, especially during traffic stops,” Robertson said.
Brooks fell asleep while in a Wendy’s drive-thru and was questioned by police for 40 minutes before getting into a scuffle with officers, striking one and grabbing a Taser from the other. He was shot multiple times and killed by an Atlanta police officer. One officer has been charged with murder, and the other is charged with aggravated assault.
Senate Democratic Leader Gloria Butler of Stone Mountain said her caucus didn’t take a position on the bill, but she voted against it because it doesn’t address the different ways in which Black drivers and other drivers of color can be treated.
“Profiling is still a thing,” she said. “I think if everything was equal, if everybody was treated across the board the same way, we wouldn’t be thinking about instructions for how to interact with the police. Black people get treated different than white folk. It’s as simple as that.”
Butler said she also was concerned about what the curriculum would include. But Robertson said he believed it could be a step toward improving relationships between the public and police.
“I’m sure it will not only save lives but go a long way in rectifying certain issues related between law enforcement and citizen relationships,” he said.
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