ATLANTA — Atlanta police want to meet with residents of a neighborhood where people threw bricks at police cars amid anger over what they say was excessive force by officers during a recent arrest, the police chief said Wednesday.
Police cruisers were pelted with bricks Tuesday night when patrol officers drove by a gathering at an apartment complex in northeast Atlanta. Residents were reportedly upset after some said police used excessive force during an arrest in the area the night before. The arrest was caught on video.
“We’re looking to talk to those individuals that live in that community that have a desire for us to have a conversation with them and meet with them about how we can police that community more effectively,” Chief George Turner said at a news conference Wednesday.
Turner said he’s changed the policy for responding to calls from that area for now – at least two officers and a supervisor will respond.
Turner said his officers responded to a 911 call reporting domestic violence at an apartment complex Monday. They met with a woman who said her ex-boyfriend, who had recently been released from prison, had assaulted her.
The man was found in a park across the street and was caught after he ran away from officers. He had to be carried to a patrol car because he went limp as he walked, Turner said.
The man had 56 bags of marijuana on his body and $400 in cash, Turner said. He was charged with domestic violence, battery, obstruction, possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute.
During the arrest, a friend of the man yelled insults at the officer, who had to use pepper spray and batons to subdue him when he became physically combative, Turner said. He was charged with five counts of obstruction of law enforcement officer.
A woman tried to push the officers away, and she was charged with obstruction.
When patrol officers returned to the area Tuesday night, they noticed a number of people near the complex. That’s when a mob starting hurling things at the cars, damaging two vehicles. No one was hurt, and the officers left because they didn’t want the situation to escalate, police said in a news release.
The department has not received any official complaints, but investigators are looking into whether any officers used excessive force, Turner said. Police are also trying to determine who threw the objects at the patrol cars.
Patrol officers generally have a good relationship with residents in the area, Turner said.
“We’re there regularly without this kind of action on behalf of citizens,” he said, later adding that his officers have responded to 718 calls from that area since January 2012.
Residents in the neighborhood feel like they are unnecessarily and excessively targeted by police patrols and frisking, said Marlon Kautz, a volunteer with CopWatch of East Atlanta, which works with residents to prevent police brutality.
Kautz said he arrived at the apartment complex Monday evening and saw police shoving and beating two people. He didn’t see anyone throw anything at police Tuesday but said he didn’t doubt the negative reaction, he said.
“It wouldn’t surprise me because I know the public here is completely outraged by what they see as a continuing pattern of police harassment and violence in this neighborhood. They don’t feel like they have any recourse,” he said.
The neighborhood has traditionally been a poor black neighborhood that has been gentrifying in recent years, which has caused housing prices to rise dramatically, said Kautz, who has lived in the area for the past few years. The new residents are concerned about crime in the area, and that has led to increased police patrols, he said.