ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) -- Atlanta civil rights attorneys and their clients are demanding the City of Atlanta overhaul its legal department, and specifically, how it handles police brutality cases. Dozens of attorneys and family members gathered in front of Atlanta City Hall Monday morning, calling for accountability from Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and members of City Council.
"We've seen elected officials coming to funerals, but what we have not seen is justice for these clients," said Mawuli Davis, an attorney with The Davis Bozeman Law Firm.
"You can't say publicly, 'We're sorry, we're outraged,' and show compassion, but in the courtroom, show the opposite," said Shean Williams, a partner with The Cochran Firm Atlanta, referring to city officials. "They say one thing in public, but in private, they're fighting us tooth and nail in courts."
They represent the families of police brutality victims Jimmy Atchison, Caine Rogers, Deaundre Phillips, Rayshard Brooks and countless others, whose family members say the city has mishandled the victims' cases. "They handled it terribly and horribly. I feel like they procrastinated with a lot of different things," said Tomika Miller, Rayshard Brooks' widow.
Attorneys say firing officers is not enough. They want compensation for the families. "There is no reason for this city, with all of this revenue, not to have insurance coverage for this city, for their officers," Williams said, adding taxpayers are the ones paying for settlements related to these cases.
They say police vehicles may be insured, but the officers are not. "If you want to get up there and say, 'Support the Blue,' while they're out there risking their lives, then care about them and cover them, because it benefits the families also," said L. Chris Stewart, a managing partner for Stewart Miller Simmons Trial Attorneys.
The attorneys pointed out cases around the country where cities have paid financial settlements to victims' families, and they say the City of Atlanta has not offered to compensate local families. They also say trying to get city records for these cases has been an uphill battle.
"We've been waiting justice for four years now, so I have to be optimistic," said Deravis Thomas, whose son Caine Rogers was killed by an Atlanta Police officer in 2016. Caine was shot while driving after he reportedly swerved to avoid an officer's patrol car. Authorities confirmed Caine was not involved in the crimes to which they say the police officer was responding.
Others are more hopeful than optimistic the city will resolve their cases. "Hopefully, it will help push the situation and get some of these cases cleared up," said Tyvonia Phillips, about the attorneys' efforts to provide justice and closure. Her son Deaundre Phillips was killed by police in 2017, during a struggle with an officer inside of a vehicle.
"The mayor needs to step up and do what she needs to do to get these officers better trained," said Tammie Featherstone, whose nephew, Jimmy Atchison, was reportedly shot in the face and killed when police found him hiding in a closet as they attempted to serve a search warrant.
An city spokesperson issued the following statement in response to the allegations:
While the City does not comment on pending claims or litigation, it is important to correct the record on the City's practices regarding insurance coverage and the representation of City employees. For the past several decades, the City has been self-insured, including the City's vehicles. If the City used private insurance coverage, it is doubtful that coverage would include police officers who have acted outside of City policies. City employees, including police officers, are represented by the City if they are sued as a result of actions taken in the course of their employment.
The families' attorneys say they'll continue making recommendations and advocating for them as they continue fighting for justice.
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