Current ‘special privilege laws’ in Georgia prevent grand jurors and prosecutors from cross examining police officers who face possible indictment.
A law that will terminate special privileges for police officers involved in fatal shootings, and make grand jury transcripts available to public will become operative in Georgia on July 1, reports WSB TV Journal Constitution.
According to the Journal Constitution, the legislation, which was suggested by Rep. Rich Golick, R-Smyrna, will overrule current state law that allows police officers who face possible indictment to be present in the grand jury room during all the proceedings, and make a closing statement at the end without being cross examined by neither grand jurors nor the prosecutor.
The new law will allow officers to sit in the grand jury room only to make a statement about the shooting, which will be subject to questions from prosecutors and grand jurors. Furthermore, the public will be given access to transcripts of hearings in cases where an indictment is not made.
Golick expressed his faith in the newly enacted law saying it will bring transparency and fairness to the process, and give assurance that “whatever happens inside the grand jury room will be above question.”
However, critics say although the legislation is a step in the right direction, it is not enough to fix the problems of police violence and injustice in a state that has had about 184 fatal police shootings and not a single cop criminally prosecuted since 2010.
The critics, including scholars and activists from Campaign Zero, the #BlackLivesMatter police accountability group, highlighted concerns about excessive fraternization between Georgia’s police and prosecutors and the lack of the provision for the appointment of independent investigators and prosecutors, and a state-level Special Prosecutor for police violence cases.
“And they are sometimes associated with being on the same team,” Kay Levine, an associate professor at Emory University School of Law, told the Associated Press she said.
Like many states across America, Georgia needs an overhaul of its police department through a number of reforms.
We hope that this legislation will open the door to such reforms.
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