Two Atlanta police officers who were fired for using a stun gun and excessive force on two college students last summer during protests over the death of George Floyd, have been reinstated.
On Monday, February 1 the Atlanta Civil Service Board ruled in favor of officers Mark Gardner and Ivory Streeter, allowing them to be reinstated with back pay. The city “did not follow the personnel regulations of the Atlanta Code of Ordinances in the dismissal” of officers Gardner and Streeter, according to the board’s ruling. The Atlanta Police Department argued the officers were supposed to have been given five days to respond to the accusations against them, but that did not happen. Both officers were fired just one day after video of the violent encounter with students went viral.
Former Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms fired the officers immediately after the video surfaced, claiming it was evident both officers used excessive force. “There clearly was an excessive use of force,” Bottoms told reporters at the time. “We understand that our officers are working very long hours under an enormous amount of stress, but we also understand that the use of excessive force is never acceptable.”
Body cam footage, captured on May 30, 2020, shows the two officers using tasers on Spelman College student Taniyah Pilgram, 20, and her boyfriend, Morehouse College Student Messiah Young, 22, as they sat in their vehicle. Pilgram and Young were participating in a Black Lives Matter protest when Atlanta police ordered them to exit their vehicle. Police claim the students refused to exit, so they then forcefully dragged them out of the vehicle, tased them and arrested them. Officers claim they thought the students were armed, but no weapons were found at the scene.
Although the officers have been reinstated, the criminal case against them was recently turned over to Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr’s office. Once a new prosecutor is appointed, he or she will determine whether or not the case will move forward.