11Alive Mayor Reed details increased security at Atlanta airport

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SUBJECT: The Mayor                                        


Mayor Reed details increased security at Atlanta airport

By: Staff Writer

ATLANTA -- In response to the terrorist attacks on Paris, Mayor Kasim Reed promised a continued emphasis on the hyper-vigilant security measures at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

During his press conference Monday morning, the mayor mentioned everyone who walks into the airport, whether its the 40,000 employees or the more than 96 million passengers each year, are all screened.

Reed detailed now-enhanced security measures at the world's busiest airport.

Travelers will now see a number of agencies in the terminal, ncluding TSA canine units and tactical teams.
Where there were once 70 access points to secure areas, there are now just 11.

In September, the airport created a new employee screening entrance. Nearly all of its more than 40,000 employees will be screened daily. The mayor said passenger screens may now take longer.

All of this comes as a Jonesboro man claims he flew from Atlanta to Chicago with a loaded semi-automatic gun in his carryon. He says he forgot he had it, and the TSA failed to find it.

A TSA spokespersons released a statement on the incident, saying:

"TSA continues to review this claim and will take necessary action if substantiated. TSA is rigorous in its screening of passengers and their luggage. If we find that standard procedures were not adhered to, we will retrain employees as necessary to ensure compliance with standard operating procedures. When our employees fail to meet standards, we hold them appropriately accountable. TSA employs a robust security system involving multiple layers of security, both seen and unseen, to protect the traveling public, including a well-trained frontline workforce, state-of-the-art technologies, intelligence analysis and information sharing, and explosives detection." 

The mayor encouraged everyone of those people to speak up if they should see anything they feel is unusual.

Reed was joined by Hartsfield-Jackson leaders and law enforcement officials George Turner, Atlanta Chief of Police, who said there are no credible threats at this time against Atlanta. Turner said his department is taking increased measures at soft targets, such as malls or movie theaters.


SUBJECT: Atlanta Police Department                                           


Report: Atlanta Police Body Camera Policy Needs Revising

By: Johnny Kaufman

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, in a new report, faults a 2014 Atlanta Police Department body camera policy for its lack of rules about how footage is stored, among other things.

The Atlanta Police Department said that policy is no longer in effect, and it has no body camera programs in operation currently.

“Obviously there is a need for improvement and in some instances guidance on how best to use these cameras to the best effect of the citizens and the public,” Wade Henderson, who leads the group that published the report, said.

Harlan Yu, who worked on the civil rights report, said the report is meant to help communities.

“You know what we've been hearing from departments across the country is that these are very new technologies, and I think department across the country are experimenting with what works,” Yu said.

The department said it wants to purchase body cameras for a trial run soon, and there will be a new policy at that time.


SUBJECT: City of Atlanta                                     

Atlanta Business Chronicle

Atlanta police lieutenants land raises after court ruling on lawsuit

By: Dave Williams   

Police lieutenants in Atlanta will be getting long-awaited pay raises under an ordinance the city council adopted unanimously on Monday.

About 3,000 city employees toward the lower end of the pay scale received 3.5 percent increases in July. But council members, at the urging of Mayor Kasim Reed, held off on giving police officers raises while a 2013 lawsuit challenging employee pension reforms the council adopted in 2011 remained pending.

The case came to an end Monday morning when the Georgia Supreme Court unanimously upheld the legality of cost-cutting changes the city made to employee pensions.

On Monday afternoon, shortly before the council vote, Reed told council members the city would have faced millions of dollars in additional costs and been forced to lay off up to 1,000 employees if the pension reforms had been overturned.

With the lawsuit resolved, the mayor urged council members to support the lieutenants’ raises.

“The last two years have been hard on us,” Reed said. “But in hindsight, it was the right vote.”

After increasing the lieutenants’ pay, Reed encouraged council members to take up raises covering other ranks of police officers as well as other city workers who did not get increases during the summer.

Under the ordinance adopted Monday, lieutenants with fewer than 10 years of service will earn $70,900 per year. Those with 11 to 15 years of service will be paid $75,950 annually. Lieutenants with 15 years or more of service will earn annual salaries of $81,359.

The lieutenants’ raises will be retroactive to July 1.


SUBJECT: Atlanta Police Department                                       

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Atlanta Police begin holding public roll calls

By: Dionne Kinch    

The Atlanta Police Department (APD) has begun to hold public roll calls, when police officers’ attendance is taken at the start of a work shift. APD zone officers as well as specialized units will hold public roll calls around the city. Some of the roll calls will be streamed LIVE on the APD’s Periscope account and be available on the APD YouTube Channel. Most days at 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. specialized units and zone 5 personnel will hold roll calls at Charles Allen and Tenth Street in Piedmont Park. Mobile Roll Calls will also be held in each zone so that citizens in all areas of the city can attend and learn how we deploy our resources. This measure is an effort of transparency, according to the police chief.

“The Atlanta Police Department is actively engaged in fighting crime in our city and aggressively exploring new strategies,” said Chief George Turner. “By periodically holding uniform roll calls in the field, we provide a greater transparency in how the Atlanta Police Department operates, and how committed we are to ensuring a safe environment for the citizens of Atlanta.”

Information: www.atlantaga.gov.


SUBJECT: The Mayor                                       


AUDIO: Closer Look: Mayor Kasim Reed; Ga. Manufacturing; And More

By: Dan Raby     

Monday on "Closer Look with Rose Scott and Jim Burress":

  • Rose and Jim begin with news from Georgia's courts;

  • Roy Bowen, president of the Georgia Association of Manufacturers, discusses the growth of Georgia manufacturing and what products call Georgia home;

  • Stephannie Stokes reports on an effort to archive all the interesting artifacts on Manuel's Tavern's walls;

  • Johnny Kauffman reports on a meeting dealing with the future of the area around Turner Field;

  • Author Jan Walker talks about the success of education programs in prison;

  • Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers, explains the role school resource officers are supposed to play in light of a recent South Carolina incident;

  • Georgia State University historian Cliff Kuhn looks back at what happened this day in Georgia history;

  • Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed discusses a recent ruling involving city pensions, sewer upgrades and more;

  • Martha Dalton reports on possible changes to school funding that may benefit Atlanta-area schools.

SUBJECT: City of Atlanta                                     

Daily Report

With High Court Victory on Pensions, Atlanta Looks to Recoup $400K-Plus in Fees
By: Greg Land  

The city of Atlanta's state Supreme Court win over a challenge to changes in its employee pension plan Monday shifts the matter back to the Fulton County judge who first dismissed the challenge to decide if the city is entitled to more than $400,000 in attorney fees.

After prevailing in the trial court last year, the city is asking Fulton Superior Court Judge John Goger to order the plaintiffs' lawyers to pay attorney fees for what city lawyers described as frivolous litigation.

Goger stayed the request until the appeal was resolved. Atlanta Chief Counsel Robin Shahar and Senior Assistant City Attorney Seth Eisenberg, who handled the litigation for the city, said Monday that they will resume their fee pursuit.

John Bell Jr., one of the plaintiffs' lawyers, said there was no basis for the fee demand. "This isn't frivolous litigation; we've got a right to come to court," he said.

Atlanta City Attorney Cathy Hampton welcomed Monday's decision from the high court, which upheld Mayor Kasim Reed's 2011 pension reform plan that required city employees to contribute more.

“The Georgia Supreme Court has laid out a possible template for other state and local governments  to enact pension reform,” said Hampton, by affirming that as long as a public employer is not clawing back benefits, it may raise contribution levels to avoid spiraling pension costs.

Hampton also praised her staff for shepherding the case to victory.

“I felt confident that we could use our in-house lawyers, and did not have to solicit outside representation,” she said.

Bell, of Augusta's Bell & Brigham, said the decision marks a shift in Georgia law to a much less protected view of pension rights.

Previously, he said, Georgia has been among several states with a broader view of the protections afforded to pension plan participants. States such Florida and Alabama—home of a recent case cited in the Georgia high court's opinion—have taken a narrower view, he said.

In upholding a trial court's dismissal of the suit, the Georgia high court cited a string of state precedents upholding a government's right to change the terms of pension benefits.

The plaintiffs—individuals representing the city's firefighters, police and general employees' pension plans—had argued that the changes to their plans violated the state constitution's impairment clause, which forbids the passage of any legislation that diminishes the terms of a signed contract.

They also argued that the rate increase constituted breach of contract.

But the high court decision by Presiding Justice P. Harris Hines said courts have repeatedly found that government employees who sign on to a pension plan have no vested property right in the actual terms of the plan so long as the plans specifically provide for their amendment or modification. The unanimous high court ruled that possible amendments or modifications were noted on the enrollment cards signed by the Atlanta workers.

The 23-page opinion said that the language of the enrollment agreements "is plain, unambiguous, and capable of only one reasonable construction" regarding the ability of the city to change its terms.

The ruling ends a legal dispute that has soured relations between Reed and the unions representing firefighters and police officers, whose members have been denied raises granted to other city workers because of the suit.

On Monday, Reed's office released a statement hailing the opinion, which he said would save the city more than $270 million over the next 10 years.

"Thanks to pension reform, 30 years from now the city will have saved more than $500 million and a pension deficit that was once projected to be over $2 billion will be zero," said Reed.

The increases in pension contributions were part of a package of reforms Reed pushed through in 2011 to address what City Hall said then was $1.5 billion in unfunded pension liability. Before the revision, participating city employees were required to contribute 7 or 8 percent of their salary to the pension, depending upon whether they had a designated beneficiary. In mid-2011, the City Council increased those percentages to 12 and 13 percent. It also included a provision increasing the contribution another 5 percentage points if the city's required contribution to the plan ever exceeded 35 percent of its total payroll.

The legislation did not change the amount of benefits participants are to receive upon retirement.

In November 2013, a group of plaintiffs represented by Bell and his law partner, Lee Brigham, filed a putative class action asserting that the legislation was an unconstitutional breach of contract. They sought declaratory and injunctive relief stopping the city from collecting the additional payments and demanding that any sums collected above the pre-revision rates be refunded.

Last November, ruling on summary judgment, Goger dismissed the case. Goger found that, while there was no specific language in the enrollment cards informing participants that their contribution rates could change, no such "necessary" language was required.

"Thus," Goger wrote, "under the 'as amended, or as may hereafter be amended' language ... the city reserved the right to amend the plans, and no vested right to unchanged benefits was created."

On appeal, the plaintiffs maintained that Goger had misinterpreted long-settled precedent. They also cited a string of other cases, beginning with 1954's Pritchard v. Board of Commissioners, 211 Ga. 57, in which changes to pensions were approved because the "necessary" language Goger had deemed inessential had been present and specifically agreed to future amendments.

In ruling for the city, Hines wrote that those cases did not support the plaintiffs' arguments.

"Indeed, in Pritchard," wrote Hines, "this court … stated that even if the appellant pensioner had vested rights in his plan's benefits, he had no vested rights to a continuation of the original plan in all respects."

Hines also pointed to a November 2014 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in an Alabama case that closely tracked the Atlanta pensioners' suit. In Taylor v. City of Gadsden, a group of firefighters filed a class action challenging the city's move to increase their pension contribution rate as violating their contract rights under the state and federal constitutions.

The district court dismissed their suit on summary judgment, "after finding that the firefighters had failed to demonstrate that any contractual right had been impaired," wrote Hines.

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal "after finding that the increase in the firefighters' pension contributions did not impair their employment contracts," and that their employee handbook explicitly stated that their contribution rates were determined by statute and subject to change.

In what Hines termed an "astute observation" by the Eleventh Circuit, its opinion said that Gadsden "did not alter plaintiffs' pension benefits; instead, it altered their pension obligations." The same facts hold true for the Atlanta plaintiffs, Harris wrote.


SUBJECT: Public Safety                                             

CBS 46

Gun deaths in Metro Atlanta by the numbers
By: Vince Sims  


Homicide by gun is something that is in the news all too often. Is Atlanta a hot bed of gun deaths? How do we actually compare to other parts of Georgia per capita?  

"Perception and reality aren't always the same. CBS46 wanted to know the reality of gun deaths in and around our area.

On September 25, there was a shootout in the middle of the day at a Gwinnett County gas station. On October 5, a man on a motorcycle pointed a gun at a driver.

Fortunately those scenes, which were caught on camera, did not end in death, but all too often death is the end result of a gun being pulled.

Former State General Assembly member Douglas Dean watched as homicide detectives investigated a gun death in his neighborhood on October 23. A man was shot and killed at 10:30 a.m.

"We need to get guns out of the hands of the wrong people. The way you do that is you got to discourage folk from thinking the only way to settle something is by guns and shooting people and stuff like that," said Dean.

According to Fulton County police, in 2012 there were 14 gun deaths. In 2013, it rose to 16. And in 2014 and 2015, it went back down to 14

The numbers of gun deaths is only slightly lower for neighboring Cobb County. In 2011, there were 12. 2012 saw 10. And in 2013, it jumped to 14 and went back down to 10 in 2014. In 2015, there have been eight so far.

Looking specifically at Atlanta gun deaths, in 2011 there were 71. That dropped in 2012 to 63. But then those numbers rose in 2013 to 72 and in 2014 to 76. So far in 2015, there are 66 gun deaths.

"There really hasn't been an extreme change over the years to the point where it's alarmingly high from last to this year or the previous year to this year," said Atlanta Homicide Major Adam Lee III.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed lays some of the blame for gun deaths on state laws.

"When we take illegal guns off the street, under Georgia state law right now we actually have to return them or make them available to the public in some form. So we used to be able to destroy illegal guns. We are no longer able to do that anymore," said Reed.

Atlanta isn't alone when it comes to gun deaths per capita in Georgia.  According to the Centers for Disease Control's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control , seven Georgia counties had the highest gun death rates per 100,000 people.  

Besides Fulton and DeKalb counties, also included are Muscogee, Bibb, Richmond, Colquit and Chatham counties.

Lee said the lack of key things in a young person's life, plus a bad element, is behind many of Atlanta's gun deaths.

"Education. Parenting. It doesn't have to be an actual parent, but just having a good role model in your life. Influence of gangs and gang membership and the materialism and looking at them from the materialistic standpoint," said Lee.

As work continues to decrease the number of gun homicides, Mayor Reed admits it's a battle that will never end.

"We will always have some form of crime because we're a major American city. But what matters is how people feel, and I just want people to know that I'm focused on this every single day," said Reed.

In Atlanta, unclaimed firearms can be converted to city use. Property weapons unclaimed by owner and not converted to city use are currently being held in storage. No firearms have been auctioned or destroyed by APD in the past two years. 


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