In the wake of a shooting of a 7-year-old girl that has outraged the community, three Atlanta City Council members say they will donate $125,000 in their offices’ funds to the new “Buckhead Security Plan.”
The plan was announced earlier this month by a group of officials and organizations in response to crime concerns that crystallized with the apparently random Dec. 21 shooting of Kennedy Maxie as she rode in a car past Phipps Plaza mall. The shooting led Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to decry gun violence. City Councilmembers J.P. Matzigkeit and Howard Shook, who represent districts in Buckhead, have expressed anger over the shooting and called on the administration to do more.
The plan calls for beefing up private security patrols, video camera systems and other tactics, and challenges Bottoms to denounce crime as part of a political angle that implicitly challenges the police reform advocacy of this year’s Black Lives Matter protests. The Atlanta Police Foundation, which played a key role in developing the plan is seeking donations to fund an estimated total of $1.625 million in programs.
Now Matzigkeit and Shook are joining Post 2 At-Large Councilmember Matt Westmoreland in donating to the plan.
“Securing Buckhead’s commercial corridor is integral to the quality of life for all Atlanta residents, as well as the millions of those who visit Atlanta every year,” said Matzigkeit in a press release issued jointly by the three councilmembers. “The Buckhead Security Plan is the fastest and most comprehensive way to address Buckhead crime.”
“I applaud the many stakeholders who are pitching in to assist our fight for the health, safety and welfare of those who live, work, and shop or dine here,” Shook said in the release. “The contribution I’m able to make is on behalf of Kennedy Maxie.”
“Far too many of our residents don’t feel safe, and too many of our men and women in uniform don’t feel supported,” Westmoreland said in the release. “This plan aims to change that. Every day, we ask our officers to stand in harm’s way. It’s important for them to know they have our support and we have their backs.”
Two of the councilmembers intend to give $50,000 each and the other would give $25,000, said Matzigkeit in a text, without identifying them. He said he intends to file City Council legislation Jan. 4 to approve the funding and expects his colleagues will do the same.
Matzigkeit said he has not heard from Bottoms regarding the shooting.
While the overall crime rate is down in Buckhead and across the city, gun violence is among the categories on the rise. Interim Police Chief Rodney Bryant, at a Dec. 22 press conference about Maxie’s shooting, said gun violence is spiking nationwide as well, which he called “unique” in his experience and fundamentally based on the “proliferation of weapons.” APD officials have said that they are having frequent successes in arresting criminals, though the pandemic shutdown of the court system quickly puts many defendants back on the street.
Underlying the plan are political tensions about approaches to public safety policy. Bottoms’ statement about Maxie’s shooting challenged critics to propose solutions to gun violence that her administration and APD are not already using. The “Buckhead Security Plan” does not propose new ideas, but rather pumps up existing ones.
Bottoms has a rocky relationship with APD, which is said to be suffering morale and staffing problems, in a year of Black Lives Matter and police-reform protests. A key political moment was Bottoms’ response to the June police killing of Rayshard Brooks in Peoplestown, which led to the resignation of locally popular Police Chief Erika Shields and involved a temporary tolerance of armed protesters near the shooting site. That tolerance ended with another shooting of a child in a passing vehicle, as 8-year-old Secoriea Turner was shot to death in that area.
Bottoms’ rapid condemnation of the officers who killed Brooks reportedly led to other officers calling out sick as a protest. In Buckhead, Bottoms’ approach escalated crime concerns among many community leaders and, in its most extreme form, helped to trigger renewed talk of separate cityhood for Buckhead.
Some of the organizations involved in writing the “Buckhead Security Plan” earlier this year issued statements in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. However, the plan itself apparently alludes to that movement and its protests only negatively as reducing respect for the police and as “civil unrest” that could be a “threat” to the plan itself. The online version of the plan originally included a photo of a White woman holding a sign reading “Enough” as if it were from an anti-crime protest; in fact, the image came from a stock collection of photos apparently taken at a Black Lives Matter protest in London about the police killing of George Floyd. The photo was deleted from the document after the Reporter informed Cookerly Public Relations, the firm promoting the plan, about its origins.
Correction: A previous version of this article gave an incorrect date for when the councilmembers may file the funding legislation.