Atlanta officers fired for using force on college students reinstated

Mark Gardner and Ivory Streeter, filmed tasering two co-eds during Black Lives Matter protests in May, got their officers' jobs back.

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A pair of Atlanta police officers who were filmed tasering two college students during Black Lives Matter protests in the city were reinstated this week. 

Spelman College junior Taniyah Pilgrim and Messiah Young, a senior at Morehouse College, were tased after police officials pulled them from a car in downtown Atlanta during a May 31 protest. Video footage of the incident quickly went viral at a time when criticism of police treatment of African Americans was heightened in the wake of Minneapolis officers’ May 25 killing of George Floyd. 

Atlanta Police officers Mark Gardner and Ivory Streeter, who were filmed tasering two college students during Black Lives Matter protests in the city, were reinstated Monday. (Atlanta Police Dept.)

The Civil Service Board ruled that the city of Atlanta “did not follow the personnel regulations of the Atlanta Code of Ordinances in the dismissal” of police officers Mark Gardner and Ivory Streeter.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced their firing one day after the incident. 

During their encounter, Pilgrim and Young were unable to turn their car around as ordered by Gardner and Streeter to head out of the downtown area, where a 9 p.m. curfew had been instituted amid protests. The officers would later state that they were concerned there was a gun in the vehicle. The students were unarmed. 

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The attorney for the officers, who appealed their dismissals, alleged that they were not provided the standard five days to respond to the allegations against them. “The city just tramped over their rights,” Lance LoRusso told the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Mayor Bottoms issued a statement defending her firing of the officers on Tuesday, saying: “While the Civil Service Board has reversed the termination of the officers, given the unrest across our city and nation at the time, and the disturbing video footage before us, I still believe that the right decision was made.” 

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“It is also important to note that the CSB did not say that the officers’ conduct was lawful,” Bottoms added. “This incident, and others, have resulted in changes to our use-of-force policy, including de-escalation training and guidance on when and how to intervene in specific situations.”

The two officers were charged in a criminal case, along with four other officers involved. The charges range from simple battery to aggravated assault. The outcome of an internal investigation has not been disclosed. The criminal case has been turned over to the state’s attorney general, who has not decided if the case will move forward. 

Additionally, the students have filed a civil action against the city. 

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