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Atlanta police targeted Black renters to make way for new development, ex cop says

A former officer says he was instructed to “lock up” tenants at a predominantly Black apartment complex to speed up a gentrification plan.

Atlanta pd WABE

A cop in Atlanta quit his job after finding that the police department was working with local building developers to arrest and evict Black people out of their homes. A report by Mother Jones details former officer Tom Gissler’s story, where he claims supervisors pushed him to aggressively police a predominately Black apartment complex.

“On my beat, they started telling me, ‘We really want you to start policing this section of Boulevard and Ponce de Leon Avenue — basically the Bedford Pines Apartments,’” Gissler reflected. He said his boss claimed there were drug dealers in the complex and demanded that Gissler “really focus” on the apartment renters.

“So we’re gonna put up signs that say you can’t park on the street. I want you to go and write tickets on every single car that’s on the street and I want you to get those cars out of there,” Gissler’s supervisor told him. “If they don’t move, tow ’em. I want you to start running checks on everybody standing on the street. If they have got warrants, I want you to lock ’em up.’”

Gissler was suspicious about the unusually explicit instructions and decided to speak to some residents in the area. One local homeowner, Gissler said, claimed that the complex owners were looking to knock down the apartments and build a new, expensive property to keep up with the gentrification in the city. Rather than increase rent, which government mandates had prohibited, the owners sought help from the police department.

“The only way you can evict or do anything like that is if the person who owns the apartment is convicted of a felony,” Gissler said. “So, the Bedford Pines guys just went to the police department and said, ‘We want you to police in here and we’re going to give you a section of Bedford Pines to actually have office space. And I want you to lock up as many people as possible so we can make these apartments vacant and we can knock ’em down.’”

Gissler noted that there “wasn’t a white person in this whole complex” and most of the tenants were “single Black girls who are just trying to... make their way in the world.” Gissler said the homeowner’s claims were confirmed by his police supervisor.

After denouncing policing as “just a sh*tty mafia system,” Gissler left the department. Mother Jones notes that he had to relocate his family after making the allegations against the department for fear of retaliation. Read his whole story here.

Similar allegations were made against the Louisville Metro Police Department in the case of Breonna Taylor. In a lawsuit, Taylor’s family’s lawyers claimed that the department’s Place-Based Investigations police squad “deliberately misled” narcotics detectives to raid Taylor’s home as part of a plan to incarcerate residents on her block. The area, lawyers said, was where developers wanted to build a new multi-million dollar complex.

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