The only outside agency that customarily reviews fatal shootings by DeKalb County, Ga., police is the district attorney’s attorney’s office, and that office can’t find any records on half of the reviews it has completed in recent years, says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The records that survive show prosecutors’ investigators often relying on the police department’s own fact-finding. The district attorney looked only at whether officers committed a crime and did not consider if they acted wisely or followed police policy.
The thoroughness of the investigations has come into question as fatal shootings by DeKalb police skyrocketed last year. In 2006, officers shot to death 12 suspects –more than any other department in metro Atlanta. One officer was killed. Gwen Keyes Fleming, DeKalb County district attorney, will ask to empanel a special grand jury to consider those 12 shootings and police policies on using force. She will take the unusual step of asking grand jurors to examine the police department’s internal investigation process. The grand jury could consider whether an outside body – such as a civilian review board – should review fatal confrontations involving police. The U.S. Justice Department will review the cases after the local investigations are done. The missing files and sparse records reflect a little-known fact: Georgia law does not require outside review of shootings by police.