Political Insider

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Mayor 2017: Question on racial profiling trips up Norwood

Atlanta mayoral candidate Mary Norwood struggled with a question Thursday about whether there is racial profiling in Atlanta, initially refusing to answer even as a stage full of rivals waved placards reading "yes."

The question came during a Georgia STAND-UP event during a segment of the forum where each of the candidates were given "yes" or "no" signs. Moderator Rashad Richey asked the candidates whether they believe police "target or racially profile black and brown males in the community?”

When Norwood asked whether he meant in Atlanta or around the nation, Richey amended the question to ask candidates whether they think "people in Atlanta racially profile."

As about 10 of her rivals raised signs in the affirmative, Norwood took no initial stance - and instead raised the microphone to try to explain her position. As some in the crowd stirred, the City Councilwoman said "it's really important that we isolate Atlanta" before her words were drowned out.

Richey pressed her to take a stance, reminding Norwood that candidates agreed to the yes/no phase of the forum. She raised the "yes" placard at that point.

In a statement early Friday, she said her pause was "born out of showing deference and support for our APD officers who, to my knowledge, have not had reportedly high incidents of profiling."

"The prospect of racial profiling on the part of police in Atlanta and across our country is a matter of great concern," she said. "As mayor I will see to it that we continue the APD training in place and show no tolerance for any racial profiling."

Norwood was narrowly defeated by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed in 2009 and she's led the public polling in the crowded race to succeed him thanks to solid support from both Republicans and Democrats.

She's running as the only "true independent" in the contest, pitching herself as a bipartisan candidate who can transcend party politics. But she faces sharp criticism from Reed, who calls her a closet Republican, and Peter Aman, a former city official who has gained in the polls by eating into some of her support.

She also earned the endorsement of IBPO Local 623, the union for Atlanta police officers, a factor that likely complicated her answer. The union endorsed Reed over Norwood eight years ago, and she's been working since to earn its support.

Watch the moment below:

Here's Norwood's full statement:

"In no way was I suggesting that racial profiling isn't prevalent throughout the country.

I certainly believe that Black lives matter, as I indicated without hesitation. I do not condone any forms of racial profiling or discrimination.

My pause [when answering the question] was born out of showing deference and support for our APD officers who, to my knowledge, have not had reportedly high incidents of profiling; and who work hard every day to exercise good judgment while protecting our citizens.”

“While there are bad officers who have committed wrongful acts and consequently have eroded the public trust, there are many good officers who work very hard to uphold their oath and duty to protect our citizens and not harm them.”

“I have always fought against discriminatory practices of ANY kind, and will continue to do so as Mayor. This is a complex issue that requires very thoughtful and deliberate efforts to effectively train our officers about racial profiling and discriminatory behavior, and to keep sensitivity foremost in their minds. As Mayor, I will ensure that this is a priority; and no discriminatory or prejudicial practices or acts will be tolerated.”

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.