Gwinnett County leaders take part in forum on police shootings

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A new state law will go into effect later this year that changes the grand jury process for law enforcement officers who injure or kill citizens on the job.

Local chapters of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and Zeta Phi Beta sorority hosted a public forum Thursday in Norcross to discuss the impending changes and the issue at large.

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“We realized we had to change something to increase public trust,” said Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter, who took questions from the audience.

House Bill 941 will become law July 1. Currently, grand jury proceedings are secret, but the new law requires a court reporter to record everything as a matter of public record.

“You had no idea what happened in the grand jury or why the grand jury made its decision or what evidence the grand jury heard and how it came to the conclusion to indict or not indict,” explained Gerald Griggs with the Georgia NAACP.

The other major change involves the officers at the center of the investigation.  In the past, law enforcement officers were allowed to sit in on the proceedings and hear all the evidence against them before giving a statement to the grand jury.  In those proceedings, officers were not subject to cross-examination.

Starting this summer, officers will only be allowed in the courtroom when testifying and they will have to take questions from prosecutors.

Attorney Gerald Griggs with the Georgia NAACP said he hopes to see more improvements to the process.

“It's a step forward, it's not the end step,” said Griggs.