Legislation to create a new driver’s education course on how to interact with police officers during traffic stops advanced Wednesday, March 24, in the General Assembly.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Randy Robertson, R-Cataula, would require a school and driver-training course in Georgia to include recommendations on how drivers should act when an officer pulls them over.
The course also would include instruction on the consequences for defying officers’ orders as well as when police have the authority to request a driver’s license, make arrests and use force.
“This is just more information that [drivers are] going to have to learn while behind the wheel doing driver training,” said Rep. Martin Momtahan, R-Dallas, who is carrying the bill in the state House of Representatives. “This is about making sure they know what to do when the car is pulled over and their interaction with law enforcement.”
The bill passed out of the House Motor Vehicles Committee on Wednesday, March 24, and now heads to the House floor. It cleared the state Senate by a 36-13 vote largely along party lines with some Democratic lawmakers voting in favor.
Opponents questioned the need for specific training on police interactions while driving and called for any new course to include instruction on driver’s constitutional rights to avoid improper police intrusion.
“I think we’re trying to deal with this problem the wrong way,” said Rep. Gregg Kennard, D-Lawrenceville. “Certainly, training needs to be in play here … but I think that this is misplaced and we’re deflecting responsibility away from law enforcement [officers] who are paid professionals and bearing this burden on the citizens.”
Robertson’s bill follows nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice last year that drew loud calls from Democrats for criminal justice reform in Georgia as well as reaction from Republicans to double down on supporting police officers.
The bill also comes as Robertson, who is a retired major with the Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office, pushes a separate measure in the Senate that would make it a felony to damage property or injure someone during a protest and hold city and county governments liable for not quelling rowdy demonstrations.
Additionally, state lawmakers are close to passing another measure by Rep. Houston Gaines, R-Athens, that would limit most local governments from reducing funds for police by more than 5% over a 10-year span.
Both of those measures have prompted backlash from criminal-justice reform advocates worried stricter rules on protests and police funding could erode citizen protections. The measures are now awaiting votes on the Senate floor.