Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced May 4 that interim Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant would be the city’s permanent top cop and that a task force was being created to combat a crime wave, including 44 homicides since January.

Bryant, who returned to the force from retirement after an over 30-year career, took over from Chief Erika Shields, who resigned in the wake of the police-involved shooting of Rayshard Brooks during the height of last summer’s social justice demonstrations.

Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant.

“I would like to thank Mayor Bottoms for this opportunity and her confidence in me to lead this phenomenal police department,” Bryant said. “I would like to thank the men and women of the department for allowing me to lead and the confidence and support I receive from the citizens we serve.”

Bryant’s appointment must be confirmed by the Atlanta City Council, according to the Mayor’s Office.

At a press conference, Bottoms said she was creating a task force that will provide feedback in the next 30 to 45 day to address crime in the city.

The task force announcement comes after another weekend of violence that saw a 15-year-old girl and 22-year-old man shot dead and numerous others wounded.

“For the third time as mayor, I am standing here to talk about a bullet that took the life of a child in our city,” Bottoms said. “There are too many guns on our street and too many people who don’t have regard for basic human life.”

Bottoms mentioned putting additional 250 officers on the streets, expanding camera technology and license plate readers, and 10,000 new street lights.

Bottoms, who is facing an election challenge from Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore and local attorney Sharon A. Gay, fired back at critics who have charged she hasn’t done enough to address crime.

“You can say what you want to say about what you believe to be my deficits – people are entitled to their opinion – but don’t ever question if I care,” Bottoms said. “Whether I’m mayor of this city or not, I’m going to do everything I can possibly do to keep our community safe.”

The appointment of Bryant is a turnaround from Bottoms’ comments during an April 12 appearance at the Rotary Club of Buckhead where she said she was delayed a search for a permanent chief in part to avoid election-year “political fodder.” At that time, she suggested that having an interim chief was not contributing to an increase in violent crime, saying, “Let me be clear, Rodney Bryant serving as the interim police chief is not the reason we are having an uptick in crime in the city.”

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.