Six Atlanta Officers Fired over Eagle Raid

Jim Burroway

July 9th, 2011

Six Atlanta police officers were fired yesterday for lying about what happened during the 2009 raid on the Atlanta Eagle. Nine other officers were also disciplined, with three more hearings scheduled for next week. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

The actions come almost 10 days after the release of 343-page report detailing how 16 officers lied or destroyed evidence when asked about the raid at the Atlanta Eagle bar. The report said 10 of them lied, which usually leads to a termination because those officers can not longer testify.

“Honesty goes to the very heart of a police officer’s credibility,” Chief George Turner said. “The public must be able to trust its police officers and expects them to tell the truth at all times. Failure to be truthful has serious consequences at the Atlanta Police Department. I hope my actions today serve as a reminder to those men and women on the force that dishonesty simply will not be tolerated.”

On September 10, 2009, more than a dozen police officers descended en masse on the Atlanta Eagle. Patrons were forced to lie face down on the floor – many handcuffed – and were frisked by officers looking for drugs. According to one patron, police searched everyone the crowd individually while lying face-down without asking permission, and took everyone’s ID. Once a patron’s ID was cleared, he was asked to leave the building.Some officers were heard laughing and commenting that the raid was “more fun than raiding niggers with crack.” Police gave differing reasons for the raid. First, it was a drug search, but no drugs were found. Then the problem cited was sex taking place at the club, but no one was arrested for engaging in any sexual acts. Six were arrested for various charges, but all charges were either dropped or acquitted in court.

These latest disciplinary actions come after an independent review in late June found widespread abuses during the raid:

According to the Greenberg Traurig report, 10 members of the vice unit and the RED DOG team, including three supervisors, violated APD’s policy regarding truthfulness. Most law enforcement agencies consider lying a firing offense, partly because that officer’s credibility can be challenged in court.

The report also found 24 officers illegally searched patrons, illegally detained them and illegally took their belongings, including cellphones and wallets.

…The internal APD investigation sustained complaints violating police policies against 23 officers, including a major. Their offenses ranged from lack of supervision to lying, to showing bias, to using unnecessary force.

The entire report is available here (PDF: 7.8MB/). The report confirmed that patrons, even those not under suspicion for criminal activity, were unnecessarily forced on the ground while background checks were run. One officer, unit supervisor Sgt. John Brock, defended those actions this way (page 142): “There’s a risk factor involved when you’re dealing with people you don’t know anything about. S&M, that has a stigma of some sort of violence.” He added that gays generally “are very violent.” The report quotes Officer Jeremy Edwards as saying, “Seeing another man have sex with another man in the ass, I would classify that as very violent.”  Brock and Edwards were among the six fired Friday for multiple violations of police department policy.

The city of Atlanta has paid $1,025,000 to 28 people to settle a federal lawsuit. During the lawsuit, it was found that police had destroyed evidence, erased cell phone conversations, and recorded over electronic backups of emails. Some of those actions took place after a judge ordered the evidence preserved. Additional terms for settling the lawsuit included the completion and release of last month’s independent review, and several changes to Atlanta Police Department’s policies. The settlement now prohibits Atlanta officers from “interfering in any way with a citizen’s right to make video, audio, or photographic recordings of police activity, as long as such recording does not physically interfere with the performance of an officer’s duty.” They are also required to wear “a conspicuously visible name tag.”

Ben in Atlanta

July 9th, 2011

I don’t get to the Eagle that often. A friend’s club takes over the back bar once a month. Art walks around selling jello shots as a fundraiser. I usually walk down to my local pub. It’s gay when I’m there. Some of the bartenders and servers are also. They have an Absolut bottle on the shelf that has the rainbow stripes.

Thanks for mentioning this Jim. I keep getting pleasantly surprised by the Mayor and City Council.

http://www.thegavoice.com/index.php/news/atlanta-news/2900-atlanta-city-council-honors-aids-walk

Lucrece

July 10th, 2011

Is that settlement divided across the plaintiffs and their respective lawyers, or is it individual?

Considering the lawyers would take a large sum out of the settlement, they could be staring at, what, 20-25k a person?

1 million is chump change for the city — how are we assured that even the new procedures will be enforced when previous ones were not even enforced?

Of those not in the six group of men who were fired, what did “disciplinary action” consist of, “do not get caught next time”?

The men who were fired, did they lose out on benefits?

What about the guy who suffered severe head trauma in the process of the raid?

And most importantly, why do policemen still get to be just fired for offenses that would otherwise land a civilian in jail?

These people who lied during investigation and tried to tamper with evidence — why were they not charged with tampering evidence and obstruction of justice?

God, you’d think this country would get it right with not giving cops special treatment concerning the law. No difference at all from third world countries, though.

gar

July 10th, 2011

I’m glad they came down good and hard on this. Hopefully it will send a very clear message. It’s 2011, people. Deal.

Eric in Oakland

July 10th, 2011

I agree with Lucrece. I definitely think criminal charges are in order. Getting fired is not sufficient punishment for what happened.

fred

July 10th, 2011

Of those not in the six group of men who were fired, what did “disciplinary action” consist of, “do not get caught next time”?

You can find out what happened to most of the rest here .

fred

July 14th, 2011

Three days after my last post and the article posted here shows how serious the Atlanta Police Department is when it comes to reforming their ranks.

(1)The Atlanta Police Department hasn’t complied with a single term of the Dec 8. 2010 settlement which they agreed to eight months ago and;

(2) The supervisor of the botched raid, Debra Williams, was clued into the fact that she was going to be terminated and then was allowed to retire one day before the demotion was to go into affect. In other words, she was allowed to quit before the demotion took effect with basically no penalty to her pension other than an early retirement penalty.

Timothy Kincaid

July 14th, 2011

fred,

thanks for the links and continued interest in this story. I’ll take a look.

fred

July 14th, 2011

@Timothy Kincaid

I just happened across the article and thought someone might be interested in it since it was posted about here.

Unfortunately, absent another lawsuit I don’t think the city or the APD will ever willingly admit they did anything wrong.

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