Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

It’s not just Obama: Atlanta police also ignorant of the law

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DHS could also stand to study up on the 4th Amendment, given their proclivity to take people’s cellphones and computers and not give them back—in some cases, they do return them, presumably after copying the contents. But the Atlanta police department seems willfully ignorant—also dishonest, bigoted, and stupid. The story:

Some Atlanta police officers and ranking members of the force seem to be unfamiliar with law and constitutional protections that limit what they can do during a raid, according to a Citizen Review Board report released Friday.

The CRB director reviewed interviews and records the board collected during the investigation of 12 complaints filed by patrons and employees of the Atlanta Eagle after APD vice officers and members of the Red Dog unit raided it in September 2009.

The report questioned claims by officers that they remembered little from that night and said some of the tactics the officers used violated state law and the U.S. Constitution.

The board, created in 2007 after the fatal shooting of an Atlanta woman in her home during a botched drug raid, recommended in a letter to APD Chief George Turner that officers be given more training, especially in the area of Fourth Amendment protections from unreasonable searches.

“They genuinely believed that it was proper to place all of the patrons on the floor and frisk them because of officer safety considerations,” director Cristina Beamud wrote in the report to the board. “This is simply not the law… Officers need reminders about the limits of their authority.”

APD declined to comment on the report because the internal investigation is “still ongoing. The Atlanta Police Department continues to be guided by a court-ordered settlement in the case, and we will abide by its requirements in the 180-day timeline [to complete the internal investigation that is] set forth within it. Further comment would be inappropriate.”

The raid of the Midtown Atlanta gay bar has dogged the department for 17 months  as the Citizen Review Board investigated claims and patrons pursued a federal lawsuit.

Dozens of police officers from APD’s vice and Red Dog drug units swarmed into the Ponce de Leon nightclub on Sept. 10, 2009, based on undercover officers reports that they had witnessed  men having sex while other patrons watched.

During the raid, 62 patrons were forced to lie down on the bar’s floor. No search warrant was served, and no charges were ever filed against any of them. Police did arrest eight Eagle employees on permit violations but those charges were either dismissed or dropped.

Last month the Atlanta City Council agreed to pay $1.2 million to 19 patrons who sued APD on grounds that police offices had violated their federal and state constitutional rights. The patrons said the officers directed obscenities, slurs about their sexuality and threats at the men lying on the floor of the bar.

Initially when the board tried to investigate claims, officers refused to answer questions. Eventually, they agreed to be interviewed but some insisted they remembered little from that night.

“The denials from both the officers and supervisors are not credible,” the report said. “All of the complainants heard at least the use of the ‘f’ word. Not all heard the slurs but all heard the patrons being ordered to the floor. The failure of the supervisors to acknowledge this violation reflects on their overall honesty and taints their credibility.”

Last fall, before the lawsuit was resolved, an attorney filed documents in court that said officers and police officials erased e-mails, text messages and photographs that may offer details of the raid.

Vice unit Sgt. Kelley Collier, who was involved in the undercover investigations before the raid was planned, received a significant amount of criticism for his lack of memory, according to the report and letter to the chief.

“During the interview [the board] conducted with Sgt. Collier, it became clear that he could not remember important details concerning what occurred on the night of the raid,” Chairwoman Joy Morrissey wrote in a letter to the chief.

According to the report, he told the board he did not hear any officers use profanity during the raid and he did not see “ any officers place a foot on a person who was lying on the floor. He lacks memory about many activities, including the briefing on that night.”

According to the report, Collier didn’t recall when his shift started that night and “he could not remember exactly what he saw …. He was assigned to observe the bar. He then said that there were two, three or four bartenders working.” . . .

Continue reading. It sounds as though Officer Collier is either lying through his teeth and should be expelled from the department (and prosecuted), or that he is mentally incapable of fulfilling the requirements of the job.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 February 2011 at 2:32 pm

Posted in Government, Law

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