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According to Williams, Officer Martin returned to her home, and without a word, took her to the ground, jammed his knee into her back and cuffed her. The board's investigation revealed that Martin had preemptively summoned a jail transport vehicle to William's home before he arrived the second time — meaning before he was able to assess the situation.
The previous January, Airric Stewart was walking to a Peachtree Road gym when he was stopped by two police officers. Unbeknownst to Stewart, his gym attire — a grey hoodie and sweatpants — matched the description of a bank robbery suspect. Stewart claims that officers Michael Skillman and Carl Wilson tried to search his backpack by force. He would later say that when he tried to stop them from "snatching" his backpack off his shoulder, Officer Wilson said, "Let's just take him down." After he was taken to the ground and handcuffed, his bag was searched and nothing robbery-related was found. Stewart was sent on his way.
That same year, Minnie Carey was talking with a group of people on a sidewalk outside a Boulevard convenience store when a police car pulled up. One of the officers, Brandy Dolson, instructed the group to "move it," Carey recalls. Carey says the group dispersed for the most part, but she protested, and asked why they had to leave. It was only 2:45 p.m., they weren't blocking pedestrian traffic and they'd only been there for a couple of minutes. Dolson's explanation, according to Carey: "Because I said so." Carey held her ground and was arrested for disorderly conduct.
"I feel like my rights were definitely violated," Carey told CL during a recent interview. "I was just standing on the sidewalk. Each time I think about it, I get angry. That they feel they have that kind of power over citizens. People get treated like dirt."
The board sustained accusations of excessive force in Williams' and Stewart's cases, and false imprisonment in Carey's. The board's recommended actions weren't unreasonable; in Stewart's case, the board simply asked that copies of a letter stating their opinions be put in each of the officers' files. But their recommendations were refused.
Historically, there aren't many fans in law enforcement of civilian review. The contention is that the material is too complicated for laypeople without training in police procedure. (Of course, an easy counter to that argument is that courtroom juries do it every day.)
Chief Turner has, on several occasions, said he's an advocate of civilian review, in part because he believes the board has vindicated his department in some respects. "Do I believe we need to have citizen oversight?" Turner asked, rhetorically, in a July interview with CL. "Absolutely. Do I think there's a consistent pattern of officers violating folks' rights? I do not think that's the case in this police department. If you look at the results of what the Citizen Review Board have come back with in their findings, they don't find that, either. It's good that an outside source tell that story as opposed to us telling that story."
Even if it hasn't revealed a culture of misconduct in the APD, the board has shone a light on what might be considered lax standards.
Martin, the officer the Citizen Review Board determined used excessive force when he arrested Williams in her home, had 16 complaints — citizen and internal — lodged against him in five years. And the CRB's investigation into the complaint filed by Carey that she was arrested merely for standing on a sidewalk found that Officer Dolson had also racked up 16 complaints, his between 2003 and 2009.
Prior to Carey's arrest, Dolson had been accused on several occasions of using excessive force and being involved in car accidents. The accidents are the only charges APD's internal Office of Professional Standards sustained. Less than a month after Carey's arrest, Dolson was charged with DUI when he struck a Bobcat and flipped his SUV. Able to use Dolson's disciplinary history in her favor, Carey successfully sued the city and won a $20,000 settlement. Prior to that, the board determined that several active complaints against Dolson were "quite troubling," and recommended that he be suspended for 15 days without pay and undergo a psychological evaluation.
Most people in law enforcement circles believe officer discipline is best left to a department's own internal affairs department. Arguing against City Council's decision to give the CRB subpoena power, Lt. Scott Kreher, then-president of the local chapter of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, told the AJC in 2010, "We are the only profession in the city that can be investigated by internal affairs, the district attorney, the FBI, Secret Service, the Justice Department. You are talking about adding another layer to layers and layers of bureaucracy. They are just throwing money at another level of bureaucracy."
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