In an administration that doesn't suffer disloyalty gladly, that philosophy has held her in good stead. Since 1994, she's flown below the radar, avoiding the intense media scrutiny -- if not outright criticism -- that helped bring down some of her colleagues at City Hall.
One of the reasons she's been able to do that is plummeting crime rates. Atlanta, like most American cities, experienced a drop in crime since the mid-1990s -- a fact chalked up to better policing and better economies.
Now, though, with the city poised to elect a new mayor, Harvard, the first black woman in the U.S. to head a major metropolitan police force, is feeling the spotlight's heat. One of the frontrunners in the mayoral election, City Council President Robb Pitts, says crime isn't the only thing that's dropped on Harvard's watch. He claims morale has taken a nosedive, too.
Her silence might be one of the reasons. When cops fought with the city to improve their pension, Harvard kept mum. When the city tried to renege on $2,000 bonuses that it had promised officers as part of the 2000 budget, she stayed quiet. And even now, with Pitts all but calling for her dismissal, she still says nothing (including to CL -- our numerous requests to interview Harvard got nowhere).
Beverly Harvard joined the Atlanta Police Department in 1973. Within two years, she was off the street and behind a desk, working as an affirmative action specialist. By 1981, she'd been appointed a spokeswoman for the APD's task force for missing and murdered children.
As an administrator, she was known to seek out the opinions of others, as someone who respected the input she received. In short, she was the kind of person you might want as a boss.
Harvard became a deputy chief in 1982. In 1994, after Eldrin Bell, the flamboyant head of the force, resigned his post, Mayor Bill Campbell named Harvard acting chief. Six months later, the mayor made the title permanent and gave her a two-year contract.
Since becoming Atlanta's top cop, Harvard has presided over an overall decrease in crime in the city of Atlanta -- numbers that mirror national trends -- and Campbell is unequivocal in his support for her. The numbers speak for themselves, he suggests in an e-mailed statement from spokeswoman Glenda Blum Minkin.
"Having put community policing into practice, the statistics reflect the successes of the police department," Campbell says in the statement. "For example, last year's crime totals were the lowest since 1984, and were 21 percent lower than in 1993. Homicides were the lowest since 1966.
"Since 1993, juvenile arrests are down 53 percent, a clear indicator of a dramatic decrease in juvenile involvement in criminal activity."
When she took over in 1993, the police department had just emerged from scandal, a corrupt cop ring involved in both murder and robbery.
Then, in December 1995, came a shootout at a Marietta Street motorcycle shop. A ricocheting bullet from an undercover officer's gun hit and killed an unarmed customer who was laying face down on the floor.
The cops involved in the shooting were never indicted by a grand jury convened to investigate the incident.
But that's where the confidence in Harvard started to erode, according to one cop who requested anonymity. She never came out in public support of the officers, and instead suspended them without pay, the cop says. The officer believes that was a political ploy on the part of the Campbell administration.
But most puzzling, perhaps, was Harvard's recent silence on the subject of pay and pensions for Atlanta cops.
It's no secret that Atlanta cops have suffered from lousy pay and benefits -- not just compared to other big metro police forces around the nation, but to local jurisdictions as well. Before pay raises in this year's budget, Atlanta cops topped out at $42,262 annually, some $8,000 less than DeKalb County's top rate and $6,000 less than Cobb's.
Retirement benefits, which were revamped during the 2001 budget process, were especially bad. After 30 years of service, an Atlanta cop could retire and expect to make only 60 percent of what he made his last year on the force. By comparison, a DeKalb County cop could look forward to making 82.5 percent. It didn't take a genius to figure out that Atlanta was losing good cops because of its crappy benefits.
So in February 2000, Atlanta cops went to work with the City Council to improve its pension program. The talks lasted through March, when upgrades finally were secured.
During more than a year's worth of negotiations, not a peep came from Harvard's office. She was invisible.
"...the on-going campaign in the USA against the Southern people as an ethnic/cultural group." Oh,…
intowner2, No big post yesterday, but we did include a link in First Slice reminding…
^ this guy sounds like the average SEC football fan to me.
"Instead, the Midtown-to-Cumberland corridor is likely to get a dedicated line of bus rapid transit…
Unlike a substitute teacher, Briscoe Brown would actually remember your name, where you sit, how…