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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mayor apologizes to plaintiffs in Atlanta Eagle raid case

Posted By on Wed, Dec 8, 2010 at 7:54 PM

eagle.jpg

Mayor Kasim Reed today personally apologized to the plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit filed against the city for the Atlanta Police Department's handling of the 2009 Atlanta Eagle raid.

Reading from a prepared statement, the mayor said the allegations had "been a matter of serious concern" to him for some time, and he hoped the settlement would mark the "beginning of a healing process" between the city, the APD, and Atlanta's LGBT community.

"I believe that what occurred that evening should not have happened and should not happen again," the mayor, flanked by Police Chief George Turner and the APD's LGBT liaisons, said. "As Mayor of Atlanta, I feel pain for anyone mistreated in our city and apologize to each Plaintiff in the Calhoun case." (full statement after the jump)

Reed's comments came after U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Batten approved a settlement that found plaintiffs were "unlawfully searched, detained, and/or arrested" that night and that none was "personally suspected of any criminal activity."

In addition to paying a $1.025 million settlement, the city agreed to institute a list of sweeping reforms within 180 days. Those changes, plus a roll forward, are after the jump.

The APD agreed to "revoke or amend" several standard operating procedures the judge called "unconstitutional policies" and others that might be inconsistent with the following constitutional requirements:

>> Police officers may not lawfully detain any individual without reasonable articulable suspicion, particularized to the person being detained that the individual is involved in specific and identifiable criminal activity.
>> Police officers may not lawfully take or demand identification, or require an individual to identify himself, without reasonable suspicion, based on objective criteria, that the individual is engaged or had engaged in criminal conduct.
>> Police officers may not lawfully frisk an individual for weapons without a reasonable belief, directed at the particular person to be frisked, that the person is both armed and presently dangerous.
>> A police officer may not lawfully search an individual for anything other than weapons without either a search warrant or probable cause plus exigent circumstances.
>> Police officers may not lawfully arrest an individual in his or her home without either an arrest warrant or probable cause plus exigent circumstances.
>> A police officer may not enter a suspect's home without a search warrant or voluntary consent unless probable cause and exigent circumstances exist, and any resulting search and seizure is prohibited under the Fourth Amendment.

As noted, much of the above shouldn't impact officers already following the law. In addition, officers must:

>> Not interfere 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."
>> "Identify [themselves] by name and badge number upon request at some point before the end of an encounter with a civilian."
>> File a report at the end of their shifts detailing any warrantless searches, seizures or ID checks. Those reports will become public record and be subject to Open Records requests.
>> Undergo in-person training on searches, detentions and seizures every two years.
>> Investigate and fully resolve all citizen complaints within 180 days.

The list of reforms includes legal documentation and clarifications worth reading. You can read the settlement and reforms here. The plaintiffs' attorneys, which include Dan Grossman, Lambda Legal and the Southern Center for Human Rights, plan to release a FAQ explaining citizens' rights.

How these reforms will be implemented has yet to be decided. A spokesman for the mayor, who didn't field questions after the brief press conference, told CL afterward:

"We need time to make it thorough and make it right. It's not something we can rush into. At this time we can't discuss specifics."

So while the federal lawsuit has been resolved, the issue is far from over. On Tuesday, a former Atlanta Eagle bartender who was arrested during the raid but not a plaintiff in the federal lawsuit, filed a civil claim against the city alleging $250,000 in damages from the police's actions that night. The city also agreed to launch "a thorough and meaningful investigation into the individual conduct of each officer involved in the planning, execution, and aftermath of the 'Eagle Raid.'" Such an investigation, the results of which are due within 180 days, could help answer numerous questions raised during the case, including why evidence was destroyed. And perhaps most importantly: Why officers were ordered to raid the popular gay bar in the first place.

Statement from Mayor Kasim Reed regarding the Atlanta Eagle raid settlement:

On behalf of the City of Atlanta, the Atlanta City Council, and the Atlanta Police Department, I am pleased to announce that our settlement with the Plaintiffs in the Atlanta Eagle lawsuit has been approved by the Federal Court.

The allegations made by the Plaintiffs, that certain Atlanta Police officers engaged in inappropriate conduct at the Atlanta Eagle on September 10, 2009, have been a matter of serious concern to me for some time.

I believe that what occurred that evening should not have happened and should not happen again. As Mayor of Atlanta, I feel pain for anyone mistreated in our city and apologize to each Plaintiff in the Calhoun case.

This week’s settlement agreement is a step forward, and I hope, the beginning of a healing process, part of a number of steps I’ve taken since becoming Mayor of the City of Atlanta. The Plaintiffs and the City of Atlanta, as part of the settlement agreement, have agreed upon clear steps which will strengthen and improve our law enforcement capabilities and help ensure that an incident such as this will not happen again in our city. These reforms include training, education, and revising applicable policies and procedures.

I believe that the lessons learned here, and the resulting reforms, will have a positive impact on future relations between the Atlanta Police Department, the LGBT community and the residents of the City of Atlanta, and that the rights of all of our citizens will be better safeguarded as a result.

I would like to acknowledge the members of the Blue Ribbon Commission who counseled me and volunteered their time to assist with the mediation process: Lawrie Demorest, Burt Tillman, Jeremy Burnette, Lee Schreter and Lawrence Ashe. Thank you for your service and commitment to the City of Atlanta.

I also want to express my personal appreciation to our City Attorney, Cathy Hampton, whose leadership was instrumental in settling this case.

Our diversity is our strength. As Mayor, I look forward to working with our entire community to ensure we are a more caring and compassionate city.

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