Thursday, January 20, 2011

ACRB recommends punishment for cops, supervisors in Eagle Raid — but is it enough?

Posted By on Thu, Jan 20, 2011 at 1:44 PM

Atlantas CRB: (from left) Charis Johnson, Paul Bartels, Owen Montague, Joy Morrissey, Alan Morris, Ryan Johnson and Cris Beamud
  • Joeff Davis
  • Atlanta's CRB: (from left) Charis Johnson, Paul Bartels, Owen Montague, Joy Morrissey, Alan Morris, Ryan Johnson and Cris Beamud
During the public comment portion of last night's Atlanta Citizen Review Board Meeting, a visibly upset Thomas Hayes stood up to express his extreme dismay. "I have to express my opinion: you have disappointed me highly tonight," he said. "I am disappointed and I hope you're disappointed in yourselves."

Hayes was at the Atlanta Eagle on Sept. 10, 2009, the night APD officers wearing full paramilitary gear stormed the Midtown gay bar — without a search warrant of which to speak — and forced patrons to lie face down on the floor while they ran everyone's identification for outstanding warrants.

In Sept. 2010, the CRB voted to sustain allegations that 24 officers who participated in the raid had wrongly detained and used abusive language against the complainant patrons. The board postponed recommending punishment, however, until they could investigate the extent to which supervising officers were responsible.

So, the board's task last night was manyfold: first, they had to decide whether they'd sustain the investigation's finding that the APD supervisors involved — Sgt. John Brock, Sgt. Willie Adams, Sgt. Kelly Collier, Lt. Tony Crawford and Maj. Deborah Williams — had violated several Standard Operating Procedures, including those dealing with search and seizure, accountability of immediate supervisors, and, in Collier's case, dishonesty. (Another supervisor, Red Dog Unit Lt. Scott Pautsch, was exonerated by the investigation because he wasn't present the night of the raid and hadn't initiated it.) Next, the board had to decide what they would recommend to Chief Turner in the way of punishment for the supervisors. Finally, they had to recommend punishment for the officers they decided several months ago were guilty of unlawfully detaining and using abusive language against the Eagle's patrons.

After overcoming a decent amount of procedural confusion, the board sustained the most recent investigation's findings and decided it will submit the recommendation that each of the supervisors, save for Collier, should receive a written reprimand and additional Fourth Amendment training. It was recommended that Collier — who repeatedly told the board's investigators he "couldn't remember" basic details of the raid — receive a 30-days suspension without pay, even though the department's own suggested punishment for dishonesty is termination. Board member Owen Montague submitted a motion to recommend termination, but there was no second to the motion.

As for the rank-and-file officers who carried out the raid, the board recommended that each receive a three-day suspension without pay. Besides saying he was "disappointed" in the decision, bar patron Hayes told the board after their vote that "Three days is not enough."

Even with all the bureaucracy and procedural dithering, some pretty interesting details of the raid came up.

For instance, while CRB executive director Cris Beamud was presenting the findings of the investigation, board member Montague asked, why, if police had observed illegal activity inside the Eagle on previous occasions — which is ultimately how they justified the raid — they didn't just make arrests at that time. Beamud said she was told that the officers who'd observed the illegal activity — namely, sex acts between men — had been "too shocked" by the behavior and "needed to regroup."

Also, one supervisor also told Beamud that other bars had been "treated similarly," but "couldn't recall" the names of those establishments.

Ultimately, it will be up to Chief George Turner to decide what, if any, punishment is appropriate for the officers and supervisors involved in the Eagle Raid. As board member Montague astutely pointed out, Turner isn't likely to agree with the board's findings. "The track record is that [APD] doesn't support anything we say that is negative toward the police in any way," Montague said. "We have no track record of any support from the police. There’s no reason to think they’ll support this either. If we suggested they slap [them] on the hands, they wouldn’t support it."

It seems worthy of note that Montague announced last night that he's resigning from the board.

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