Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Midtown police commander claims APD brass 'forced' him into retirement after email opposing beat, precinct changes

Posted By on Wed, May 4, 2011 at 9:11 AM

Some intown residents are perplexed — and quite disappointed — after hearing a well-liked Atlanta Police Department major’s claims that he was “forced” to retire by top brass for speaking out against proposed beat and precinct changes.

Major Khirus Williams, commander of Zone 5 which includes Midtown, downtown, Old Fourth Ward and Castleberry Hill, claims his ouster stems from a late-April email he wrote to residents urging they contact Police Chief George Turner about proposed changes in the Midtown mini-precinct. Under the proposal, Williams said, cops would become beat officers and respond only to 911 calls.

“Thus, motorcycle, segways, foot beat, bicycle, and Piedmont Park patrols would be efforts of the past,” he wrote. "No more Officer Stevens to patrol Atlantic Station and the Home Park community."

The major said the changes would “be counter-productive, taking us back to the 1980s, when there were crime concerns here due to lack of police presence, which is why the Midtown Precinct was implemented.”

By urging residents to contact Chief Turner, however, Williams publicly went over the head of Deputy Chief Ernest Finley — the APD honcho who'd proposed the Midtown patrol changes.

On Tuesday night, Williams delivered a terse follow-up email to residents.

“Good evening, as a result of this e-mail, which was intended to protect Midtown's best interest, I have been forced into retirement. It has been an honor to serve you.”

Peggy Denby, a Midtown resident who chairs NPU-E’s safety committee, received Williams’ mass email breaking the news during Tuesday night’s meeting.

“Everyone's reaction was, ‘Oh my God,’” Denby says. “He’s the best we’ve ever had. We’ve made so much progress with him.”

Denby says Williams brought a ground-level, community-oriented approach to policing in the neighborhood, keeping residents informed and ensuring the officers he supervised do the same.

“With him in charge, he would direct patrols to every scenario or problem that we brought to him,” she says. “He didn't just say he'd ‘take care of it.’ He took care of it. If it took two or three days, that'd be fine. If it'd took two or three weeks, that'd be fine. But he took care of it. I'd never had anything like that before.”

The officer, who residents say has served in Zone 5 since 2006, also had fans in Castleberry Hill.

“Major Williams always shared his cellphone number with residents, responded promptly to email or to a last-minute meeting,” Castleberry Hill Neighborhood Association President Krista Ruggles says. “He attended our general body and public safety meetings, when possible, or sent a representative on his behalf. Major Williams encouraged us, just last week, to create a top five concerns list that we were planning on developing tomorrow at our CHNA Public Safety meeting.”

She continues: “We are in shock over the fact that he has been forced to retire."

Williams has not responded to CL’s request for comment. An APD spokesman said the department understands Williams “intends to retire. The APD is thankful for Major Williams' many years of dedicated service. We wish him well."

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