As CL's Blotter has long documented, undercover officers are required to engage in any number of unseemly activities when they work vice busts. Sure, they can occasionally drink on the job and sometimes have their butts rubbed in happy-ending massage parlors.
But sometimes officers find themselves in compromising, embarrassing situations. And one female cop is faulting her fellow officers.
Late last week, Fox 5 reported that a female APD officer filed a complaint with internal affairs alleging misconduct during (and following) a recent prostitution sting.
APD officers staged a fake party to catch prostitutes, while others filmed it from an adjacent room. A female officer, who apparently had to undress completely as part of the sting, claims that fellow officers didn't respond right away when she signaled for them to enter the room. She also says she found out that a video of the sting was being shown to officers who aren't involved in the investigation.
Chief George Turner told Fox, "We have an obligation to make sure that we protect the police officers, both male and female. I'm very concerned about this particular complaint and we're doing everything we can to do the investigation and find out everything that happened."
Being naked in front of coworkers is literally the stuff nightmares are made of. Even more nightmarish if you're in potential danger AND your coworkers act like horny teenagers about it.
"I would never recommend anyone take a field sobriety test," said Dr. Spurgeon Cole a retired psychology professor at Clemson University.
Cole is an expert in the study of measurements and a skeptic about the value of field sobriety tests.
"It is designed to fail. It's designed to fail. There are no norms, there is no average score. We have no idea what the average person could do on the one leg with the heel to toe," said Cole.
Cole, who's been studying field sobriety tests since the '80s, says his research indicates that the tests only give cops a 26 percent better chance of detecting an actually drunk person than if they randomly guessed.
As a person who's taken a field sobriety test and passed — even though I'm pretty sure I would have failed a breathalyzer; gimme a break, I was a teenager — I'm curious to hear what you people think about Cole's position. Are people who aren't actually drunk failing field sobriety tests and being erroneously tossed into jail for DUI? Or, rather, are too many scofflaws being let off the hook when they probably shouldn't be on the road?
And, hey. As always, guys, arrive alive, don't drink and drive.
During the police bust-up of the Occupy Atlanta demonstration in Woodruff Park on Saturday night, two student journalists were among the arrestees — one from the Kennesaw State Sentinel and one from the GSU Signal.
In an op-ed he wrote for a local Patch website — in which he quotes a letter he sent to Mayor Reed — Frank LoMonte, Executive Director of the Student Press Law Center, accuses the police of infringing on the rights of student journalists whilst giving preferential treatment to older, professional journalists. He says the arrests "reflect a need for greater police training in the rights of student journalists."
I don't think there is any question that the Atlanta students were singled out for arrest, while the professional videographers standing right alongside them were not, because they look like ‘kids’ to the police. Being arrested and jailed is a traumatic event and it can have a serious ‘chilling’ effect on journalists’ willingness to put themselves in harm’s way to report the news. When a student — or anyone — identifies herself to police as a journalist, police should take a deep breath and inquire further, rather than, as the City of Atlanta police apparently did here, arrest first and sort it out afterward.
Vice Unit officers Marlon Noble and Robert Godwin received two-day suspensions for wrongfully detaining Eagle patrons when they weren't suspected of a crime. Investigator Timothy McClain received a four-day suspension for the same reason. The officers who brought appeals before the Civil Service Board last month faced harsher disciplinary action — termination in two cases — because they were found to have lied about their participation about the raid after the fact.
In those hearings, city attorney Amber Robinson argued fervently against the officers being granted appeals by the board. We found this odd considering the city's law department has defended the officers — i.e. claimed there was no wrongdoing the night of the raid — in past lawsuits, and is representing them in a pending lawsuit filed by several additional raid victims.
Noble, Godwin and McClain are also being represented by the city in the pending suit.
Various media reports indicate there was a certain lack of focus at last night's Eagle Raid town hall meeting. More recent controversies — like last week's Occupy Atlanta bust and Mayor Kasim Reed's declaration that he doesn't support the legalization of gay marriage — dominated the forum, but the meeting ended with an olive branch extended and a pledge from the mayor.
Attorney Dan Grossman, who has represented victims of the unlawful 2009 raid in three separate suits, stood and suggested that he and the mayor end their cold war. And have a nosh. From Project Q:
“I think the court is the worst place to resolve these problems,” Grossman said near the end of the nearly two-hour town hall. “I encourage us to sit down, as well as other attorneys. It is time for some healing. It is time for a bunch of people who love the city in their own ways to make something constructive happen.”
Reed agreed and Grossman quickly followed up: “Let’s have lunch.”
Reed also offered a conciliatory gesture of his own. From the GA Voice:
Reed ... said he would hold a status conference with representatives from the city and the Eagle discussing before a federal judge whether or not the city has complied with all of the police reforms mandated in the December settlement.
He said he would like to have it videotaped and then have the video posted the internet for the public to view "so we can stop having this argument." Reed said at the town hall forum he would instruct City Attorney Cathy Hampton, who was in attendance last night, to begin setting up today such a conference with Grossman.
In a conversation with CL today, Grossman said, "Wars can't go on forever. It was time for one of us to take the first step —- you can't fight forever. It’s time to move on and do something good for the city. I hope he picks up my little olive branch."
Mayor Kasim Reed and Police Chief George Turner will appear at a town hall-style meeting tonight to — according to the GA Voice — "cover general community and public safety concerns, as well as ongoing controversy over the Eagle Raid."
This sounds familiar ...
In July 2010, Turner and Reed attended a similar meeting at Inman Middle School, and it didn't exactly go well. Attorney Dan Grossman called Reed "disingenuous," Reed defended himself, saying, "This didn't happen under my watch ... I care very deeply about what happened at the Eagle," and then, after about a minute, he stormed out.
That meeting took place before a settlement was reached in the first Eagle Raid lawsuit — a settlement that resulted in two investigations, a $1.025 million settlement and multiple officer firings — and it seemed that was part of the friction. Currently, there's another lawsuit pending, filed by Eagle raid patrons who didn't participate in the first suit. And, thus far, the city has maintained that there was no wrongdoing.
I guess what I'm saying is, it seems unlikely this meeting will be any more productive than the last one. But it should be interesting. The meeting takes place from 7-8:30 p.m. tonight at St. Mark United Methodist Church, 781 Peachtree Street NE.
Rest easy tonight, big riggers.
Atlanta police arrested five people who were physically in the process of dismantling a (presumably stolen) semi at a suspected chop shop off Donald Lee Hollowell.
"We received a tip of information that suggested that there were some stolen semi-tractors at this location," a police officer told the AJC (great quote, guys).
Here's video ...
So, there you have it. World still turning, crimes still happening in the world outside Woodruff Park.
Just in time for Pride: Yesterday, the City filed its response to a lawsuit recently filed by ten men who were present at the Atlanta Eagle the night it was improperly raided by the Atlanta Police Department. See, I say "improperly" because it's been established several times over — in a previous settlement, an outside investigation commissioned by the city, as well as an investigation report prepared by the APD itself — that officers involved in the raid did NOT follow procedure. And certain APD procedures that were followed were later deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge.
In its response to this most recent lawsuit, the City basically says that the raid was not improper. Here's the dumb-or-brilliant part: They've phrased it so they're not necessarily arguing that NO ONE'S rights were violated or that the police didn't act inappropriately toward SOME PEOPLE — just not these particular plaintiffs.
Here are some highlights from the response (just to clarify, "City Defendants" includes the officers who conducted the raid, several of whom have already been fired for their role in the raid and the subsequent coverup):
"City Defendants assert that they took no action to deprive Plaintiffs of any right, privilege, freedom or immunity secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America ..."
"Insofar as Plaintiffs have been affected by the conduct of City Defendants, their actions were reasonable, proper, and necessary..."
"If any Plaintiff was, in fact, detained, said detention was reasonable..."
"If any Plaintiff was, in fact, patted down, City Defendants were justified in their belief that their safety or the safety of others was in danger..."
"The Plaintiffs' allegations do not establish a constitutional violation…"
Attorney Dan Grossman told CL today that he expected the City would argue damages — yeah, we were wrong, but how much is that hour spent lying on a filthy barroom floor really worth? — but didn't expect they'd argue the raid itself was acceptable.
In an emailed statement he said, "These statements directly contradict the conclusions of the city's two formal investigation reports, which found widespread violations of the patrons' constitutional rights."
Grossman describes the argument as "frivolous," and says bringing it before a judge could expose the City to sanctions — and paying the plaintiff's legal fees.
UPDATE: City spokesperson Sonji Dade acknowledges that the city's answer to the new lawsuit may sound incongruous with the court settlements it has previously made, but says it reflects standard legal practice.
"There are plaintiffs named in this new suit that the city hasn't yet confirmed were present in the Eagle that night," she says. "The legal strategy at this point has to be to deny the allegations and go from there."
If that sounds to you like the city will eventually settle most of these cases, too, we'd agree.
Yesterday, we reported on three armed robberies that took place in a matter of two days in the Inman Park-Little Five Points area. Well, turns out there were six armed robberies in five days, and Atlanta police think they might've nabbed the guys.
From an APD release:
The Atlanta Police A.P.E.X. Unit apprehended four suspects possibly connected to a string of armed robberies that began Saturday, October 1st through Tuesday October 4th.
The Atlanta Proactive Enforcement and Interdiction (A.P.E.X.) Unit were tasked with conducting a robbery detail in the Little 5 Points area to address six armed robberies that have occurred within the last five days. Previous reports and intelligence suggested that these crimes were being perpetrated by the same group of people driving a small silver sedan.
Last night at approximately 11:00 PM, A.P.E.X. officers observed a silver Mazda 6 driving at a slow rate of speed without headlights on. The officers began following the vehicle when it picked up speed and began evasive maneuvers. A traffic stop of the vehicle yielded four suspects, a shotgun, ski mask and gloves.
Hey, so that's what A.P.E.X. has been up to. (If you'll recall, A.P.E.X., or the Atlanta Proactive Enforcement & Interdiction unit, replaced the department's controversial Red Dog Unit, but never quite spelled out what its mission would be.)
The release goes on to say that the men have been charged with armed robbery, but the police aren't releasing names because the investigation is ongoing.
Well, despite the apparent mea culpa, the city has refused to settle an older, very similar incident in which police confiscated a camera from a woman who was recording them and then deleted the camera's contents. Today, attorney Dan Grossman — of Eagle raid-fame — and attorneys with the Southern Center for Human Rights filed a civil rights suit on the woman's behalf.
Here's a synopsis of what happened ...
Felecia Anderson is a 24-year-old woman who lived in the West End at the time of the incident. On October 14, 2009, Ms. Anderson observed APD’s now-disbanded RED DOG unit, raiding her neighbor’s house. Ms. Anderson and others came out of their homes in response to the police activity, and noticed police officers repeatedly kicking and dragging a man while he was laying handcuffed on the ground. Ms. Anderson went home to retrieve her camera and returned moments later to film the incident as she stood on public sidewalk across the street from where the man was being beaten. Right away, several officers began to shout at Ms. Anderson and demand that she stop recording. She stopped filming the officers and walked back to her house. One of the officers charged up behind her and demanded that she give him her camera. Taken aback by the behavior of the police officer, Ms. Anderson dropped her camera and the officer seized it. She was ordered to step off of the sidewalk into the middle of the street and produce her identification.
The officers then arrested Anderson for, among other things, for walking in the middle of the street. She's seeking compensatory and punitive damages.
It's been an active week for the APD, at least litigiously.
A federal lawsuit was filed on Tuesday by five men who claim to have been improperly strip searched and groped in public by Atlanta police officers. And, on Monday, City Council approved a $120,000 settlement with eight more Eagle raid victims; the city has thus far refused to settle with an additional ten people present the night of the botched raid.
All of the suits were filed by attorney Grossman, who told the AJC earlier this week, “For years people just assumed you can’t fight City Hall and you can’t fight the police department. You can almost call it a pent up demand for justice by people who have been abused by the police.”
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