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|Atlanta Eagle officers racked up large bar bills hours before raid|
|by Dyana Bagby|
|February 15, 2011 14:52|
Atlanta police officers involved in the Atlanta Eagle raid spent a great deal of money on shots of liquor before the actual raid began, according to a news report.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting that officer Bennie Bridges, the lead investigator of the raid and who was working undercover, spent $50 of APD funds on drinks on Sept. 10, 2009, the night of the raid. The AJC also states that Bridges spent another $60 on drinks on May 29, 2009, while working undercover into allegations of illicit sex and drug use taking place at the Midtown gay bar.
Another officer the night of the raid, Jared Watkins, also working undercover, spent $60 on drinks the night of the raid.
It was never determined if the officers were impaired, according to the AJC.
Carlos Campos, APD spokesperson, said in an e-mail that APD “employees are prohibited from consuming intoxicants or illegal substances while on duty. However, exceptions are made for employees working undercover on specific law enforcement operations. Those exceptions must be approved ahead of time in writing by an employee’s supervisor, and must be limited to prevent the impairment of the employee.”
The information comes from information from the lawsuit settled by the city with patrons of the bar that night for more than $1 million. The patrons sued the city because they were searched and detained by APD officers for no reason, a violation of their constitutional rights.
The police incident report of the raid included how much money was spent by some officers as reported by Project Q Atlanta.
Bridges has been on paid leave from the Vice Unit since he was arrested for DUI and possession of marijuana in Cobb County on Feb. 3.
During the Municipal Court trial of the “Eagle 8” in March 2010 in which employees faced charges of permit violations, Bridges testified he had four drinks the night of the raid but only took a sip from each drink before throwing it away. The GA Voice learned this week that the prosecutor of the Eagle 8 trial, Larry Gardner, was fired from his job after it was learned he was suspended from the state bar association for not paying his annual dues, including being suspended when the Eagle 8 trial took place.
When the Atlanta Citizen Review Board investigated complaints from employees and patrons of the Eagle the night it was raided, saying they were harassed, forced to lie on the bar’s floor and even threatened by some officers, it was revealed that Bridges has a long history of alcohol abuse on the force.
The finding came during its June 2010 meeting, where the citizen board also sustained the allegation that Eagle employee David Shepherd was falsely arrested.
"Since 1991 [when he joined the APD], he has had 32 complaints ... that include failure to appear in court, truthfulness, use of intoxicants and unnecessary use of force," said Joy Morrissey, chair of the CRB and a lesbian.
Those complaints included being disciplined for having alcohol on his breath one morning during training in the police academy. He was recommended to be kicked out of the force but a lieutenant overruled that recommendation.
In 1993, Bridges was in his personal vehicle and struck by another driver. Bridges pursued the motorist and detained the driver until police got to the scene. The person Bridges detained said Bridges kicked him while handcuffing him and fractured two of his ribs. For that infraction, Bridges was suspended for three days, Morrissey said.
Also, while off duty several years ago, Bridges was involved in a hit and run while driving drunk. He first lied to police saying he had been robbed at gunpoint and then later confessed that he was drunk and lied because he was afraid to lose his job. For lying, Bridges was suspended for 15 days, Morrissey said.
Top photo: The Atlanta Eagle (by Dyana Bagby)
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