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|Lead investigator of Eagle arrested for DUI, marijuana possession now suspended without pay|
|by Dyana Bagby|
|February 16, 2011 17:16|
Atlanta Police Chief George Turner has now suspended Investigator Bennie Bridges without pay after he was arrested in Cobb County for DUI and possession of marijuana.
Bridges was arrested Feb. 3 and put on administrative leave — with pay — while an internal investigation was conducted.
A press release from the APD now says Bridges has been suspended without pay after meeting with Turner today and while the Office of Professional Standards continues to investigate the matter.
The full press release:
"On February 3, 2011 Investigator Bennie Bridges was arrested by the Cobb County Police Department. He was charged with D.U.I., Speeding, and Violation of Georgia Controlled Substance Act (possession of marijuana < 1 ounce).
"On February 16, 2011 Chief George Turner conducted a hearing with Inv. Bridges which resulted in Inv. Bridges being suspended without pay pending the outcome of his criminal charges. An internal investigation was initiated by the Atlanta Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards (OPS).
"We will not be granting any interviews concerning this matter as it is the policy of the Atlanta Police Department not to comment on any open internal investigations."
This news comes a day after it was reported Bridges, while working undercover at the Atlanta Eagle, racked up a large bar tab, including $50 on the night of the illegal raid.
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 the CRB's 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.
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