A member of the Atlanta Police LGBT Advisory group is demanding fellow members ask Mayor Kasim Reed and Chief George Turner to fire officers involved in the raid on the Atlanta Eagle after the department was slammed in reports released last week.
Betty Couvertier, who also hosts and produces “Alternative Perspectives,” an LGBT radio show on WRFG 89.3 FM every Tuesday, sent a letter to other board members on Wednesday expressing her dismay with Reed's revelation that he was “shocked” when he read the reports from the APD's Office of Professional Standards and an independent report by high-profile law firm Greenberg Traurig. The reports state officers lied, destroyed evidence and also showed outright anti-gay prejudices related to the 2009 raid on the gay bar.
“I find it offensive and disturbing that the mayor would be shocked, after all the Civilian Review Board [Atlanta Citizen Review Board] came to similar conclusions a year ago but they were rejected [by Chief Turner],” she said in a letter to the advisory group members Glen Paul Freedman, chair; Josh Noblitt; Tracee McDaniel; Ebonee Bradford Barnes, Tracy Elliott, Molly Simmons, Philip Rafshoon and Terence McPhaul.
“As a citizen of Atlanta/Georgia I expect police officers to be truthful/honest and credible,” she added. “For the officers that charges/complaints have been sustained they are no longer credible to testify in court or to submit event reports that will not be shredded by defense lawyers ― to put them on desk duty would be a waste of taxpayers' money. Police should police, they should abide by the law and live up to the oath of service to protect the citizens they serve.”
The letter was sent the same day Debra Williams, a top supervisor of the botched raid, retired from the force after a 27-year career with the APD. Williams was demoted from major to lieutenant last week due to findings in the reports at the same time seven officers were placed on administrative duty and forced to turn in their badges and guns.
Couvertier also states in her letter that community groups will be taking actions in the coming days demanding Reed and Turner expedite “the decisions as to outcomes and consequences of laws broken, fourth amendments rights violated, lying, and failure to command” and also asking what the APD LGBT Advisory group plans to do in light of the reports.
Eagle attorney Dan Grossman spoke to the Queer Justice League about the raid and what the reports entailed on July 5; he is scheduled to speak to the police LGBT Advisory group on July 13.
Already, the Queer Justice League has an online petition at Change.org demanding Reed and Turner take immediate action to fire officers involved in the raid. GetEQUAL GA has also issued a press release demanding the city officials take immediate action.
“The buck should stop at the mayor's desk. The chief is appointed by the mayor making the Mayor responsible for the actions and/or failures of the chief,” Courvertier said. “Politics sucks and this entire affair reeks with politics.”
Couvertier sent the letter to the board because she is unable to make the July 13 meeting.
Freedman said the LGBT Advisory group will make demands from the mayor and chief at the July 13 meeting but asks for community input. He said next week's meeting will be a “defining moment” in the group's short history.
“I do believe as an advisory group we do have an obligation to make a very strong statement,” he said. “But we can't do this without a community meeting. This is a defining meeting for our group.”
Freedman added his personal opinion is that the 16 officers who lied and destroyed evidence should be fired and that the mayor and chief should issue punishments sooner rather than later.
“I also think it is in the best interest as a citizen that the mayor and chief act on this now. They should be acting immediately and not waiting. The longer you wait, the worse it gets. Everyone in community is waiting – how much longer must we wait for justice,” he added.
Mayor Reed said due to city policy, he does not have a direct say in how officers are disciplined. But he did say in an interview with the GA Voice that the punishments handed down last week are just the beginning.
"As I've said repeatedly, I believe the LGBT community is a vital part of Atlanta and I think the community contributes greatly to what makes this city special and I'm not going to have a police department that does not understand how important this is to me," Reed said.
Photo: Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, with Chief George Turner at his right, apologized to Atlanta Eagle plaintiffs in December after the city settled with them in federal civil court for more than $1 million. (File photo)