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|Mayor promises 'global review' into possible punishment for more Eagle raid officers|
|by Dyana Bagby|
|July 26, 2011 16:17|
Mayor Kasim Reed told members of the Atlanta Police LGBT Advisory Board the city would conduct a “global review” of more officers involved in the controversial Eagle raid who were found to have tampered with evidence but still remain on the force.
The advisory board met today with the mayor, the city's Chief Operating Officer Peter Aman, the mayor's spokespersons Sonji Jacobs and Reese McCranie as well as the Atlanta Police Department's LGBT liaisons Officers Pat Powell and Brian Sharp.
The meeting between the board and the mayor came about after the advisory board held a town hall forum on July 13 and many of the board members as well as those in attendance said they did not believe enough harsh punishment was handed down by Chief George Turner. The board will meet with Turner on Friday.
The mayor also agreed to attend a town hall meeting after Aug. 15 as well as three dinners in intimate settings with individuals or LGBT groups interested in hearing more about what is being done by the city to ensure another Eagle raid does not happen again. When those dinners will take place or who they will be with has not yet been decided.
The Eagle raid occurred in 2009. The city settled in December a federal civil lawsuit with patrons of the gay Midtown bar for more than $1 million for civil rights violations.
An APD internal investigation and independent investigation by prestigious law firm Greenberg Traurig showed many policy violations by officers involved in the Eagle raid, including lying and destruction of evidence after the raid. Six officers were fired and numerous others received disciplinary actions ranging from written reprimands to suspensions.
'Global review' of more officers
At least five officers whose role in the Eagle raid the mayor promised the city would investigate more thoroughly, according to Glen Paul Freedman, chair of the advisory board, are: Sgt. Kelly Collier, Officer Marlon Noble, Officer Dimitri Jaques, Officer Dion Meredith and Officer William Walters.
Ten officers, including those named by the advisory board, were found to have failed the “obey the law” policy of the APD when it came to deletion of cell phone data. Three of these officers were fired and one officer had already retired. One officer, Investigator Gregory Dabney received no punishment. Collier, Noble, Jaques, Meredith and Walters received either suspensions or written reprimands only.
“Basically we want to know why some officers received certain punishments while others did not,” Freedman said after the meeting.
GA Voice asked to sit in on the meeting with the mayor but the request was declined.
Board members, however, met with the GA Voice after the meeting to discuss what transpired during the meeting. Reed was not made available for an interview.
The members who attended the meeting with the mayor were Freedman, Josh Noblitt, Tracy Elliott, Tracee McDaniel, Betty Couvertier, Molly Simmons, Philip Rafshoon and Terence McPhaul.
They all said Reed was sincere in wanting to ensure a raid like this never happens again and that he told them he has made it clear to Chief Turner there would be “grave circumstances” to follow if such an incident does occur again.
“The mayor is saying that the buck more or less stops with the chief. He is holding him personal accountable that this never happen again,” Freedman said.
Mayor compares Eagle investigation to Kathryn Johnston case
Noblitt added that the mayor said while he apologized to the plaintiffs in the successful federal lawsuit against the city he understands that there is still a lot of pain within the community. But, Noblitt said, Reed pointed out that he had done everything possible to “make this right.”
“I asked him the question, you have apologized to the individuals and we are grateful of that … but there is still a lot of pain.. and he heard that,” Noblitt said.
“But he also said I have done more than any mayor in this city or state to make this right,” Noblitt quoted the mayor as saying.
Noblitt said Reed gave the example of the case of Kathryn Johnston, the elderly woman who was shot and killed by undercover Atlanta police narcotics officers during a no-knock warrant in 2006. And, according to Reed, said Noblitt, more has been done investigating the Eagle raid than the Johnston case. The city settled that case for $4.9 million.
“He gave the example of the Johnston case ... and that more was done due to this case than a woman who was killed,” Noblitt said.
State and federal authorities investigated the Johnston case and officers were found to have planted drugs in Johnston's home as well as falsified evidence that drugs were in her home. Three officers were charged with manslaughter and falsifying information and were sentenced to prison for 10, six and five years.
State and federal authorities were not involved in the investigation of the Eagle raid and no officers were sentenced to prison.
Rafshoon said that while perhaps more has been done to investigate the Eagle raid than the Johnston case, that does not necessarily mean enough has been done to punish officers involved in the raid.
Town hall, dinner meetings with LGBT community
Mayor Reed also said he would be glad to attend a town hall forum to discuss the Eagle raid but that he told board members he wanted to be treated with respect and that he would treat those in attendance with respect.
A similar town hall forum was held last year at Inman Middle School. The forum was organized by openly gay City Council member Alex Wan to discuss anti-gay crimes in the city and was attended by Chief Turner and other members of the APD command staff as well as Mayor Reed.
“He would ask that no one attack him verbally and that it be a civil forum,” Freedman said.
The mayor also agreed to three dinners with LGBT groups and individuals to discuss the fallout of the Eagle raid and what he is doing to ensure it never happens again, Freedman said.
Top photo: Mayor Kasim Reed apologized to the plaintiffs in the Eagle raid federal lawsuit in December. With him, from right, are Chief George Turner and the Atlanta Police Department's LGBT liaisons Officers Brian Sharp and Patricia Powell. (file photo)
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