Atlanta Police Department officers fired or suspended due to their actions in the raid on the Atlanta Eagle two years ago plan to go before the city's Civil Service Board this week to appeal their punishments.
On Tuesday, Oct. 18, at 9 a.m., Sgt. Kelly Collier will go before the board to appeal his 20-day suspension received from Chief George Turner as punishment for his behavior during the raid on the gay Midtown bar. Angela Robertson of the city's Human Resources Department said the hearing will take place in Suite 2174 of Atlanta City Hall located at 68 Mitchell Street.
In a Citizen Review Board investigation in January about the botched and unconstitutional Eagle raid, the board found Collier lied during the investigation and recommended he receive a 30-day suspension. The chief did not agree with the board's request at that time.
Cris Beamud, executive director of the CRB, described Collier at the time as "not credible" and explained to the board that when an officer is found guilty of "untruthfulness" the punishment is typically being fired. After some discussion, the board decided to only recommend the month-long suspension without pay.
The Atlanta Police LGBT Advisory Board also questioned why Collier was not fired in a private meeting with Chief Turner in August. At that time, Turner told board members there was not enough evidence to fire Collier as well as other officers because the evidence against them was lacking.
According to the independent investigation conducted by former U.S. Joe Whitley and the high-profile Greenberg Traurig law firm and completed in June, Collier as well as Officers William Walters, Dion Meredith, Dimitri Jacques and Marlon Noble likely deleted cell phone data after they were asked to turn over their cell phones to the city’s Department of Homeland Security as part of a federal civil lawsuit by patrons of the bar against the city. The city eventually settled the lawsuit in December for just over $1 million.
According to Atlanta Police LGBT board member Philip Rafshoon, Chief Turner told the board these five officers were not fired because the Greenberg Traurig presented “circumstantial evidence” that they deleted cell phone data.
And, because no hard evidence was given in the report, Turner told the board he could not fire them because the officers would likely appeal the firing to the city’s Civil Service Board, an independent panel of citizens who can either uphold or overturn a firing.
“They want to be able to fire people and have them stayed fired,” board member Josh Noblitt said at the time.
Carlos Campos, spokesperson for the APD, added at the time that it undermines Chief Turner’s authority if he fires someone and then has the firing be overturned by the Civil Service Board.
According to the Greenberg Traurig report, the five officers named by the LGBT Advisory Board all seem to have deleted cell phone data and then lied about it.
“It is apparent that certain officers made little or no effort to preserve material relevant to the Eagle Raid. Moreover, it appears that officers engaged in active deletion of cell phone data,” the report states.
Specifically, according to the Greenberg Traurig report, Collier had no call log or text message data recovered earlier than August 31, 2010 on his cell phone while his iPhone memory contained image files dating to June 12, 2009.
Other Eagle raid officers fired for their alleged illegal conduct who plan to take their cases before the Civil Service Board this week are Cayenne Mayes on Wednesday and Willie Adams on Thursday.
Earlier this month, three other APD officers accused of lying in federal court got their jobs back after appearing before the Civil Service Board, according to a story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. One of those officers, Brandon Jackson, was also involved in the unconstitutional Eagle raid.
An LGBT town hall forum with Mayor Kasim Reed and Chief George Turner is slated for Nov. 1, 7-8:30 p.m. at Saint Mark United Methodist Church, 781 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta, Georgia 30308.