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|[Updated] Atlanta City Council settles third Eagle lawsuit for $330,000|
|by Dyana Bagby|
|March 19, 2012 14:19|
The Atlanta city council unanimously voted today to approve settling the third lawsuit stemming from the botched police raid on gay bar the Atlanta Eagle. The total of the settlement is $330,000.
Eagle attorney Dan Grossman told the GA Voice he was happy with the proposed settlement because his clients, whose constitutional rights were allegedly violated, "have now gotten justice."
As part of the settlement, Grossman also requested the Atlanta Police Department be mandated the police chief fire officers who destroy evidence in a civil case.
Several officers involved in the raid on Midtown gay bar the Atlanta Eagle on Sept. 10, 2009, were accused of destroying evidence but not fired.
"If an officer thinks, oh, well, I'll just get a three-day suspension for deleting cell phone records, then nothing keeps him or her from doing it," Grossman said.
A court order also mandated the city pay Grossman $25,000 in attorney's fees for working to ensure the APD implemented the policy changes mandated from the original lawsuit that resulted in a $1.025 million settlement.
"Now they are in compliance and doing what we have been asking for since day one," he said.
The three Eagle lawsuits filed by patrons and employees of the bar total would total $1.475 million.
The Eagle settlement was part of a resolution to settle a total of four lawsuits against the APD in which Grossman represents the plaintiffs. The four lawsuits totaled $940,000, including the Eagle suit.
• Grossman represented several men who alleged they were illegally strip searched in public. That suit was settled for $470,000 plus mandatory training of officers on constitutional rights to go along with similar Eagle training.
- The APD arrested a woman for videotaping a male being beaten by Red Dog Officers and confiscated her cellphone. This case was settled for $50,000.
- The city settled a lawsuit by a woman arrested while sitting in a chair for $90,000
The total of all Grossman's settlements on behalf of his clients total $2.6 million of taxpayer money.
"Over the past 24 months the city has paid out $2.6 million dollars all for police misconduct," Grossman said. "The police department could have been improved without the city paying $2.6 million."
Grossman said he went after significant amounts of money on behalf of his clients to hopefully make the city pay attention as well as instill better practices at the APD.
"Nothing else was working," he said, noting the original Eagle plaintiffs simply sought an apology.
"Unfortunately, this is a painful way to get to this. My hope is it will motivate the APD and individual officers to follow the law."
Grossman said the procedural reforms put in place should also ensure the APD and the city do not have to face significant settlements in the future which will save the city taxpayer money in the long run.
He also added the Atlanta Citizen Review Board has been asking for police changes for years and many of the officers that led to the costly settlements had been investigated in the past.
“Most of the officers responsible for the amount of money being paid have been investigated in the past but not disciplined. The key figure in the strip searches was first investigated in 2007,” he said.
"The end results are good for the citizens and for the taxpayers," said Grossman.
Another lawsuit against the city is still pending stemming from the Eagle raid is still pending. Former bartender Chris Lopez filed a federal lawsuit saying his constitutional rights were violated because he was arrested and then put on trial in municipal court.
Update: The city issued a statement at 6 p.m. today about the resolution, saying it is "pleased to end this chapter of litigation."
"Under the settlement approved today, the city will implement new and revised Standard Operating Procedures on searches, preservation of information, and protection of citizen’s rights to record police activity.
"Even before the settlement was reached, the city already had implemented department-wide training on proper searches, which will continue moving forward.
"Since the Calhoun lawsuit was settled in December 2010, the city has put into motion multiple reforms relating to the Atlanta Police Department. The police department, under the leadership of Chief George Turner, disbanded the Red Dog unit, conducted a full review and revision of its Standard Operating Procedures, and engaged a nationally recognized expert, Ken Wallentine, to conduct department-wide training on police procedures.
"The city is pleased to end this chapter of litigation and move forward in the spirit of cooperation.
"Plaintiffs and the city jointly recognize that now is the time to end costly and time-consuming litigation and conflict, and move forward with a newly-strengthened relationship between the police department and the community," the statement says.
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