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|Atlanta Police chief finalists meet in town hall forum|
|by Dyana Bagby|
|June 11, 2010 00:00|
At the recent town hall forum to let the public meet the three finalists to be the next Atlanta police chief, Mayor Kasim Reed acknowledged that many believe there has been a breach of confidence between the city’s residents and the police department.
“Tonight we begin repairing that breach,” Reed said during opening remarks on June 3 at the Atlanta Civic Center.
The three candidates are interim Chief George Turner; Dr. Cedric Alexander, head of the Transportation Security Administration at the Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas International Airport; and Robert White, the Louisville, Kentucky Metro police chief.
Reed said he would make an announcement of his choice to lead the APD between 10 to 12 days after the June 3 town hall meeting.
Gay issues were addressed briefly during the nearly two-hour forum by emcee Bill Nigut, southeast regional director of the Anti-Defamation League.
“How do you balance, in these times especially, your force’s ability to be tough on crime but sensitive to the concerns of various elements in the community. For instance, being able to deal with various constituent groups who feel discriminated against. We had the Eagle bar raid which the gay community believes was a slap in the face,” Nigut said, adding that Hispanics and Muslims also complain about alleged bias.
Turner responded by acknowledging the department gets “a number of complaints on Red Dog on how we deal with citizens.”
The Red Dog Unit, a paramilitary narcotics street force, was utilized in the Atlanta Eagle bar raid in September. Some patrons and employees of the gay bar alleged they were roughed up during the raid and also had anti-gay slurs hurled at them the Red Dog Unit. Many in the bar during the Sept. 10 raid are plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit against the city and police.
Turner defended the Red Dog Unit’s work without mentioning directly its participation in the Atlanta Eagle raid.
“Our Red Dog officers arrested as of today more than 1,000 people and made those arrests where people are being challenged to live in their own homes.
“[But] we have to be responsible to citizens, we have to treat people correctly ... we have to make sure we have officers that the citizens are pleased to have on the street,” Turner said.
White answered by saying the police department must treat all citizens the same.
“It’s a leadership issue. People have to believe that there’s a department that cares about its community and treats everyone … regardless of their station in life the same.
The flip side is they have to believe in a department that can hold officers accountable,” he said.
Alexander said police have social responsibilities as well as being firm on crime.
“We have to be clear about the line that does not get crossed. It doesn’t give officers the right to mistreat people, to degrade people,” he added.
Top photo: The three finalists for Atlanta Police Chief participated in a recent town hall forum. From left are Dr. Cedric Alexander; interim APD Chief George Turner; and Robert White. (by Dyana Bagby)
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