Overseers to probe alleged arrest quotas, ‘extra jobs’ at APD
Atlanta’s police oversight board will study charges that officers implicated in the 2006 Kathryn Johnston shooting, and other officers, had arrest quotas and worked extra jobs while on duty.
The Citizen Review Board, created two years ago in response to the Johnston case, will also dig deeper into FBI files that suggest other unindicted officers broke the law or departmental rules.
Johnston, 92, died as she was defending herself in a November 2006 drug raid on her home. Officers admitted lying to obtain the necessary search warrant and, after the fact, pressuring an informant to lie and say he had told them about drug sales at Johnston’s residence. They said pressure to make arrests, and a time crunch resulting from working private jobs while on duty, led them to take short cuts.
The board voted unanimously last week to open the inquiry, based on an Oct. 2 memo from executive director Cristina Beamud’s on a voluminous FBI report on its findings. Atlanta police and the review board have declined to make the report public while APD conducts its own internal investigation.
Board members said they were most concerned with:
- Allegations that Narcotics Squad detectives had quotas of nine arrests and two search warrants each month. Officers said they lied to obtain search warrants so they could meet their quotas. “If true,” Beamud said in an Oct. 2 memo, this “would be improper management of a drug enforcement unit.” She acknowledged the convicted officers were motivated to minimize their responsibility in the fatal raid and that Police Chief Richard Pennington has long denied the department has quotas.
- Officers’ practice of working lucrative extra jobs for private employers, sometimes while on duty. “Businesses eagerly employ officers in order to receive police services that they find difficult to access,” Beamud wrote in her memo. But these officers “often enforced laws in a manner that showed favoritism towards their off duty employers. For example, officers pushed drug dealers and other criminals away from the businesses that paid for protection onto others who simply expected the police to be doing their jobs.”
“While officers have asserted that the underlying systemic problem that contributed to the corruption was the quota system, it is clear the more difficult and more corrupting influence was the system of extra jobs. Officers needed to take short cuts in order to ensure that their employers were satisfied. They selected the targets of their enforcement based on the employment relationship and collected their earnings while on duty. They also shared their earnings with other officers and at least one supervisor.”
The board will also look at whether “two or three” other narcotics officers’ actions broke department procedure or state law in the Johnston case, Beamud said in an interview. Those alleged practices, she said, include the use of unregistered informants and, in order to pay them, padding vouchers for unrelated expenses.
Federal court documents have described many of these practices, in passing, in federal court as Atlanta officers Gregg Junnier have been sentenced. In a June 2008 news release summarizing the sentencing of Daniel Betts:
After Junnier was suspended from APD, other officers took over the so-called “extra jobs” he had developed with the various business owners. The FBI placed one such business, an apartment complex, under surveillance for several months, from July through October 2007. In that period, BETTS, a five-year veteran of APD assigned to a different area of Zone 1, made weekly visits to the owner to collect a fee of $120 in cash. Over the course of these monitored meetings, BETTS made clear to the owner that the payments were for the service of having BETTS and other officers patrol the apartment complex and surrounding area while on duty. BETTS also stated that he and other officers would push crime away from the paying owner’s apartment complex and towards a nearby complex whose owner was not making payoffs to officers.
On one particular occasion, October 26, 2007, BETTS patrolled through and around the apartment complex while a grant representative was visiting the owner’s property. BETTS met with the grant representative and discussed the steps that he and other officers were taking to minimize crime in and around the complex. This assurance was given by BETTS in an effort to help the owner secure the grant for which he had applied. For this service, provided while BETTS was on duty, the owner paid BETTS an additional $80 on top of his weekly $120 fee. The grant representative was in fact an undercover FBI agent and the meeting was recorded.
The FBI identified fewer than a dozen narcotics and other officers who worked extra jobs while on duty, Beamud said.
Beamud said she hopes to produce a “white paper” on best practices nationwide on regulating officers’ off-duty work.
“We’d like to explore what we can do improve the policy … so that something can be done to make it more difficult to do this,” she said. “It’s supposed to be an extra job but they were performing them while they were on duty.”
Similarly, the board wants Beamud to determine options for evaluating officers’ performance that do not include measurement of arrest numbers.
“Some states outlaw quotas for police officers,” she said. “Numbers cannot judge the quality of an arrest.”