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Oversight panel: APD officers refuse cooperation, chief unresponsive
Ten Atlanta police officers have refused to cooperate with investigations of alleged misconduct, and Chief Richard Pennington has failed to respond to a call for discipline in a case of excessive force against a lesbian couple, an oversight panel said in a letter released today.
Pennington promised in August to draw up procedures to ensure officers “cooperate fully” with the Atlanta Citizen Review Board, and to establish a disciplinary policy for those who don’t. He reiterated that promise in a Sept. 18 letter to the board.
But board Chairman Rod Edmond, in an Oct. 29 letter, named seven officers who have rejected or ignored requests for an interview with the board’s investigators. Two said they would not talk unless ordered to do so.
Three others refused to talk to investigators about a woman who said she and her partner were stopped without cause by two officers who had their guns drawn, Edmond wrote. The review board on Sept. 16 recommended a finding of excessive force, but Edmond said Pennington had not responded within the required 30 days. The board reminded the chief twice after the 30 days elapsed but got no reply.
In that incident, Edmond told Pennington, complainant TaRaince Kelly said officers cursed the couple and held them at gunpoint after they had returned home and parked in their driveway:
Ms. Kelly explained that on October 23, 2008, she and her partner and their six (6) year old daughter were stopped at gunpoint by Atlanta Police Officers Fries and Streeter. The officers reportedly jumped out of their car with weapons drawn, pointed at the women and ordered them to get back into their car. Ms. Kelly inquired as to why she had been stopped and the officers yelled and cursed at them. They called a police supervisor and Sergeant Patterson responded and explained that the reason the officers used force was because there had been car thefts in the area and their car lacked a permanent license plate. The sergeant did not file a Use of Force report.
The officers and the sergeant refused to give statements to the Atlanta Citizen Review Board investigator. The investigation was carefully considered by the full Board and a recommendation was made to you to sustain the allegation of excessive force and to impose discipline which is consistent with departmental guidelines.
The Atlanta City Council created the review board in 2007 after a unit of narcotics officers killed 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston in a botched drug raid, based on a bogus search warrant, on her northwest Atlanta home. Five former APD officers are serving federal sentences for convictions stemming from the ensuing investigation.
About 10 officers have cooperated with the Review Board’s investigators in other cases, the board’s executive director, Cristina Beamud, said today.