Citizen overseers have called on Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed to ensure that police officers are disciplined if they keep refusing to answer investigators’ questions. But for a start, members of the Citizen Review Board said, Reed could return their calls.
An Atlanta City Council committee today subpoenaed 18 police officers to talk to citizen overseers looking into the department’s Sept. 10 raid on the Atlanta Eagle gay bar. Members of the Citizen Review Board had said they could no longer do their jobs effectively if they could not get police cooperation. “If these subpoenas are not issued, that means we’re done,” vice chairman Seth Kirschenbaum told the committee. “Our business is over.”
Kasim Reed hasn’t even been sworn in as Atlanta’s next mayor, but one of his key supporters has already been promoted. Scott Kreher, the police sergeant who was on desk duty four months ago for talking about wanting to tenderize the mayor’s head with a baseball bat, is now a lieutenant. Kreher runs the Atlanta police union, which endorsed Reed two weeks before he won a Dec. 1 runoff election.
Pearlene Williams, retired chief of staff to Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington, pleaded not guilty today to smuggling a cellphone into the DeKalb County Jail. She faces felony charges of furnishing contraband to an inmate and violating her oath of office. Her son, Muhammad Kareem, was an inmate being held for the 2007 murder of a Covington Highway pawn shop manager.
One week ago, Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington apologized and shouldered the blame for the 2006 shooting death of Kathryn Johnston: “I take full responsibility for what happened.” But not so much in court. Detectives claim arrest quotas pressured them to cut corners in drug investigations. Pennington testified the department had performance standards, but no quotas. And he can’t be blamed, city attorneys contend, “for the illegal actions of a few rogue officers.”
Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington undercut an oversight board by refusing to discipline uncooperative officers, the board’s chairman complained Thursday. Pennington had promised to penalize employees who don’t cooperate with the Citizen Review Board, but Pennington’s directive only calls for discipline if an officer doesn’t show up when the board asks them to. Many officers have been appearing with an attorney but refusing to answer questions.
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.
(UPDATE: The indictment says the contraband was a cellphone and battery. Williams is free on a $5,000 signature bond.)
Former Atlanta police Maj. Pearlene Williams, once Chief Richard Pennington’s chief of staff, was indicted today in DeKalb County on two felony counts. Williams, a 28-year APD veteran, was charged with violating her oath and furnishing prohibited items to an inmate. Her son, Muhammad Kareem, 22, was jailed until recently in DeKalb for a 2007 pawn shop killing. He is now serving a life sentence in a state prison for murder.
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
It pays well to be Atlanta’s police chief. It pays better, apparently, to be raising money for the police. Dave Wilkinson, president of the Atlanta Police Foundation, made $215,500 in 2008, or 23 cents of every dollar it collected. That’s roughly $15,000 more than Police Chief Richard Pennington makes in a year.
The Good News: Residential burglaries are down 2 percent in Atlanta so far this year. The Bad News: That small dip follows a 65 percent spike during the three previous years. So reports Terminal Station, an Atlanta real estate blog that has started picking apart Atlanta’s crime statistics. An excellent, if somber, analysis that advances discussion of the issue beyond the spin from City Hall.
Aggravated assaults climbed by more than 50 percent in intown Atlanta this year, and residential burglaries were up sharply in Buckhead and southwest Atlanta, police statistics show. Year-to-date statistics posted online show overall crime was down citywide through April. But the numbers also show pockets of the city where certain types of violent and property offenses have risen sharply.