Police should take action against 24 officers for improperly detaining dozens of patrons at the Atlanta Eagle gay bar in a 2009 raid, a citizen oversight panel said tonight. Recommendations for discipline should wait while investigators determine officers’ levels of blame, the Atlanta Citizen Review Board decided. But several members agreed when board chair Joy Morrissey said the maximum possible penalty — a three-day suspension — would not be enough. “Amen,” one member added.
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Atlanta police inexplicably waited nine days to question a key witness to officers’ misconduct in the 2006 killing of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston, according to a new investigative report. Instead, they put on a full-court press to track down an informant who corrupt officers wanted to use as their alibi. Cris Beamud, director of a city oversight panel created after the Johnston shooting, says police should find out why it took so long.
The report says Atlanta should fire two more cops over truthiness issues.
A citizen oversight panel could learn today whether it may compel Atlanta police officers to appear to answer investigators’ questions. The Atlanta Citizen Review Board, at the instigation of member Rod Edmond, may file suit to force officers to cooperate if it does not get subpoena power. Maybe even if it does. UPDATE: On a 13-1 vote, the City Council today granted the board subpoena power and require the police chief to discipline officers who won’t cooperate with it.
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.
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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.
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
Should Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington discipline officers who won’t cooperate with a citizen oversight board? We may find out next week, when board members sit down to hash things out with Pennington and Mayor Shirley Franklin.
A Fulton County judge this morning refused to block an oversight board’s access to investigative files in the fatal 2006 police shooting of Kathryn Johnston. Atlanta police turned over the files Tuesday to the city’s Citizen Review Board. The International Brotherhood of Police Officers tried to stop transfer of the files, but Superior Court Judge Wendy Shoob told the IBPO’s lawyer today that his timing was off.