APD still investigating police ‘protection’ ring, drug squad
The 2006 shooting death of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston exposed corruption on the Atlanta police force and sent three officers to federal prison.
But, 30 months after the Atlanta woman’s death, the Atlanta police internal affairs unit and a citizen review panel are still looking for answers.
Johnston was gunned down in the living room of her Neal Street home by narcotics officers serving a warrant. Officers then planted drugs in her basement. Gregg Junnier, who admitted lying to secure the warrant, and two other officers went to prison.
“Everywhere I go, I still am asked the question, ‘What are you doing about Kathryn Johnston?’ ” said Cris Beamud, executive director of the Atlanta Citizen Review Board. “Citizens still have a lot of questions about what happened.”
Those concerns go beyond the handling of narcotics cases. In court documents, federal prosecutors say Junnier and other officers were shaking down businesses in high-crime areas in exchange for police patrols and response to 911 calls.
Junnier told the FBI he was pocketing several hundred dollars a week just from the manager of one apartment complex. Other officers took over the collections once Junnier was suspended; one boasted that officers would push crime toward a nearby apartment complex that was not paying protection money.
The Citizen Review Board voted this month to conduct its own review of the Johnston case. Beamud said the board will probably look at:
— Did the officers’ supervisors fulfill their own responsibilities? (Federal prosecutors say one narcotics supervisor, Sgt. Wilbert Stallings, took a cut of the protection money. His sentencing for another crime is set for June 19.)
— How carefully did narcotics detectives follow policies for handling confidential informants?
— Did police have arrest quotas that pressured them to take chances like the raid on Johnston’s house? (Police Chief Richard Pennington has said no.)
To get the answers, the review board may well have to wait in line. Atlanta police have resisted releasing their files until their own internal investigations are done. (In response, the City Council is considering an ordinance to restrict the board’s access to police files. More on that tomorrow.)
Internal affairs investigators are “actively working” the Johnston case, said Maj. Lane Hagin, commander of the Office of Professional Standards, but there’s no way to say how long the probe will take.
Will they finish this year? “I certainly hope so,” Hagin said Wednesday.
The protection ring – also known as the “extra jobs” issue — is a major part of the internal investigation, he said.
Three officers remain suspended with full pay 2 ½ years after Johnston’s death. Hagin notes, however, that suspension is not an indication of guilt.