APD overseers call out mayor on cops’ non-cooperation
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.
In a March 8 news release, the board’s 11 volunteer members repeated their complaint that APD’s cooperation with their investigations is half-heartedly at best. The Atlanta City Council created the board in 2007 after a team of officers shot and killed 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston in a botched drug raid.
Former Chief Richard Pennington and his successor, George Turner, have required officers to appear when the board requests but have not directed them to answer questions. Most officers show up with an attorney but sit silently as the board’s investigator tries to interview them.
According to the news release:
The Atlanta Citizen Review Board has tried to reach out to Mayor Reed in order to discuss this important issue. The Executive Director and the Board have requested meetings numerous times. The Mayor has not responded. During the Mayor’s campaign he said that he believed that the Board should be better funded, that the Board needed subpoena power and that the Board needed more robust investigatory capabilities. However, he has not required Interim Chief George Turner to discipline officers who refused to give statements.
So far, 36 officers have refused to cooperate, including 18 who have been asked what they know about APD’s September 2009 raid on The Eagle, a gay bar, said Christina Beamud, the board’s executive director. The City Council last week issued subpoenas ordering officers involved in the Eagle raid to appear before the board.
Patrons of the bar have complained officers made them lie on the floor for 30 to 90 minutes and abused some of them verbally. No patrons were arrested.
The law establishing the board allows officers to refuse to answer questions if they are designated as the subject of an open criminal investigation. A civil suit has been filed over the Eagle raid, but no criminal inquiry is pending.
Beamud said the board wants to ask the mayor, “What’s it going to take to get more cooperation [so] we don’t have to seek subpoenas?”
She said she requested a meeting Feb. 23 but has not heard back from the mayor’s office in the two weeks since then. Board chairman Joy Morrissey e-mailed Reed on Friday but has received no reply.
Meanwhile, the board has served subpoenas on six officers and plans to serve 12 more for interviews March 17-19. It remains unclear whether subpoenaed officers will invoke the Fifth Amendment and refuse to answer the board’s questions, Beamud said.
We have calls and e-mails in to the mayor’s office seeking comment. We’ll let you know when we hear back from them.