Mayor Kasim Reed pledged to take “appropriate action” if an ongoing investigation and lawsuit shows that the police department acted inappropriately during the Sept. 10 raid at the Atlanta Eagle.
Reed (top photo) made the comments Tuesday during the first press conference of his two-day-old administration in which he announced sweeping staffing changes at the Atlanta Police Department. The agency was harshly criticized by some LGBT residents and questioned by elected officials and political candidates in the wake of the Eagle raid nearly four months ago.
Reed’s statement Tuesday offered his most extensive comments about the raid either as a candidate or mayor. Two days after the raid, Reed called for an “immediate, thorough and transparent investigation” and was one of several elected officials and candidates to do so. On Tuesday, he said the lingering effects of the raid are “a challenge that I inherited as mayor.”
Reed discussed the raid when asked about a resolution the City Council voted to send to committee a day earlier. That measure, proposed by Council member Michael Julian Bond, calls on the Atlanta Municipal Court to drop criminal charges filed against eight Eagle employees and dancers as well as offers an apology to the patrons and employees of the bar.
“I have not read [the resolution], but I am certainly supportive of the idea that if at the conclusion of the investigation by the city of the raid on the Eagle—after all of the facts are known and the investigation is over and the litigation is over—I believe as mayor I will take appropriate action if it is determined that the City of Atlanta behaved inappropriately. After the investigation, I will certainly personally get involved in making my feelings known about it,” Reed said.
Reed also said that the changes to the police department announced Tuesday would not impact the agency’s internal investigation into the Eagle raid. At least 10 complaints were formally lodged against the department alleging misconduct during the raid and turned over to the agency’s Office of Professional Standards, or internal affairs unit. The agency and the city also face a federal lawsuit over the raid.
“None of the changes made today will affect the investigation that is gong on around the Eagle. Because of the nature of the lawsuit that has been filed, I do not want to comment extensively on that. But I am certainly focused on it and paying a great deal of attention to it. That is a challenge that I inherited as mayor,” Reed said.
Acting Police Chief George Turner (bottom photo) announced a host of personnel changes during the press conference with Reed that impacted nearly every senior commander. The moves include shifting the agency’s highest-ranking publicly gay commander, Major Renee Propes, from Zone 6 – an area that includes heavily-gay Grant Park – to the airport.
He also replaced commanders of the internal affairs unit and the Special Enforcement Section, which includes the Red Dog Unit that took part in the Eagle raid. Turner also said that Deputy Chief Carlos Banda, who defended the agency’s tactics in the Eagle during a public forum in early October, was retiring.
“The changes that we have made have been extremely well received throughout the organization,” said Turner, a 29-year veteran of the agency who was sworn in as the city’s top cop Monday. “I am excited about the changes that we made today and they will be effective Thursday. We hope they will improve morale.”
Turner, at least temporarily, replaces Chief Richard Pennington, who was hired by Mayor Shirley Franklin in 2002 to take charge of the agency. Pennington initially received high praise for his inclusive leadership and pledged a gay-friendly department, but public opinion began to sour in November 2006 in the wake of the murder of an elderly woman by corrupt police officers. Pennington announced his departure late last year and Reed has said he will launch a national search for a replacement.
But in the interim, the new mayor said he wanted a strong leader to begin reforming the troubled agency. Reed’s campaign centered on public safety issues.
“The feedback that we’re getting about the decisions we’re making from line officers, the women and men that protect the city every day, has been favorable. The feedback that we get from the appointment of Chief Turner has been extremely favorable across the city, all parts of Atlanta,” Reed said. “The public safety space is so vital that we needed a strong leader.”
Turner said changes at the department announced Tuesday did not impact staffing of the Red Dog Unit, only its commander. The unit, mostly used to combat gang violence, was criticized for heavy-handed tactics during the Eagle raid.
“If you’re asking if we’re going to increase or decrease the number of people in Red Dog, we have not looked at that yet,” Turner said.