A federal judge found the City of Atlanta in contempt for failing to retrain police officers after a gay bar raid, ordering it on Tuesday to pay nearly $48,000 in attorneys' fees.
The sanctions from U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Batten add to the nearly $2.7 million the city has already paid to settle lawsuits in the wake of a botched police raid of the Atlanta Eagle in 2009. Batten's order, issued Tuesday, cements much of what the city was told to do during a May 5 court hearing when Senior Assistant City Attorney Robert Godfrey admitted that the city hadn't closely implemented some court-ordered refroms.
"The Court finds that Plaintiffs have established by clear and convincing evidence that the City of Atlanta has failed to comply with certain sections of the December 8, 2010 and December 15, 2011 Orders of this Court," Batten wrote in his order. "The Court finds that the City has not established its failure to comply was legally excusable, and the Court notes that counsel for the City conceded at the hearing that the City was, in fact, in violation of certain sections of this Court's Orders."
Batten gave the city 90 days to retrain its nearly 2,000 police officers on current law concerning detentions, arrests, frisks and searches; and to revise its Standard Operating Procedures to reflect the reforms and instructions concerning video recordings of officers, warrantless seizures, documentation of identification checks and investigating citizen complaints.
The judge also ordered that the training take place every two years and that the attorneys who sued the agency – Dan Grossman, Lambda Legal's Greg Nevins and attorney Gerald Weber of the Southern Center for Human Rights – be allowed to monitor the police agency's compliance to the order for six years.
Batten also ordered the city to pay $48,420 for nearly 96 billable hours of work by the attorneys who sued the city, with four of the attorneys receiving $520 per hour.
"Making sure that APD is trusted and accountable should be a top priority for the City, not something that judges are forced to twist arms to make happen. These reforms make law enforcement better," Weber said in a prepared statement.
The attorneys, who successfully sued to force changes to the Atlanta Police Department after it raided the Eagle, filed a scathing motion in March accusing the city and police department of violating court orders in the case. The motion alleged that the city hadn't revoked unconstitutional policies, isn't enforcing identification requirements for its officers, failed to document seizers and ID checks, hasn't implemented training and won't resolve citizen complaints within 180 days. It was the second time the attorneys for the Eagle plaintiffs sought sanctions against the city for failing to comply with the terms of the settlement.
During the May 5 hearing, Batten seemed inclined to grant the attorneys everything they asked for. Grossman said after the hearing that the city failed to fully change its policies and train officers on "all the things they didn't understand at the Eagle raid.
"Instead of implementing court-ordered changes that would benefit everyone in Atlanta, including meaningful training of police officers, City Hall has defied and obstructed these changes for almost half a decade. The Court has made it clear that the City's defiance must end and these reforms must be accomplished," Grossman said in a prepared statement.