Atlanta police fire 6, discipline 9 over Eagle raid

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imageAtlanta Police Chief George Turner fired six officers and disciplined nine more for their roles in the botched Eagle raid and later investigations, the most decisive action taken since the raid that has dogged city officials for nearly two years.

But the six officers weren’t fired for their actions during the Sept. 10, 2009 raid – they were dismissed for lying about their actions in two subsequent investigations. The nine other officers who were disciplined — ranging from written reprimands to 20-day suspensions — were penalized for their actions during the raid, which violated the law enforcement agency’s Standard Operating Procedures.

Turner’s actions were announced late Friday after WSB reported that five officers were fired. Additionally, three officers involved in the raid face disciplinary hearings next week and two were cleared of allegations that they lied during investigations into the raid. Two other officers had already been fired for charges unrelated to the Eagle raid.

“Honesty goes to the very heart of a police officer’s credibility,” Turner said in a prepared statement. “The public must be able to trust its police officers and expects them to tell the truth at all times. Failure to be truthful has serious consequences at the Atlanta Police Department. I hope my actions today serve as a reminder to those men and women on the force that dishonesty simply will not be tolerated.”

On June 30, Turner demoted Major Debra Williams, who oversaw the units that orchestrated an undercover investigation at the Eagle and the raid. But Williams retired on July 6, a day before she was to be demoted from major to lieutenant. He also suspended seven officers in the Sept. 10, 2009 raid. They were accused of lying during an internal investigation into the matter, which was released last week.

Turner’s actions came less than two days after the agency released its long-awaited internal investigation into the raid of the gay bar. Also on June 28, the city released an independent investigation into the raid by high-powered law firm Greenberg Traurig.

The investigations, part of the $1.025 settlement in a lawsuit filed by patrons and employees, were critical of the Atlanta Police Department and the City Law Department and said officers broke standard operating procedures for the law enforcement agency and lied to cover up their actions.

The internal investigation by Atlanta police sustained 42 violations of the police department’s operating procedures involving 26 officers. Some 10 officers were cited for lying about the raid in subsequent investigations, including the chief architects of the raid and undercover investigation leading up to it – Sgt. John Brock and Inv. Bennie Bridges. Greenberg Traurig’s report cited 75 violations involving 27 officers.

Brock and Bridges, along with a Vice Unit commander Lt. Tony Crawford, were among those fired on Friday. Bridges had already been suspended without pay over his arrest for marijuana possession and DUI. Turner also fired Sgt. Willie Adams, Officer Jeremy Edwards and Officer Cayenne Mayes. Two other officers charged with lying during the Eagle raid, Brandon Jackson and James Menzoian, had already been fired for incidents not related to the Eagle raid.

The disciplinary actions announced on Friday also included:

Sgt. Kelley Collier – 20 days suspension
Officer Robert C. Godwin – 2 days suspension
Officer Vincent Marcano – 2 days suspension
Inv. Timothy McClain – 4 days suspension
Officer Marlon Noble – 2 days suspension
Officer Craig Condon – Written Reprimand
Officer Christopher Dowd – Written Reprimand
Officer Dion Meredith – Written Reprimand
Officer William Walters – Written Reprimand

Turner also cleared two officers accused of lying during the Eagle investigation — Dimitiri Jacques and Vincent Marcano. But both were accused of violating three department policies relating to search and seizure, obeying the law and truthfulness. Jacques faces a disciplinary hearing next week and Marcano was suspended for two days.

Of 35 officers and commanders involved in the raid, according to the Greenberg Traurig report, 27 violated at least one Standard Operating Procedure of the police department. Of those 27, Turner has taken action against 18 – firing eight, six for their Eagle raid role; demoting one; and disciplining nine. Three more — Jacques, Inv. Jared Watkins and Officer Darnell Perry — face disciplinary hearings.

One member of the Red Dog Unit, which was later disbanded, left the agency. That was Officer Stephanie Upton, a lesbian whom several officers used as their defense against allegations of making anti-gay remarks.


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