The City of Atlanta admitted in federal court on Tuesday that it hadn't closely implemented some reforms to its police department that it had agreed to do in the wake of a botched raid of an Atlanta gay bar nearly six years ago.
The attorneys who successfully sued to force changes in the Atlanta Police Department after it raided the Eagle in 2009 hauled the city back to court after filing a scathing 25-page motion in March accusing the city and its police department of violating court orders and the terms of a lawsuit filed over the raid. 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.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Batten was inclined to grant the attorneys – Dan Grossman, Lambda Legal's Greg Nevins and attorney Gerald Weber of the Southern Center for Human Rights – everything they asked for and gave the city 90 days to retrain its officers.
Batten – who peppered Senior Assistant City Attorney Robert Godfrey with questions about why it hadn't followed the reforms it agreed to when it settled the lawsuit in 2010 – made it clear he wants the city to comply and avoid returning to court.
“I want both sides to work out the mater in such fashion to eliminate the need for plaintiffs to come back to court,” Batten said.
The hearing on Tuesday marked the second time in less than a week that city attorneys admitted in federal court that they hadn't put in place police reforms they had already agreed to do. In another case, Weber argued on Thursday that Atlanta police failed to comply with an order mandating that officers are trained not to interfere with someone lawfully recording them, according to WABE.
It's also the second time attorneys for the Eagle plaintiffs sought sanctions against the city for allegedly failing to comply with the terms of the settlement. On Sept. 10, 2009, Atlanta police officers raided the Atlanta Eagle, arrested patrons and employees and touched off a legal and political storm that lasted years and cost the city nearly $2.7 million in lawsuit settlements and investigations.
'We asked for the evidence. We got zero.'
On Tuesday, Grossman (second photo) cited several instances in which the city apparently failed to change its Standard Operating Procedures, provide forms officers need to complete when detaining someone or train officers on wearing name badges. And in other instances, Grossman argued, the city said it followed the reforms outlined in the lawsuit but failed to offer proof that it did so. In short, Grossman said after the hearing, the city failed to fully change its policies and train officers on “all the things they didn't understand at the Eagle raid.”
“We asked for the evidence. We got zero,” Grossman said during the hearing. “We want to see something good come out of something bad.”
“We don't want any wiggle room on items we bargained for,” Grossman said later.
Godfrey said during the hearing that the city did complete some of the training required in the lawsuit settlement, but failed to do so in other areas. After the hearing, Godfrey told a scrum of reporters that he's going “to work to get it done.”
“We can work it out,” Godfrey said. “Hopefully, they are resolved or will be shortly.”
Batten is likely to order the city to retrain its officers within 90 days, while attorneys on both sides craft a consent order on other items in the list of reforms. Atlanta police Major Jeff Glazier, the longtime head of the department's training academy until last year, said the agency can push its nearly 2,000 officers through the retraining sessions in three months. Glazier added that outside instructors were used to train officers in 2011 on the reform items and some were trained again two years later.
“It won't be difficult at all,” Glazier said. “But it's going to have to start immediately.”
The legal wrangling is likely to cost the city thousands of dollars in attorneys' fees. The attorneys for the plaintiffs were awrded $25,000 in 2011 when they sought sanctions against the city in the case. Attorneys' fees in the video recording case last week are likely to reach $60,000, they said.