Judge signs order settling Eagle raid lawsuit

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READ MORE | Mayor Kasim Reed: I apologize to each Eagle plaintiff READ MORE | Order from Judge Timothy Batten (pdf) READ MORE | Reforms Ordered for Atlanta Police (pdf) imageA federal judge signed an order Wednesday settling the contentious lawsuit over the botched police raid of the Eagle, concluding that the Atlanta Police Department unlawfully detained, searched and arrested people during the raid nearly 15 months ago. The order from U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Batten, signed and published Wednesday afternoon, also confirms a $1.025 million settlement that the plaintiffs reached Friday. It brings an end a lawsuit that has dogged the police department and Mayor Kasim Reed since he took office in January. “The Court finds, based on the evidence in the record, that each of the above named Plaintiffs was unlawfully searched, detained, and/or arrested on September 10-11, 2009, at the Atlanta Eagle in Atlanta, Georgia, and that none of the Plaintiffs was personally suspected of any criminal activity,” Batten’s order states. The order also states the city agreed to a consent order requiring changes to the police department’s operating procedures within 180 days. The Atlanta City Council approved the settlement on Monday. The settlement of the lawsuit also includes sweeping changes to operating procedures at the police department: Police officers may not detain anyone without reasonable articulable suspicion that the individual is involved in specific and identifiable criminal activities. Police officers may not take or demand identification or require someone to identify themselves without reasonable suspicion that the person is engaged or had engaged in criminal conduct. Police officers may not frisk an individual for weapons without a reasonable belief that the person is both armed and presently dangerous. Police officers may not search an individual for anything other than weapons without a search warrant or probably cause plus exigent circumstances. Police officers may not lawfully arrest an individual in their home without an arrest warrant or probably cause plus exigent circumstances. Police officers may not enter a suspect's home without a search warrant or voluntary consent unless probable cause and exigent circumstances exist, and any resulting search and seizure is prohibited under the Fourth Amendment. In addition, the settlement requires uniformed Atlanta police officers to wear a conspicuously visible nametag and to identify themselves by name and badge number if requested by a member of the public. Also, Atlanta police officers are prohibited from interfering with a citizen’s “right to make video, audio, or photographic recordings of police activity, as long as such recording does not physically interfere with the performance of an officer's duty.” The settlement also requires that the police department conduct mandatory training of its officers on the changes in the agreement, the law regarding detaining and searching people and existing regulations that prohibit the aiming of a weapon unless the discharge of that weapon would be justified. Additionally, the police department is mandated to investigate and adjudicate citizen complaints of police misconduct within 180 days. Also within six months, the settlement requires the police department to conduct “a thorough and meaningful investigation” into the conduct of the officers involved in the Eagle raid. Earlier this week, one of the men arrested in the Sept. 10, 2009 raid -- former Eagle bartender Chris Lopez -- filed a claim with the city alleging damages of $250,000 over the police action and his arrest. Lopez was not a plaintiff in the federal lawsuit.

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