If the court of gay public opinion matters much to Atlanta police Chief George Turner, he’s in a bit of a pickle when it comes to disciplining rogue cops who conduct an illegal raid of a gay bar and allegedly fondle male drivers without provocation.
That’s because the nine-member LGBT Advisory Group for the Atlanta Police Department – the one he and Mayor Kasim Reed created last year and hand-picked its members – is urging Turner to follow the punishment recommendations dished out recently by the Atlanta Citizen Review Board for officers and supervisors involved in the botched raid of the Eagle. To date, Turner hasn’t followed the ACRB’s recommendations for sanctions against any officers since he became the city’s top cop more than a year ago.
What’s left unanswered as Turner decides how to move forward is whether civilian oversight matters much to him and Reed, who fought the ACRB last year in its attempts to get subpoena power to conduct investigations into citizen complaints about the Eagle and other matters involving Atlanta police. (The City Council later granted those powers.)
Reed seems to have turned the corner, this week supporting the ACRB in comments to WSB about fresh allegations that officers from Red Dog, which was involved in the Eagle raid, fondled and strip-searched male drivers during traffic stops.
But there’s still this nagging matter of what to do with the cops who took part in the Eagle raid. On Monday, the LGBT Advisory Group approved two motions concerning the September 2009 raid. One urges Turner to follow sanctions the ACRB recently recommended after investigating a dozen complaints about the raid. The second calls on Turner to also quickly implement the agency reforms ordered as part of the $1.025 million settlement in the federal lawsuit over the raid.
“Now we get to have a good look at Chief Turner and see what kind of chief he is going to be,” ACRB Chair Joy Morrissey, a lesbian, told the police advisory group on Monday. “I wish we could have done more as a board. But I think we did well. I wish there was more we could do in that we could make our recommendations stick but we don’t have that in our power.”
Philip Rafshoon, a member of the police advisory group and the owner of Outwrite, said he’s watching Turner over his actions in the case. Rafshoon was one of two gay men who served on Reed’s police chief search committee last year.
“I think your recommendations are on the lean side and if the chief doesn’t implement them, it will be very telling,” Rafshoon told Morrissey.
Josh Noblitt, a police advisory group member and minister who was attacked in Piedmont Park last summer for being gay, said he’s hopeful Turner will follow the ACRB’s recommendations for sanctions.
“I will be blown away if the chief doesn’t respond with something,” Noblitt said. “Maybe I am naïve.”
Alex Wan, the gay City Council member whose Midtown district includes the Eagle, said he’s in “close contact” with Turner as the police chief considers the ACRB’s recommendations.
“The ball is in his court now. Now we sit and watch.,” Wan told the police advisory group.
Turner has until Feb. 19 to respond to the ACRB’s recommendations, which were submitted to him on Jan. 20. The city ordinance creating the ACRB provides Turner with 30 days to respond and indicate which recommendations he accepts, rejects or will implement with modifications.