Ousted police commander getting LGBT support

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imageAn Atlanta police commander who oversees the heavily-gay Midtown zone where the botched Eagle raid took place is gaining support from unlikely allies as he’s being forced to retire: The department’s LGBT advisory group and gay attorney Dan Grossman.

Major Khirus Williams, a 26-year APD veteran and the longtime commander of Zone 5, claimed in a May 3 email to supporters that he is being forced to retire as retribution for speaking out about the department’s plans to restructure a precinct and eliminate community-oriented policing. Williams, who is scheduled to retire on Wednesday, was commander of the zone in September 2009 when police raided the Eagle, an incident that set off a firestorm of controversy, allegations of mistreatment by officers, and a lawsuit that was settled in December for $1.025 million.

His wife, Major Debra Williams, was a defendant in the lawsuit. At the time of the raid, she commanded a police department unit that included the vice squad and the Red Dog Unit. That unit, which was disbanded earlier this year amidst additional allegations of wrong doing, took part in the Eagle raid and was at the center of accusations that its members mistreated patrons of the bar during the raid. Debra Williams currently commands the department’s corporate services section.

Chief George Turner on Thursday said the department has no plans to eliminate ground-level patrols. But he and the agency have not addressed Williams’ assertion that he’s being forced to retire. Williams’ biography has already been scrubbed from the agency’s website.

imageSince the Eagle raid, the police department and Turner have worked to repair a tarnished image among LGBT residents of the city. Now, Williams is gaining support from some unlikely quarters: The agency’s gay advisory board and Dan Grossman, the lead attorney in the Eagle raid lawsuit who also later made public allegations of wrong doing that led to Turner disbanding the Red Dog Unit.

On Tuesday, the nine-member advisory board sent a letter to Turner expressing support for Williams and asking that he remain in place in Zone 5.

Dear Chief Turner:

The members of the LGBT Atlanta Police Department Advisory Group have been advised that APD Major & Zone 5 Commander Khirus Williams will be retiring from the force this week.

The advisory group members feel that Major Williams’ retirement would be a huge loss to the LGBT community and the citizens of Zone 5. His dedication to the force and full support of the LGBT Advisory Group and the LGBT community at-large has been outstanding and very much appreciated.

We would like to thank Major Williams for his dedicated years of service and we would support him to remain on the force in Zone 5.

The Advisory Group continues to value working with you, your staff and the LGBT APD Liaison Officers to strengthen the relationship between our community and the APD.

Please feel free to contact myself or any member of the Advisory Group with any questions or concerns.


Glen Paul Freedman
LGBT Atlanta Police Department Advisory Group

imageWilliams is also being supported by Grossman (bottom photo), who said the police commander did not know about the Eagle raid in advance. Grossman, as part of the federal lawsuit, examined thousands of internal police emails and documents relating to the raid.

“All the evidence that I reviewed supports that,” Grossman tells Project Q Atlanta. “I have every reason to believe that he was not notified [about the raid].”

The ouster of Williams will send a chilling message to others inside the police department, Grossman says.

“Khirus is a much needed source of intelligent dissent within the APD. Removing him will discourage others inside the APD from questioning poor decisions,” he sys.

Grossman calls the commander’s ouster “a terrible thing” in an email to friends and supporters and urges them to contact their City Council members about the issue. The Atlanta City Council’s Public Safety & Legal Administration Committee, which oversees the police department, meets Tuesday at 2 p.m.

“The Eagle case was depressing for many reasons, not least of which was the frequency of untruthful statements by various members of the Atlanta Police Department,” Grossman writes in his email. “We all like to think of police officers as being honest, but in the Eagle case the opposite was the norm. My experience with Major Williams, however, was a striking contrast. Even when dealing with someone he perceived as an adversary (and our meeting was tense, to say the least), Major Williams was open, transparent, and most of all honest. I gained tremendous respect for Major Williams as a result of that experience and I was very disturbed when I heard we will be losing his services.”

Steve Brodie, a gay resident of Midtown who has twice run unsuccessfully for the District 6 City Council post, is also supporting Williams.

Williams’ willingness to challenge his superiors nearly cost him his job two years ago when he challenged crime statistics released by the department, according to Midtown business consultant Steve Brodie.

“Khirus has a history of saying it like it is,” Brodie said.

Also, Williams is being backed by Peggy Denby, a Midtown resident who chairs the safety committee of Neighborhood Planning Unit E. Denby helped lead the prolonged fight to close Backstreet. The popular Peachtree Street gay club closed in 2004. Since then, Denby has also opposed at least one other club that hoped to open in Midtown and offer events for gay patrons.

Photos: Khirus Williams (top), courtesy Atlanta-Journal Constitution; Williams with other police commanders (second photo) in October 2009 during a public forum about the Eagle raid; attorney Dan Grossman (bottom)


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