Mayor Kasim Reed spoke out for the first time on the expanding controversy surrounding the Atlanta police Red Dog Unit, promising a “robust and swift” investigation into allegations that officers fondled and strip-searched men during traffic stops.
“We have a problem and you are going to see swift, deliberate action and not this period of time of protracted investigations with a lack of movement and outcome,” Reed told WSB.
Two men told WSB last week that three Red Dog officers stopped them in June, ordered them from the car at gunpoint, fondled them and had one of them drop his pants and spread his buttocks during a search. They filed complaints with Atlanta police in December and just as their attorneys were about to file suit, the police department responded by pulling the three officers from the street and placing them on administrative duty. Two of the officers involved in the allegations also took part in the botched police raid of the Eagle
Both men have also filed complaints with the Atlanta Citizen Review Board. A third man has also filed a complaint with the board alleging Red Dog officers took similar actions with him during a traffic stop, ACRB Executive Director Cristina Beamud said Monday.
“We are listening. The issues that have been raised are not going unnoticed and we are changing. Now, when things are brought to our attention by the CRB we are not going to make excuses, we are going to change. The people of Atlanta should know that we are trying to be better – constantly,” Reed said.
But Reed’s comments on Monday and those of police Chief Georgia Turner on Friday stand in sharp contrast to the actions of both men in the long-running case of the Eagle raid, which also involved the Red Dog Unit and a dozen complaints filed with the ACRB. The police department hasn’t completed its internal investigation into the raid some 17 months later, and Reed’s administration faced allegations of repeatedly delaying a federal lawsuit over the raid as well as destroying evidence in the case before it settled the lawsuit for $1.025 million and promises to reform the police department.
Turner has yet to act on recommendations from the review board that he sanction officers and supervisors involved in the raid. In fact, Beamud and ACRB Chair Joy Morrissey told the LGBT Advisory Group for Atlanta police on Monday that Turner has yet to support any recommendations they’ve issued to punish officers since he took office more than a year ago.
“The focus really needs to be on what Chief Turner will do and when,” Morrissey, a lesbian, told the advisory group. “How soon will it happen? I believe Chief Turner is an honorable man. I want to believe in him, too. Desperately. The proof is in the pudding. We have to see what he is going to do. He is under a great deal of scrutiny at this point.”
Also on Monday, one of the men in the traffic stop – Shawn Venegas – told WSB that the incident left him “furious.”
“I feel like I’ve been molested by another man. I feel like I’ve been raped,” Venegas said. “It’s degrading is what it is. I’m furious and I’ve never been mad all the time before in my life and that’s how I am.”