Will Eagle raid admonishments really matter?

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imageThe Atlanta Citizen Review Board stepped back from its tough talk about the botched police raid of the Eagle on Wednesday and slapped the wrists of supervisors involved in its planning. But even that begs this question: Will it matter?

The board, which also dished out recommendations for punishment last year, additionally said officers involved in the raid should each be suspended for three days. The board’s suggested punishment, though, fell on deaf ears last year with Atlanta Police Chief George Turner failing to act. In fact, when it comes to suggested punishments from ACRB in other cases, Turner usually fails to take action against officers.

The board’s actions on Wednesday weren’t enough for Thomas Hayes, a patron inside the bar during the raid. “I have to express my opinion: you have disappointed me highly tonight,” he said. “I am disappointed and I hope you’re disappointed in yourselves.”

Even the board itself suggested little will come of their recommendations that a police major, four sergeants and a lieutenant receive written reprimands and additional training, and that nearly two-dozen officers involved in the raid get three-day suspensions.

“The track record is that [APD] doesn’t support anything we say that is negative toward the police in any way,” outgoing board member Owen Montague said. “We have no track record of any support from the police. There’s no reason to think they’ll support this either. If we suggested they slap [them] on the hands, they wouldn’t support it.”

Other items of note from ACRB’s report on the raid and its discussion on Wednesday:

Among the supervisors that should be sanctioned is Major Debra Williams. She took part in a public forum with police commanders and LGBT activists weeks after the raid and defended the agency. She was later transferred from her position as commander of the Special Enforcement Section, which includes the paramilitary Red Dog Unit that took part in the raid.

Also among supervisors that should be sanctioned is Sgt. John Brock. It was Brock’s embarrassing and insulting testimony last March that led to the crumbling of the city’s prosecution against the Eagle 8.

When a board member asked why officers did not arrest men they allegedly saw having sex in the bar during its undercover investigation, Executive Director Cris Beamud said she learned through the investigation that the officers “wanted to regroup because they had been shocked by the behavior.” [GA Voice]

Sgt. Kelly Collier was singled out to receive a 30-day suspension without pay for what the board says was his continued dishonesty during their investigation. Atlanta police guidelines suggest termination for dishonesty. [Loaf]

Red Dog Unit Lt. Scott Putsch was exonerated by the investigation because he wasn’t present the night of the raid and wasn’t involved in planning it. [Loaf]

Pact action from the ACRB concerning the Eagle:

In September, the board stopped short of calling for sanctions against the officers. Instead, the panel opted to launch a two-month study of what its chair called “systemic” problems within the Atlanta Police Department that led to the raid.

Also in September, the board voted unanimously to uphold complaints from nine Eagle patrons that officers falsely imprisoned them during the raid. But the board did not uphold complaints that police used abusive language, arguing that those who complained could not identify specific officers. Instead, the board upheld the abusive language complaints against three supervisors.

In August, the ACRB sustained allegations of abusive, anti-gay and racist language by police leveled by Eagle co-owner Robert Kelley and doorman Ernest Buehl. But because the people who complained of the misbehavior couldn’t finger specific officers, the board didn’t dish out any punishments.

In June, the board recommended sanctions against two officers involved in the raid and sustained a complaint that one of the men was falsely arrested.


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