Yes, it’s all a matter of perspective. And it’s that simple word, perspective, that creates one of the biggest disconnects between the police department and the community they are trying to serve.
As everyone in Atlanta knows the official reports concerning the raid of the gay bar known as the “Eagle” has been released. After having read the reports prepared by the Office of Professional Standards and law firm Greenberg Traurig it is abundantly clear the Atlanta Police Department at it’s highest levels have no clue as to what the phrase “serve and protect” actually means.
What is also very clear is that there are those in our community who would sell out our community simply because they were pissed off because they didn’t get their way.
It should be noted unless otherwise noted quotes from the APD report can be found in their entirety here.
Upon touching the elephant’s tail, the first blind man exclaimed, “I declare, an elephant is exactly like a rope.”
This whole 2-year fiasco started with one, count them one, email:
On May 15, 2009, an email was sent to the Mayor’s Office complaining that wild sex parties were occurring at the Atlanta Eagle and spilling out into the surrounding neighborhood. This email was forwarded to Sergeant Lisa Keyes of the Public Affairs Unit.
May 20, 2009 Sergeant Keyes forwarded the email to Major Khirus Williams, commander of Zone 5,who in turn forwarded the email to Major Debra Williams, commander of the Special Enforcement Section, to handle. Major Debra Williams responded back to Major Khirus Williams that the Special Enforcement Section would look into the complaint and also sent the response to Sergeant John Brock and Sergeant Kelley Collier of the Vice Unit, and copied Lieutenant Tony Crawford, commander of the Vice Unit, on the email.
Sergeant Collier sent an email to Lieutenant Crawford saying He went by the Eagle and didn’t see any illegal activity. Sergeant Collier told Lieutenant Crawford in the email that the Vice Unit would run a detail at the Atlanta Eagle later that evening, once they completed an unrelated detail.
Once the detail went inside the Eagle some unsavory stuff was seen, according to the report. However, it should be noted nothing was done. I know there are investigative techniques for gathering enough evidence to go to court, however throwing a light switch with the flash of a badge and an arrest or two on the spot would have saved the city a million dollar settlement. But I digress…APD waits a month and goes back:
June 11, 2009 Under cover officers from the Vice Unit returned to the Atlanta Eagle for a second visit and again witnessed dancers on the bar exposing themselves. There was no sexual activity witnessed by the officers during this visit.
Again I am going to point out a flash of a badge, the arrest of a dancer or two would have saved the city a million dollar settlement. Also to be noted for the second time in two months there was no sexual activity witnessed. How much rope did the APD need for their lynching? Apparently three months worth as that is how long it took them to go back.
September 3, 2009 the investigation into the Atlanta Eagle was reopened. Undercover officers went into the Atlanta Eagle to determine if illegal activity was still occurring inside the bar. Once inside the Atlanta Eagle undercover officers again witnessed men dancing on the bar and engaged in sex in the backroom. After this visit to the Atlanta Eagle it was determined enough evidence had been gathered to bring the investigation to a close. It was determined the Vice Unit would enter the Atlanta Eagle the following Thursday, September 10, 2009,for the purpose of making arrests on the individuals involved in illegal activity.
I am sure I am beginning to sound like a broken record, however, a flash of a badge (s) and arrests on the spot would have in fact satisfied the one email complaint and saved the city a million dollar settlement.
Also, whom were they coming back to arrest the next week? Did they have pictures of those who were seen in alleged compromising positions? Could they not have gone to the owner of the bar after any arrests were made at any point in their observation and issued a warning to put a stop to this? What possible reason could APD have for searching for a length of rope to hang this one small gay bar, which took five months to find?
My point here is one can go to any bar in the city and over a period of five months find some sort of illegal activity going on. A five-month investigation when it could have been stopped after the first visit? Come on now, we all know there is an elephant in the room.
The second blind man, bumping into the elephant’s side, said, “No sir, you are wrong. An elephant is exactly like a wall.”
As one reads the reports concerning the raid itself it reads like a mega drug bust in which a major cartel was going down. Police storm the building screaming at people to get down, cussing at people, by some witness accounts guns drawn and pointed at people, doors kicked in, people thrown to the floor, people handcuffed and search without the least bit of probably cause and id’s checked for apparently no other reason then a badge, a gun and a big flashlight with the help of one email says they can.
By the time the carnage was over only the staff and some dancers were arrested. No drugs were found, no charges of illicit sex, hell not even a fire code violation!
I suppose about this time the folks from APD were beginning to recognize they had stepped in it big time. So now the elephant in the room becomes a wall. Nobody from APD remembers anything, emails disappear, stories of the nights events get stranger and stranger and officers involved in the raid just flat lie about who was doing what to and with whom.
Then there is this little problem of going before a judge to get a warrant and the higher ups in the APD command hiding behind assumptions about whether one was needed or not or just assuming one had been obtained. Damn, don’t you think this might be the one thing you would want to have crystal clear before you start throwing people to the floor and kicking in doors?
If this were not so serious it would laughable as I was in the courtroom for the trial or the hearing of the eight arrested and the main officer in charge during the raid could not identify even one of the arrestees and what they were doing to cause their arrest. Of course the end result of that was the charges were dismissed.
Then the third, having grasped the elephant’s trunk, declared, “You are both mistaken. The elephant is exactly like a snake!”
The GA Voice did an excellent job of reporting on how some of the planners of this raid saw this elephant as a snake.
Officer Jeremy Edwards (member of the Vice Unit at the time of the raid) for his statement during this investigation said that ‘Seeing another man have sex with another man in the ass, I would classify that as very violent.’
Sgt. Brock stated in the OPS investigation and the independent investigation by Greenberg Traurig that he believed gay people were violent.
In the OPS investigation, Brock, who was a key player in organizing the raid, said he forced patrons to the floor because he believed there was violence associated with being in a leather bar:
“There’s a risk factor involved when you’re dealing with people you don’t know anything about. S&M, that — that has a stigma of some violence,” Brock said, according to the report.
In the Greenberg Traurig interview with Brock, he said he believed gay people were more violent.
“In the past I have as a patrol officer handled calls where there are gay couples living in residence where one is mad at the other, and they slash clothes, furniture, anything they can do. They’re very violent. So, no. I definitely do think there was a high risk there. I think the only safe way — and I think you’re getting towards why I had everybody put on the ground,” Brock said.
When asked if Brock thought gay people are more violent than other citizens, Brock responded that they are.
“My experience, yes. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, when they’re — when they get mad, they get really mad. So …,” Brock said.
So, lets take a step back and see the elephant that is really in the room: bullying and homophobia.
Because of some officer’s obvious homophobia, one email and the ability to bully a group of people because they wear leather, 60 plus people were terrorized for the better part of three hours.
While the Chief of Police has taken quick action after getting the reports this week, the mayor of the city has apologized, APD has been ordered to do training and the city settled a million dollar lawsuit…it is not enough.
Those who planned this raid, those who lied in open court and to investigators and those who assaulted the patrons of the Eagle under the guise of following orders should be fired.
If the Chief of Police and the Mayor are serious about not tolerating misconduct on the part of the Atlanta Police Department, if they are serious about not allowing homophobia to fester in the ranks and they are serious about the role of the police is to “serve and protect” then send a message which is loud, clear and concise.
The message will be loud, clear and concise when those who planned this raid, those who lied in open court and to investigators and those who assaulted the patrons of the Eagle under the guise of following orders are relieved of duty and no longer allowed to call themselves an Atlanta police officer.
The message will be loud, clear and concise if when the investigation shows evidence of the officers who broke the law, those who slaughtered people’s civil rights and those who assaulted the patrons there that night are charged, arrested and brought to trial for their crimes.
Until this is done this will simple be the story of the 3 blind men who encounter an elephant.
Rev. Paul M. Turner is the Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church of Atlanta. For more information, please visit www.gentlespirit.org or e-mail email@example.com.