Mayor Kasim Reed said the investigative reports into the Atlanta Police Department’s raid on the Atlanta Eagle released last week were “terrible” and he plans to ensure something like the botched gay bar raid never happens again.
In a phone interview today, Reed again pointed out that the raid on the Midtown gay bar happened in September 2009, before he was elected mayor. And while he said the city’s December 2010 settlement of a federal lawsuit filed by patrons of the bar could have been seen as an end to the APD scandal, he believed thorough investigations were necessary to get to the root of the problems.
“My reaction [to the reports] is that this is terrible and I’m going to take whatever steps necessary to make sure this never happens in the city of Atlanta again,” Reed said.
“This happened before I was elected mayor. I’ve taken this extremely seriously. I began looking at this very quickly when I became mayor. I made the decision to settle after looking at details and going over the case on my own, being informed myself.
“As part of the settlement, I believe we needed to let the investigation and facts be known and be investigated thoroughly,” he said.
The city was ordered to conduct the investigations as part of its $1.025 million settlement with numerous plaintiffs who sued the city in federal court alleging their constitutional rights were violated when APD Vice officers and members of the now disbanded Red Dog Unit raided the gay bar on Ponce de Leon Avenue, forced them to the floor, treated them roughly as well as hurled anti-gay slurs at them.
Reed said he is still going through the more than 400 pages that make up the Atlanta Police Department’s internal affairs investigation as well as the independent investigation expor by law firm Greenberg Traurig. But he admitted shock at what he had read so far.
“I think any normal person with ordinary sensitivities would have to have been shocked by this report. And I was certainly was shocked,” Reed said.
So far, the city and APD have put on administrative leave seven of 10 officers who were found to have lied about the raid under oath, destroying evidence as well as claiming gay people were more violent than heterosexuals.
“We can’t have a city like ours that has a history of embracing and celebrating inclusion and have such an important group of our citizens under this kind of threat. And I’m not going allow it stand,” Reed said.
“As I’ve said repeatedly, I believe the LGBT community is a vital part of Atlanta and I think the community contributes greatly to what makes this city special and I’m not going to have a police department that does not understand how important this is to me,” Reed said.
The disciplinary actions taken against seven officers last week are just the beginning, Reed added. However, he said he could not comment on whether officers would be fired.
“I can’t comment on terminations because by ordinance there is a certain amount of separation between the Atlanta Police Department and myself. But what I do have the ability to do is make my feeling known including to my chief [George Turner] that the success or failure in my administration will be judged by this situation,” he said.
The demotion of Major Debra Williams, who was a commander, to a lieutenant is harsh punishment, the mayor added.
“That is a severe demotion and has not been customary in the city of Atlanta. We are taking swift action. We are going to do more. It is a beginning, not an ending,” Reed said.