The Atlanta Police Department’s LGBT Advisory Group is urging Chief George Turner to accept the Atlanta Citizens Review Board recommendations for punishments of the officers and supervisors involved in the illegal Atlanta Eagle raid.

At its Monday meeting, the advisory board voted to inform the chief as well as the mayor that members “strongly support” the CRB’s recommendations that the officers involved in the raid on Sept. 10, 2009, be punished with three days unpaid leave, a written reprimand and training on the Fourth Amendment. The board also backed the CRB’s recommendations that the supervisors of the raid receive written reprimands and Fourth Amendment training.

Sgt. Kelley Collier, who said during a CRB in-depth investigation that he could virtually not recall anything the night of the raid, was recommended to receive a 30-day suspension without pay for being “untruthful” — an offense that typically ends in an officer being fired.

Atlanta Police LGBT Advisory Group wants chief to punish Eagle raid officers

“We want our voices heard. It is imperative the chief follow through,” said Glen Paul Freedman, chair of the LGBT Advisory Group. “We want him to know that we are watching and monitoring the APD.”

The CRB’s decision at its Jan. 19 meeting to take a weak stance against the officers and supervisors outraged Thomas Hayes, 68, a patron in the bar the when it was raided by the Atlanta Police Department’s Vice Squad and Red Dog Unit.

“I have to express my opinion and I’m highly disappointed,” he told CRB board members on Jan. 19. “You were all in agreement [the APD’s policies] were not tough enough.”

During the raid, patrons were forced down onto the floor by members of the Red Dog Unit, were searched, had their IDs checked for outstanding warrants while enduring anti-gay slurs and threats of violence, and were held for up to an hour while the background searches were executed. No patrons were arrested.

Cris Beamud, executive director of the CRB, and Joy Morrissey, the board chair, explained to the LGBT Advisory Group the process of how they came up with the recommendations for punishment of the officers and supervisors.

The APD follows a “grid” to determine punishment for certain offenses and the CRB agreed to follow the same grid. For example, untruthfulness typically equals termination on the grid. However, the CRB chose not to recommend that.

“It’s not accurate to say the board can’t recommend anything else,” Beamud said.

“They use the grid to be fair. But I’m not sure the results in the Eagle raid investigation are what they should have been,” Beamud said, adding that the CRB has a “kinder and softer heart.”

The CRB was concerned the supervisors were being left out of being recommended for punishment, leading to a months-long investigation that resulted in an 11-page detailed report conducted by Beamud and the CRB’s investigators.

The report included interviews with officers involved in the raid as well as all of the supervisors: Sgt. John Brock, who signed the tactical plan for the raid; Collier, a member of the Vice Unit who was involved in the undercover investigation of the Atlanta Eagle in the months leading up to the raid; Lt. Tony Crawford, the commander in charge of the Vice Unit on the day of the raid; Sgt. Willie Adams, supervisor of the Red Dog Unit; Lt. Scott Pautsch, the lieutenant in charge of the Red Dog Unit the night of the raid; and Major Debra Williams, who at the time was in charge of the Vice Unit and the Red Dog Unit.

Williams is now heading up the Corporate Services Section, which includes the Financial Management Unit; the Training Unit that oversees training for all employees including basic recruit training; the Personnel Services Unit, which is in charge of personnel files and orders, sick leave requests and monitoring the employee grievance process; and the Recruitment Unit.

The CRB cleared Lt. Pautsch and made no recommendations against him. The CRB recommended the other supervisors — Major Williams, Lt. Crawford, Sgt. Brock and Sgt. Adams receive written reprimands and training on the Fourth Amendment.

Philip Rafshoon, owner of Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse and member of the LGBT Advisory Group, asked if the recommendations for punishment meted out by the CRB were the harshest that could be done.

Freedman, chair of the LGBT group, said he wished more could be done but is waiting to see how Chief Turner responds to the CRB’s recommendations. The chief has to respond within 30 days of the CRB’s recommendations that were sent to him on Jan. 20.

The investigation revealed Major Williams knew about an anonymous complaint against the Atlanta Eagle alleging illegal activity but did not know about the raid until she heard about it on the radio the next morning.

The LGBT liaison at the time, Officer Dani Lee Harris, also did not know about the raid on the gay bar and controversy within the community arose from that. Harris eventually filed a complaint against a civilian employee of the department months after the raid alleging sexual harassment. After several months off the job on leave due to a medical condition, she was reassigned to a different department.

Morrissey, at the LGBT Advisory Group meeting, defended the CRB’s recommendations by stating the Eagle study is an “eye opener” and part of the transparency the citizens’ board seeks.

“It went as high up as a major and showed the Red Dog Unit was not following its own rules,” Morrissey said.

The Red Dog Unit is currently facing further scrutiny after two men alleged they were strip searched by three officers in the middle of the street in broad daylight after a traffic stop. Two of the three Red Dog officers were involved in the Eagle raid; all three are currently on administrative leave as an investigation is conducted. The officers face being fired, according to Chief Turner.

Beamud and Morrissey told members of the LGBT Advisory Group that the CRB is currently investigating another allegation of a person being forced to pull down his pants to be searched by a Red Dog Unit officer.

Morrissey explained there were two key recommendations to come from the CRB investigation — the recommendation against Major Williams and against Sgt. Collier.

“So what is Chief Turner going to do? We only make recommendations,” Morrissey said. “I think the CRB was very smart to not back termination … we can’t enforce termination. The sergeants, lieutenants and majors really need to take a good look at themselves.”

Morrissey went on to say she believed Chief Turner to be an “honorable man.”

“I have high hopes and am looking forward to what he decides,” she said.

Josh Noblitt, a member of the LGBT Advisory Group, asked why she had high hopes. In the past, the chief has not accepted any of the CRB’s recommendations.

“A general sense of optimism,” Morrissey answered. “I’ve met Chief Turner, I believe he’s an honorable man. I think he will do something.”

Other items that came out of the CRB report on the Eagle raid:

  • When a CRB board member asked why officers did not arrest the men they allegedly saw having illicit sex in the bar during its undercover investigation months before the actual raid, Beamud said she learned through the investigation that the officers “wanted to regroup because they had been shocked by the behavior.”
  • In the past two years, there is no documentation APD officers received training on the Fourth Amendment. In December, the city settled a federal lawsuit for $1.025 million that alleged the APD violated the constitutional rights of the patrons in the bar the night of the raid.
  • The Red Dog Unit was brought in to assist the Vice Squad during the raid only after the Gang Unit was called first but was unable to help. The Red Dog Unit was called because it was expected that numerous arrests were going to be made, Beamud said.

Attending Monday’s meeting was Atlanta City Council member Alex Wan, who represents District 6 that includes the Atlanta Eagle. Wan serves on the Public Safety Committee and told members of the LGBT Advisory Group that he intends to follow what Chief Turner as well as Mayor Kasim Reed do based on the CRB’s recommendations.

“It’s telling…the ball is in his court,” Wan said. “It’s been an interesting process. I am going to be a lot more vocal about it.”