Atlanta police slammed in Eagle raid investigations


Six factors led to the botched Eagle raid

• inadequate planning and training
• a failure in command staff oversight and involvement
• a breakdown in communication between the command staff and the officers
• potential prejudice and bias
• inappropriate decision-making by the command staff on the scene
• lack of effective coordination between the City Law Department and the Atlanta Police Department

Ray was at the Eagle when it was raided Sept. 10, 2009, and his business was a plaintiff in the federal lawsuit against the city that resulted in a $1.025 million settlement in December 2010.

As part of the settlement agreement, the Atlanta Police Department’s internal affairs unit and Greenberg Traurig, a high-profile law firm, released their investigations of the raid June 28 through Mayor Kasim Reed’s office.

Both investigations found deep negligence from the command staff and that numerous officers violated procedures, destroyed evidence and lied under oath. Multiple officers also violated the constitutional rights of the patrons in the bar the night of the raid by forcing them to the floor and searching them illegally. There was also no doubt anti-gay prejudice played a role in how the men were treated.

“Being one of the victims it was good to hear actually,” Ray said of the investigations’ findings.“But the tell-all sign will be at the end,” he said over the thumping music overhead. “You can only candy coat it so much. If [the officers] are fired then it will be a done deal and we will have gotten what we deserved.”

And if they aren’t fired?

“Then all of it was for nothing,” he said.

Mayor: Police actions were ‘terrible’

Mayor Reed told the GA Voice the reports by Greenberg Traurig and the APD’s Office of Professional Standards “shocked” him.

“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 in an interview July 5.

As he has done in the past, Reed 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 the 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.

“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 investigations were mandated by the settlement.

Reed said he is still going through the more than 400 pages that make up the APD’s internal affairs investigation as well as the independent investigation by Greenberg Traurig. But he admitted shock at what he 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, APD Chief George Turner has put on administrative duty seven of 10 officers who were found to have lied about the raid under oath, as well as destroying evidence.

“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 added.

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.

Eagle attorney: Mayor shouldn’t be shocked

Dan Grossman, lead attorney for the Eagle plaintiffs, questioned Reed’s “shocked” reaction to the reports released last week. After all, when the plaintiffs filed suit in November 2009, they made many of the same allegations compiled in the recent reports.

Also, Grossman filed numerous briefs in October 2010 showing that police officers were destroying evidence, including cell phone records, to try to cover up their roles in the illegal raid. Greenberg Traurig confirmed in its report that officers destroyed evidence.

“Why wasn’t he shocked back then?” Grossman asked. “By making this argument he’s saying the APD is incapable of investigating itself. He is suggesting that despite resources we provided to them, he had no way of knowing of the illegal conduct without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars and using an outside firm?”

“He had the raw data he needed and he still was incapable of realizing what Greenberg Traurig realized,” Grossman added.

Grossman said he does not buy Reed’s argument that just because the raid did not happen while he was mayor he should get a free pass from what happened after the raid. The raid happened on Sept. 10, 2009, and Reed took office in January 2010. It was after Reed took office that police officers began lying and destroying evidence.

“He cannot portray himself as a hero. It was his failure to settle, his failure to apologize promptly, his failure to take swift action,” Grossman said.

Bar patrons vindicated

The reports basically said what the patrons of the Eagle on the night of the raid have been saying all along — their constitutional rights were violated and they were treated roughly, especially at the hands of the now defunct paramilitary Red Dog Unit.

Seven of 10 officers involved in the Atlanta Eagle raid — including one sergeant who said he considered gay people violent — have been put on administrative duty for violating the Atlanta Police Department’s truthfulness policy.

“The officers were required to return their guns and badges and will not work in a law enforcement capacity until resolution of this matter,” the APD stated in a press release.

The officers on administrative duty are Lt. Tony Crawford, Sgt. Willie Adams, Sgt. John Brock, Officer Jeremy Edwards, Officer Dimitri Jacques, Officer Vicente Marcano and Officer Cayenne Mayes.

Officers James Menzoian and Brandon Jackson have already been fired as a result of a different investigation, according to the APD.
The tenth officer, Bennie Bridges, is currently suspended without pay after he was arrested earlier this year for DUI and possession of marijuana. He was the lead investigator of the raid.

“These are preliminary decisions. Chief Turner continues to digest the findings contained in the OPS and Greenberg reports and will determine the appropriate final disciplinary action for each of the accused officers,” said APD spokesman Carlos Campos in a prepared statement.

Anti-gay prejudice by lead officers

Sgt. 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, according to the OPS report.

“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 OPS report.

In the Greenberg Traurig interview with Brock, he said he believed gay people were more violent than other communities.

“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,” Brock said.

“By allowing the sexual orientation of the patrons to influence tactical decisions of the raid, Brock allowed his preconceived notions of a class of persons to dictate the treatment of individuals,” according to Greenberg Traurig.

A finding in the OPS report addressing the alleged anti-gay slurs hurled against patrons of the Eagle recommends disciplinary action against Officer Jeremy Edwards.

“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.’

“This statement can be conferred as derogatory based on the assumed sexual orientation of those persons he witnessed engaged in such activity in the bar,” according to Greenberg Traurig.


Top photo: Attorney Dan Gross says Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed ‘cannot portray himself as a hero’ (file photo)