The investigations into the botched Atlanta Eagle raid that occurred nearly two years ago were released late Tuesday night by the mayor’s office. One report is an independent investigation by law firm Greenberg Traurig that totals 349 pages as well as a 48-page report from the Atlanta Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards.
Both reports were due Monday according to a federal court mandated order that gave the city a three week extension to complete the reports.
The city was ordered to conduct the investigations as part of its $1.025 million Dec. 8 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.
The reports released Tuesday show that allegations made by patrons of the Eagle were indeed true, said City Attorney Cathy Hampton.
“Both reports confirm certain allegations made in the Calhoun v. Pennington lawsuit. The reports conclude that most of the officers involved in the operation did not conform to the APD’s standard operating procedures,” Hampton said in a prepared statement.
Dan Grossman, lead attorney for the Eagle plaintiffs, said late Tuesday night after briefly reviewing the report that it is “wonderful to have an independent confirmation of what we have known all along. It’s been a really long, hard almost two years. It’s great to read this after two years fighting of with the city.”
While Grossman had not yet thoroughly reviewed the report, he found the fact that there are 10 officers who were found to be in violation of truthfulness — an offense that typically results in an officer being fired.
“The report show they all broke the law. Everything about this is big,” Grossman said about the reports.
Among those cited for violating truthfulness was the raid’s lead investigator Bennie Bridges. Bridges was also found to have made a warrantless arrest and guilty of false imprisonment. Bridges was arrested in February in Cobb County for DUI and possession of marijuana. He remains on leave without pay.
City Attorney Hampton also explained that the delay in receiving the reports was due to technical difficulties experienced by Greenberg Traurig, which the city hired in March to conduct an independent investigation.
“On June 27, 2011, the Atlanta Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards and the law firm of Greenberg Traurig completed their investigations into the APD’s September 2009 operation at the Atlanta Eagle club. Due to technical difficulties, Greenberg was unable to release its completed report until tonight.
“We believe that it is important to release both the Greenberg and OPS reports in tandem to provide the most exhaustive review of the operation,” Hampton said.
Disciplinary action is expected to follow soon, she added.
“Mayor Kasim Reed and Chief George Turner have made the resolution of this matter a top priority and will review both reports. Chief Turner will determine appropriate disciplinary action in short order. In addition, a nationally-recognized expert will conduct extensive training for each APD officer within the next 90 days.”
Police officers says gays, gay sex are ‘violent’
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 for his use of discriminatory statements :
“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.
“It should be noted that the witnesses present at the bar that night stated they heard officers make other discriminatory remarks in their presence; however none of these remarks could be substantiated …”
Several bar patrons reported hearing officers saying, “raiding a gay bar was more fun than raiding niggers with their crack.” OPS said all officers denied saying anything like this and the allegations could not be verified.
The OPS report also states that Officer Stephanie Upton, who no longer works for the city of Atlanta, is openly gay and stated during the initial investigation that she heard no derogatory remarks “of any kind” and would have complained to a supervisor if she had heard any.
The OPS reports that the raid was the responsibility of the Vice Unit and the Red Dog Unit had no knowledge of the raid before the night it occurred.
“Red Dog officers were never informed whether or not there was a search warrant, which was common practice. The Red Dog officers relied on their supervisors to make sure everything was in order and all paperwork was in place. Most, if not all, Red Dog officers were operating under the premise there was a search warrant,” the report states.
The OPS report also notes that Sgt. John 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 the gay community was more violent than other citizens, Brock responded that yes they are.
“My experience, yes. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, when they’re — when they get mad, they get really mad. So …,” Brock said.
The GT reports goes on to summarize Brock’s interview by stating,”
“Upon review of this transcript, it is apparent that three safety factors influenced Sergeant Brock’s decision to detain all the patrons in the Eagle on the floor regardless of whether they were suspect of committing a crime:
“(1) the possibility that patrons could have guns because Vice officers had not been searched when entering the bar on previous undercover operations;
“(2) the belief that the patrons of a gay establishment are inherently more violent than similarly situated non-gay establishments; and
“(3) the anticipated large number of patrons.
“Per APD.SOP. 4.2.12 (Discrimination), officers are not allowed to have any of their actions or decisions be affected by prejudice of sexual orientation. The second safety factor in Brock’s decision to detain patrons on the ground violates this SOP. By allowing the sexual orientation of the patrons influence tactical decisions of the Raid, Brock allowed his preconceived notions of a class of persons to dictate the treatment of individuals. Although the presence of other safety factors might mitigate the role that sexual orientation played in Brock’s decision, the SOP creates an absolute prohibition on prejudice in the performance of an officer’s duties,” according to GT.
Brock also testified at the March 2010 Eagle 8 trial in which eight employees were charged with permit infractions. Brock testified he saw a dancer Johnson on the bar in underwear “that looked similar to a diaper.”
“His underwear was bunched up, or it was a diaper,” Brock said. “He was dancing seductively as to entice … and patrons were putting money in his diaper.”
Greenberg Traurig states poor planning led to violations
In its executive summary, Greenberg Traurig states that poor planning led to violations by APD officers against the patrons and employees the night the Eagle was raided.
“GT [Greenberg Traurig] is aware that its investigation and conclusions may not offer complete comfort to the patrons and employees that were involved in or witness to the Eagle Raid on September 10, 2009, to the important gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community that resides in or visits the City of Atlanta, or to other citizens of Atlanta.
“Nor may this report serve to repair the damage to the reputations of officers associated with this incident and litigation who committed no wrongdoing, especially those who were named as defendants but were never present at the Eagle Raid.
“That said, and as set forth below, we find that (1) inadequate planning and training, (2) a failure in command staff oversight and involvement, (3) a breakdown in communication between the command staff and the officers, (4) potential prejudice and bias, (5) inappropriate decision-making by the command staff on the scene, and (6) lack of effective coordination between the City Law Department and the APD, all contributed to the commission of Fourth Amendment and APD Standard Operating Procedure (“SOP”) violations against the employees and patrons of the Eagle on the night of September 10, 2009.”