Members of the LGBT Advisory group to the Atlanta Police Department say they are confused and "insulted" by how long an internal investigation is taking into the unconstitutional raid on the Atlanta Eagle.
The advisory board received a copy of a letter from Chief George Turner to the Atlanta Citizen Review Board saying he was rejecting the CRB's recommendations for punishment of officers involved in the Atlanta Eagle raid. Recommendations ranged from a 30 day suspension of one officer, three-day suspensions for others as well as written reprimands and Fourth Amendment training.
"At this time, the Office of Professional Standards has not concluded its investigation into the allegations surrounding the Eagle file; as further investigative requirements arose as a result of civil litigation that stemmed therefrom," the letter from Turner states. The letter is dated Jan. 25.
LGBT police advisory board ‘insulted’ by how long Eagle investigation is taking
“Thus, in an effort to be in compliance with the City Ordinance, I am obligated at this time to reject your recommendations as it is imperative that the department afford our employees their due process. Once the Office of Professional Standards has completed its investigation, I will reconsider the recommendation of your board,” Turner adds.
“I have the utmost respect for Chief Turner, but at this point this is getting insulting,” said Glen Paul Freedman, chair of the LGBT Advisory group, at the group’s meeting Monday.
“What is it that the chief and investigative team needs? What is missing?” Freedman asked.
The LGBT advisory board sent the chief and the mayor a letter asking them to uphold the recommendations made by the CRB. Chief Turner said “no” to their request.
An OPS investigation into the raid was begun shortly after the Sept. 10, 2009, raid on the gay bar. As part of the federal civil lawsuit settlement the city made with patrons of the bar on Dec. 8, the APD was given 180 days to conduct an in-depth investigation into the officers involved in the raid.
LGBT Advisory group member Josh Noblitt, a social justice minister at Saint Mark United Methodist Church, agreed that the APD was taking too long to complete an investigation that has now been going on for more than a year.
“For God’s sake, can we wrap this up? It’s in our mutual interest to wrap this up,” Noblitt said. “I want to give the chief the benefit of the doubt. But why in the world does he not want to wrap this up and get on with his life?”
Freedman said he would send a letter to the chief and Mayor Kasim Reed asking that the investigation be wrapped up before the 180 day deadline given in the lawsuit.
“Now we have two citizen groups putting pressure on them. People need closure,” Freedman said. “They are dragging their feet on this and making it worse. I don’t know why it is taking so long.”
Philip Rafshoon, owner of Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse, also said the longer the investigation takes, the worse it makes the APD look.
“The reputation of the city is hurting because of this,” he said.
City’s law department cancels LGBT liaison visit to Eagle
Officer Brian Sharp, one of the two LGBT liaisons with the APD, was scheduled to attend a “meet-and-greet” at the Atlanta Eagle on Feb. 17 but it was abruptly canceled. While it was reported that the meeting was postponed, several people did show up at the Eagle that night hoping to speak to Officer Sharp.
Freedman said that co-owner Robby Kelley was sick and that was one reason for the postponement, but he added that the city’s legal department actually called off the meeting.
“Some people within the law department did not want Officer Sharp there during the 180 days of the internal investigation from the settlement. The case is still open,” Freedman said. “That’s unfortunate.”
Tracee McDaniel, executive director of the Juxtaposed Center for Transformation, asked if the city was just uncomfortable with Officer Sharp going to the Eagle.
Freedman explained that because the city considers the Eagle case still open — because of the 180 days for the internal investigation — the legal department did not want Officer Sharp to be in contact with bar patrons and possible plaintiffs in the lawsuit.