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Lead investigator of Eagle arrested for DUI, marijuana possession now suspended without pay

Atlanta Police Chief George Turner has now suspended Investigator Bennie Bridges without pay after he was arrested in Cobb County for DUI and possession of marijuana.

Bridges was arrested Feb. 3 and put on administrative leave — with pay — while an internal investigation was conducted.

A press release from the APD now says Bridges has been suspended without pay after meeting with Turner today and while the Office of Professional Standards continues to investigate the matter.

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Atlanta Eagle officers racked up large bar bills hours before raid

Atlanta police officers involved in the Atlanta Eagle raid spent a great deal of money on shots of liquor before the actual raid began, according to a news report.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting that officer Bennie Bridges, the lead investigator of the raid and who was working undercover, spent $50 of APD funds on drinks on Sept. 10, 2009, the night of the raid. The AJC also states that Bridges spent another $60 on drinks on May 29, 2009, while working undercover into allegations of illicit sex and drug use taking place at the Midtown gay bar.

Another officer the night of the raid, Jared Watkins, also working undercover, spent $60 on drinks the night of the raid.

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Atlanta police to disband controversial Red Dog Unit

Atlanta Police Chief George Turner

The Atlanta Police Department will disband its controversial Red Dog Unit in 60 days, Chief George Turner announced at a press conference this morning.

The paramilitary-style unit had come under scrutiny for its supporting role in the 2009 police raid on the Atlanta Eagle, a gay bar on Ponce de Leon Avenue, and recent complaints from two men that Red Dog officers — including two who also took part in the Eagle raid — subjected them to a strip search on a public street in broad daylight.

The Red Dog unit will be replaced by a new elite unit that has yet to be named, Turner said. The new unit will focus chiefly on violent crime, whereas the primary focus of Red Dog was street-level drug activity. Current Red Dog officers will have to apply to be part of the new unit, and will have to meet stringent standards including physical fitness and being free from any sustained complaints against them, Turner said.

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Citizen Review Board releases full investigative report on Atlanta Eagle raid

The Atlanta Citizen Review Board released today to the public its full investigative report on the raid of the Atlanta Eagle by the Atlanta Police Department.

And on Thursday, the LGBT Advisory Group sent Chief George Turner a letter asking he follow the recommended punishments to the officers and supervisors of the September 2009 raid.

The recommended punishments range from 3-day suspensions, written reprimands and Fourth Amendment training to all the officers involved in the raid to written reprimands and Fourth Amendment training for supervisors of the raid. One supervisor, a sergeant, was recommended for a 30-day suspension without pay for being “untruthful” during the CRB’s investigation.

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Atlanta Police LGBT Advisory Board to weigh proposed Eagle raid punishments

The Atlanta Police Department’s LGBT Advisory Board will meet Monday, Jan. 31, after the board’s previous meeting was postponed due to the early January snowstorm.

The group will meet at Atlanta City Hall in City Council Committee Room 2 at 7 p.m.

The meeting follows the Atlanta Citizens Review Board’s recent recommendations that the supervisors of the raid on the Atlanta Eagle in September 2009 receive letters of reprimand and training on the 4th Amendment.

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CRB: Written reprimands, training for supervisors of illegal Eagle raid

The Atlanta Citizens Review Board recommended Wednesday that the Atlanta Police Department supervisors involved in the illegal raid on the gay bar the Atlanta Eagle receive written reprimands and as well as have training on the Fourth Amendment.

The more than 20 officers involved in the raid were recommended to have 3-day suspensions, written reprimands and training on the Fourth Amendment.

These recommendations seem to stray from the original intent of the board after they stated several times in prior meetings that written reprimands for the supervisors — as outlined by APD policies, which the board must abide by — were not tough enough punishment. The board members requested an in-depth investigation into the supervisors of the raid to potentially recommend stiffer penalties.

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Atlanta City Council apologizes to Eagle lawsuit plantiffs

Atlanta City Councilmember Michael Julian Bond

The Atlanta City Council voted this week to officially apologize to the plaintiffs of the Atlanta Eagle federal lawsuit that was settled by the city for $1.025 million last month.

During the Jan. 3 meeting, the council voted 14-0 to apologize to the plaintiffs for the illegal raid on the gay bar, during which police searched and ran background checks on all patrons. Mayor Kasim Reed also issued an apology to the plaintiffs last month.

The apology, proposed by Councilmember Michael Julian Bond, reads, in part, “Whereas, the City of Atlanta is a mosaic of ethnicities, races, religions and sexual orientations … and Whereas, it is imperative that all members of Atlanta’s varied communities — be they African American, Hispanic, Asian, LGBT, youth or senior citizens — feel their freedoms are respected, now therefore, the City Council of the City of Atlanta hereby resolves and offers an apology to the plaintiffs named in the civil action styled Calhoun, et. al. v. Pennington, et. al.”

Bond, who had offered to apologize to all people impacted by the raid last year, said this week he wanted to follow through with an apology to the plaintiffs because of the “egregious nature of the raid.”

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Atlanta Police LGBT Advisory Board meets Monday

Atlanta Police Department LGBT liaison Officer Patricia Powell

The Atlanta Police Department LGBT Advisory Board will hold its next meeting on Jan. 10 at Atlanta City Hall’s City Council Committee Room 2 at 7 p.m.

Among the items on the agenda for the meeting include a review of the federal lawsuit settlement between the city and plaintiffs from the Atlanta Eagle stemming from the botched 2009 raid on the bar, an update on the status of the investigation into the shooting death of Black Gay Pride organizer Durand Robinson and an update on the status of DUI and road checks used in the city.

APD’s LGBT Liaison Officers Patricia Powell and Brian Sharp will address the board. Members of the Atlanta Citizen Review Board will also be on-hand to discuss how the ACRB and the LGBT Advisory Board can work together in the future.

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Gay city councilmember joins Public Safety Committee

Atlanta City Councilmember Alex Wan

Gay Atlanta City Councilman Alex Wan will sit on the Public Safety Committee during the 2011 session. The first scheduled meeting of the Public Safety Committee was this morning.

Glen Paul Freedman, Chair of the Atlanta Police Department’s LGBT Advisory Board, said today that Wan’s addition to the Public Safety Committee was a welcome move by the City Council.

“This will be helpful to the members of the LGBT APD Advisory Group and our community to have Alex's voice on this important committee,” Freedman said in a statement released today.

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Atlanta Eagle co-owner says bar is not $1 million richer after federal lawsuit settlement

Richard Ramey and Robby Kelley, owners of the Atlanta Eagle

A family came to the Atlanta Eagle gay bar on Ponce de Leon last night after apparently being sent there by a church seeking help to buy a car. A car would help the parents find a job in these tough economic times.

This incident has Richard Ramey and Robby Kelley, co-owners of the bar, distressed and they want people to know that while $1.025 million awarded in a lawsuit filed by patrons of the Atlanta Eagle the night it was illegally raided last September is a lot of money, the bar itself is only receiving $80,000 — enough to cover the losses the bar suffered in the past year. The federal judge in the case ordered the money be put into an escrow account of Lambda Legal.

"We took this family very seriously and it was very upsetting. We don't want people to think we have all this money and we're partying on the beach or something," Ramey said. "I don't want people to think the Eagle has a million dollars. We don't."