Eagle owner and attorney: Firings not enough
You had to see this coming: After a half-dozen firings and even more suspensions and reprimands, a co-owner of the Eagle and the attorney who successfully sued the city over the raid say it’s not enough.
Can you blame them?
On Friday, Atlanta police Chief George Turner announced the firing of six officers and disciplinary action against nine others involved in the Eagle raid. A day later, Eagle co-owner Robby Kelley told the AJC and WSB that he’s disappointed, both in Turner and Mayor Kasim Reed.
Why? Maybe it’s because Reed has been nearly silent about the recently-released investigations into the raid or that so far, Turner (top photo) has only taken action again 18 of the 27 officers who were faulted for their roles in the Sept. 10, 2009 raid. Six were fired not for their role in the raid, but lying about their actions in the later investigations; two others were fired for reasons unrelated to the rate; nine faced punishments ranging from written reprimands to 20-day suspensions for their direct role in the raid; another retired before being demoted. Punishment is pending against three others.
Or it could be that the commander overseeing the units that conducted the raid, Major Debra Williams, was allowed to retire as a major a day before she was to be demoted to lieutenant.
“My overall reaction is disappointment. I’m happy with the fact that some of the police officers lost their jobs, and I’m happy that some of them were suspended,” Kelly said. “What I don’t understand is how some of them can get a letter of reprimand for doing the exact same thing that the other officers did … destroying federal evidence.”
And Grossman offered this reaction:
Dan Grossman pointed to those police officers who lied but weren’t dismissed when he said the department would have a problem should those untruthful officers be kept on.
“I don’t think they should be fired as punishment,” Grossman said. “But you can’t be an effective witness. No jury is ever going to believe a word you say.”
Kelley saved some ire for Reed, who has spoken out just once since the June 28 release of the damning Eagle investigation reports and that came in a quick phone interview. To compare, in recent days the mayor has spoken more freely and released more prepared statements about the cheating scandal involving Atlanta public schools – of which he has no formal role – than the role the City Law Department and Atlanta Police Department – two areas he directly oversees – had in the raid.
Kelley summed up his frustration this way:
“To this day, the mayor has never offered to come in and speak to any of us,” Kelley said. “He is forming an opinion on something he knows on paperwork only. He knows nothing about the emotional value that everybody went through in that bar.”
The one time Reed (third photo) has spoken publicly about the Eagle reports, a week after their release in a brief telephone interview with the GA Voice, he offered no specifics on what, if any, action he would take next. He also offered his shock over the specifics of the two reports, one from high-powered law firm Greenberg Traurig and the other a long-stalled internal investigation by Atlanta police.
But Reed’s shock comes despite court documents in the $1.025 million settlement of a federal lawsuit over the raid detailing how city attorneys and police ignored court-imposed deadlines, destroyed evidence and delayed discovery in the legal matter. The Atlanta Citizen Review Board also documented the misdeeds of the raid as it investigated the incident and complaints of police misconduct and anti-gay behavior.
And then there’s this: In his interview, Reed pointed to the demotion of Williams as an example of his “swift action” in the wake of the Eagle reports.
“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.”
But it turns out that, despite characterizations of her demotion by Reed and Atlanta police, Williams was allowed to slip out the back door as a major a day before the demotion. It’s the same treatment given to her husband, Major Khirus Williams, the popular Zone 5 commander who retired in May claiming he was being forced out of the agency.
Khirus Williams had the support of Grossman and the department’s own LGBT advisory board despite being the commander of the zone in which the Eagle raid took place. The Eagle reports showed that he passed along to his wife one of the anonymous complaints that triggered an undercover investigation at the Eagle that later led to the raid.
Expect that the topic of how Reed and Turner mete out discipline in the Eagle raid to take up a sizable chunk of the agenda when the LGBT advisory board meets on Wednesday. The public meeting, set for 7 p.m. at Saint Mark United Methodist Church in Midtown, includes a scheduled appearance by Grossman (bottom photo) and updates from the police department’s LGBT liaisons.
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