Law­suit lingers

City vi­o­lat­ing po­lice train­ing man­dates.

GA Voice - - Front Page - By DYANA BAGBY

A prom­ise by the city of At­lanta to “vig­or­ously” de­fend against a De­cem­ber contempt mo­tion claim­ing the po­lice depart­ment ig­nored a fed­eral court or­der to prop­erly train of­fi­cers fol­low­ing the un­con­sti­tu­tional 2009 raid on Mid­town gay bar At­lanta Ea­gle mor­phed into a meek mea culpa be­fore a fed­eral judge this month.

And the owner of the bar says the city’s on­go­ing de­fi­ance of the court or­der af­ter some six years is “noth­ing more than a slap in the face of the gay com­mu­nity.”

At­lanta Ea­gle bar pa­trons sued the city in fed­eral court af­ter the raid and claimed their con­sti­tu­tional rights were vi­o­lated; in De­cem­ber 2010 the city agreed to set­tle with the plain­tiffs for ap­prox­i­mately $1.2 mil­lion. Mayor Kasim Reed also apol­o­gized to the plain­tiffs, the court ruled the raid was un­con­sti­tu­tional, and the pa­trons said they wanted the city to prom­ise to train of­fi­cers prop­erly on such ac­tions as search and seizure so as to avoid sim­i­lar raids in the fu­ture.

“We said from the be­gin­ning that what we wanted was not about money,” said Richard Ramey, owner of the At­lanta Ea­gle. “We wanted to help the city of At­lanta and not just the gay com­mu­nity.”

APD con­tin­ues to vi­o­late court or­der

But in a May 5 hear­ing be­fore fed­eral Judge Ti­mothy Bat­ten on a mo­tion for contempt filed by At­lanta Ea­gle at­tor­neys, City At­tor­ney Robert God­frey ac­knowl­edged the city has failed to prop­erly train po­lice as was man­dated as part of the city’s set­tle­ment with the plain­tiffs.

“I’m ad­mit­ting por­tions of what we were sup­posed to do we did not do,” God­frey told Bat­ten.

As part of that set­tle­ment, the city ac­knowl­edged it vi­o­lated the pa­trons’ con­sti­tu­tional rights and promised to im­ple­ment court-or­dered re­forms as part of the APD’s stan­dard op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dure (SOP), in­clud­ing:

doc­u­ment­ing war­rant­less de­ten­tions, frisks and searches;

pro­hibit­ing of­fi­cers from in­ter­fer­ing with the public’s right to take pho­to­graphs and video­tape and make au­dio record­ings of po­lice of­fi­cers and ac­tiv­ity;

re­quir­ing uni­formed of­fi­cers to al­ways wear clearly vis­i­ble name tags and iden­tify them­selves when asked;

re­quir­ing the APD to rule on cit­i­zen com­plaints of po­lice mis­con­duct within 180 days; and

re­quir­ing the city of At­lanta to con­duct manda­tory in-per­son train­ing for all po­lice of­fi­cers ev­ery two years re­gard­ing Fourth Amend­ment is­sues and the safe use of firearms.

How­ever, th­ese re­forms have not taken place, even though the city was or­dered to en­act them by a fed­eral judge in the orig­i­nal or­der in 2011 and again in 2013, ac­cord­ing to a scathing mo­tion for contempt that was filed March 17. The at­tor­neys who rep­re­sent the At­lanta Ea­gle plain­tiffs are Dan Gross­man, Gerald We­ber of the South­ern Cen­ter for Hu­man Rights, and Greg Nevins of Lambda Legal.

On May 5, Bat­ten or­dered the city to train its 2,000 of­fi­cers on all th­ese SOPs within 90 days; that was to start im­me­di­ately.

Ma­jor Jeff Glazier, for­mer head of train­ing for the At­lanta Po­lice Depart­ment, said he be­lieved many of­fi­cers were for­mally trained as man­dated. “But clearly from the judge’s or­der we will have to go back and re­train the en­tire force on th­ese is­sues,” he said.

At­lanta Ea­gle at­tor­ney Dan Gross­man, who ar­gued the mo­tion for contempt be­fore Judge Bat­ten, said af­ter the hear­ing he could not un­der­stand why the city wasted tax­payer money to try to de­fend them­selves and then in a court hear­ing fi­nally ad­mit they were wrong.

“Why was the city fight­ing against com­ply­ing with an or­der … if it was even­tu­ally go­ing to stop fight­ing and say, well, we’re sorry? Why not do this in De­cem­ber when we brought it up in­stead of wait­ing five months? Why is the city vi­o­lat­ing or­ders and in­stead spend­ing tens of thou­sands of tax­payer dol­lars?” he said.

The Ge­or­gia Voice re­quested com­ment from the city on why it did not com­ply with the At­lanta Ea­gle set­tle­ment in De­cem­ber rather than lit­i­gate for five months be­fore sim­ply agree­ing it had not com­plied with the set­tle­ment.

“Be­cause this is an ac­tive court mat­ter, we can­not com­ment,” said Anne Tor­res, spokesper­son.

‘City should be ashamed’

Ramey and the bar were awarded $80,000 as part of that $1.2 mil­lion set­tle­ment nearly six years ago. The money was di­vided among some 60 pa­trons. Had the plain­tiffs de­cided to go to court rather than set­tle, Ramey said he and the oth­ers were told they could have had a pay­out of many mil­lions of dol­lars.

“I’m very dis­ap­pointed in what we fought for is not be­ing hon­ored,” he said. “This [set­tle­ment] was not some­thing we took lightly. We had many, many meet­ings, group meet­ings with ev­ery­one in­volved, and this was some­thing we all agreed upon,” he said. “We felt we were do­ing the right thing.”

“And the city just won’t let it die. They won’t put this case to rest. They should be ashamed of them­selves. They want us to abide by the laws, well, then, they should abide by what they agreed to do,” he added. “Be­ing a man of your word should be the high­est pri­or­ity as an of­fi­cer. It’s still very up­set­ting that money is still be­ing paid out to our at­tor­neys to en­force what they agreed with us.”

Ramey added: “This is noth­ing more than a slap in the gay com­mu­nity’s face. They do not want to be told what to do by the gay com­mu­nity. I truly feel that way.”

Gross­man agreed. “I think there are peo­ple at City Hall who sim­ply want to defy [the set­tle­ment] … even if a fed­eral judge or­ders them to do so. Some­one at City Hall does not like a judge telling them what to do,” he added. “And clearly they have a re­sent­ment about this case. But they should want to com­ply. It’s Kasim Reed who should want to train cops.”

At­lanta Ea­gle at­tor­ney Dan Gross­man said he be­lieves peo­ple at At­lanta City Hall re­sent the set­tle­ment reached in the Ea­gle case and con­tinue to defy man­dates to prop­erly train po­lice of­fi­cers. (File photo)

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