Monday, January 5, 2009

This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship

The Atlanta Police department has turned over documents for an investigation that the relatively new Citizen Review Board had requested before the board could ask city council for a subpoena. Regular readers will know that I am in favor of major overhauls at APD, so I'm not pleased to read about how they act like a little fiefdom over at City Hall East.
He stopped short of acknowledging that city law requires the Police Department to release the documents, but said the department decided to do so last week.

“It’s the right thing to do for now,” Hagin said. “We made the decision to turn those documents over and wait to see what council does with the new ordinance.”

Police officials asked the city last month to allow them to only turn over documents and information that are public records, usually a small portion of a case file when the investigation is under way. The amendment not yet been voted on by the City Council.

If the change is approved, it would allow the Police Department to withhold most information from the Review Board until after the department conducts its own internal investigations.
In case you were having difficulty remembering, the Citizen Review Board was created after the Kathryn Johnston shooting, took a year and a half to get staffed, and doesn't hear cases of bribery or corruption. The Johnston shooting also prompted the wholesale re-staffing of the entire narcotics division because of what the FBI called a "culture of misconduct."

What is the point of having a Review Board if they can't get unfettered access to the APD? It seems pretty clear that the CRB was just a PR stunt. At the very least, the APD needs to get some better PR people so that their attempts to avoid scrutiny aren't quite so obvious. There are really no checks on the APD. The chief reports directly to the mayor, and Atlanta hasn't had a mayor interested in getting control of the department in maybe 30 years. I frankly feel a little ill about it all, and the entire city (especially the mayor) should be embarrassed that this has gone on for so long.

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