That Didn’t Take Long

Saturday, December 13th, 2008

One of the reforms the city of Atlanta implemented in the wake of the 2006 botched drug raid in which narcotics officers shot and killed 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston was to set up a Citizen Review Board to look into allegations of police misconduct. Unlike other review boards across the country, the new law actually gave the one in Atlanta some teeth. The Board has immediate access to all police documents related to the cases it investigates, regardless of what internal police department investigations may be going on at the time.

Civilian review boards with enforcement and subpoena power are a good idea in general, but it was particularly important in Atlanta, where the federal investigation sparked by Johnston’s death revealed corruption, civil rights violations, and cover-ups so pervasive, the city eventually fired or reassigned its entire narcotics division.

But just two years after Johnston’s death, and just weeks after the last police officer involved in the case plead guilty on federal civil rights charges, Atlanta’s police department is already trying to neuter the Citizen Review Board:

The Atlanta Police Department, with the help of the city’s Law Department, introduced legislation Tuesday to amend city law regarding how the Citizen Review Board investigates complaints about Atlanta’s law enforcement officers.

The proposed change comes just as the review board has begun its work. Created in the wake of an illegal police shooting that left an elderly woman dead, the board was intended to restore the public’s trust in the police department.

The city law recently enacted to create the review board gives the board “full access” to police reports and documents. Police officials are asking the city to allow them to only turn over documents and information that are public record, which is minimal when an investigation is ongoing.

If the change is approved, it would essentially allow the police department to withhold most information from the Citizen Review Board until after the department conducts its own investigation.

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11 Responses to “That Didn’t Take Long”

  1. #1 |  Brandon Bowers | 

    The New Professionalism negates the need for police oversight, remember?

  2. #2 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    “Police officials are asking the city to allow them to only turn over documents and information that are public record, which is minimal when an investigation is ongoing.”

    Ah, the old on-going investigation line. It works almost as well as the “national security” excuse. For a law enforcement officer (and most government officials), any time spent on the clock should be on the public record, at least in an officer-involved incident. I can see exceptions (when an undercover officer is active; withholding certain details about evidence during a homicide investigation) but not many. Atlanta was moving in the right direction, but now they’ve probably decided to give in to pressure from the police union. Sucky move folks.

  3. #3 |  thomasblair | 

    Just for information’s sake, didn’t Scalia’s opinion in Hudson specifically mention the existence (and implied teeth) of Civilian Review Boards as evidence of a New Professionalism?

  4. #4 |  Cynical In CA | 

    In a rational world with a citizenry not cowed by indoctrination and institutionalization, if the city outlawed effective civilian review boards, then the citizens would form their own.

    These would be called “lynch mobs.”

    It would then become readily apparent to the powers-that-be that something would have to give and a compromise would be struck.

    Until this happens, it will be business as usual in Atlanta, and every other city on Earth.

    Cities are states. States operate by force. States cannot tolerate a force superior to themselves, else they cease to be. Civilian review boards aspire to force greater than that of the city, therefore the city strikes back mercilessly or ceases to be.

    It’s simple math, really. That’s the statist paradigm — the greater force holds sway.

  5. #5 |  Stick | 

    You didn’t seriously think the cops would allow a ‘Citizen Review Board’ to sit in judgement over them, did you?

  6. #6 |  MacGregory | 

    I just dont understand what all this fuss is about. The cops came and got my cat out of a tree once, and only had to shoot it twice.

  7. #7 |  Marty | 

    it’s amazing how the norm now is for govt to protect itself from the public… and at the same time tear down our protections from them.

    pretty slick!

  8. #8 |  Mattocracy | 

    They’ll probably use the APC in Cobb County to raid the review board for drug pocession.

  9. #9 |  MacGregory | 

    “…the norm now…”
    Marty that is the scariest part of your statement. Have people in our society become so lazy that they hand over their rights to govt without question?

  10. #10 |  Jason | 

    The government will always have the upper hand.

  11. #11 |  Alex White, Professional Snitch | The Agitator | 

    […] In fact, almost as soon as the board started work, the police department, with the city’s help, was already trying to neuter it. […]