City of Atlanta Held In Contempt In Eagle Raid Case

19th May, 2015
Southern Center for Human Rights

ATLANTA– Today, United States District Judge Timothy C. Batten, Sr., found the City of Atlanta in contempt of court and imposed sanctions for the City’s failure to comply with a prior Settlement and Consent Order on behalf of patrons at the Atlanta Eagle Bar whose constitutional rights were violated when the Atlanta Police Department raided the Atlanta Eagle without a warrant and searched and detained dozens of patrons who were not suspected of committing any crime.

The Southern Center for Human Rights, along with Lambda Legal and Atlanta based attorney Daniel J. Grossman, presented arguments on May 5, 2015, for civil contempt sanctions against the City of Atlanta in Calhoun, et al v. Pennington et al. The City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Police Department failed to comply with obligations set forward by the Court concerning officer identification and stop-and-frisk tactics, as well as training and policy changes. This ruling follows a similar contempt ruling last week in Anderson v. City of Atlanta, et al. after the City failed to revise policies and training, as required by a federal court order that limited law enforcement interference with citizens filming police conduct.

During the Ferguson protests in Atlanta in December 2014, it became apparent from press photographs that many Atlanta police officers were not wearing a name tag as required. In addition, Plaintiffs recently learned that, after revising the SOP in 2011 to avoid sanctions, in 2013, the City removed the language it had added, regarding the legality of stop and frisk tactics. As a result, the SOP in place today is once again identical to the unconstitutional SOP that was in place at the time of the Atlanta Eagle Raid.

"Making sure that APD is trusted and accountable should be a top priority for the City, not something that judges are forced to twist arms to make happen. These reforms make law enforcement better," said Southern Center for Human Rights attorney, Gerald Weber.

Judge Batten ordered the following:

• The City of Atlanta shall complete in person training of all sworn employees of the Atlanta Police Department using a format and content acceptable to Plaintiffs within 90 days on the topics specified in the December 8, 2010 Order entered by this Court, specifically:
o Current Fourth Amendment law regarding detentions, arrests, frisks, and searches, including the legal standards set forth in the 210 Settlement Order.
• Every two years the City of Atlanta shall provide recurrent, in-person training of all sworn employees of the Atlanta Police Department consistent with the Order.
• Plaintiffs' counsel are authorized to monitor the training described in Sections I and 2 of this Order for a period of six years from the date of this Order. The City of Atlanta will provide Plaintiffs' counsel with reasonable advance notice of the dates and places of proposed training; provide Plaintiffs' counsel with copies of all proposed training materials for review sufficiently in advance of training so that Plaintiffs' counsel may review the training materials and consult with the City; provide Plaintiffs' counsel with a video-recording of each training session conducted pursuant to this Order; and provide Plaintiffs’ counsel with an affidavit by a sworn officer of the Atlanta Police Department attesting to the names of all officers who attended training and the dates of their attendance.
• Within 20 days the City of Atlanta must amend any Atlanta Police Department Standard Operating Procedure dealing with dress code to include a section stating that any Atlanta police officer who is in uniform must, at all times, wear a conspicuously visible nametag, and emphasizing that the only exception to this requirement is a rain slicker or traffic direction vest;
• Within 7 days the City of Atlanta shall distribute to each sworn employee of the Atlanta Police Department a Command Memorandum, issued by the Chief of the Atlanta Police Department, informing officers of the requirements that any Atlanta police officer who is in uniform must, at all times, wear a conspicuously visible nametag, and emphasizing that the only exception to this requirement is a rain slicker or traffic direction vest; and that any Atlanta police officer who is in uniform ur who has displayed a badge or other indicia of police authority (such as a police vest, etc.) must identify himself or herself by name and badge number upon request at some point before the end of an encounter with a civilian.
• On or before May 22, 2015, the City of Atlanta shall provide Plaintiffs' counsel with a spreadsheet indicating, with regard to each complaint of police misconduct received after December 8, 2010 and each Office of Professional Standards (OPS) investigation commenced after December 8, 2010.

"Instead of implementing court-ordered changes that would benefit everyone in Atlanta, including meaningful training of police officers, City Hall has defied and obstructed these changes for almost half a decade. The Court has made it clear that the City's defiance must end and these reforms must be accomplished," said attorney Daniel J. Grossman.

“It is terribly unfortunate that over five years after the Atlanta Police Department’s inexcusable conduct in the Atlanta Eagle that we are still in court dragging the APD towards more competent and safe policing. We know there are many members of our community who are frustrated by the  violence and discrimination by the police, but Lambda Legal  will continue to  stand up against misconduct by police and hold them accountable,” Greg Nevins, Lambda Legal Counsel.

 To read the Order, click here