Federal judge demands Atlanta comply with gay bar lawsuit settlement

A federal judge on Tuesday gave Atlanta 90 days to put in place training agreed to when a lawsuit over a botched police raid at a Midtown gay bar was settled in 2011.

Years have passed since the Atlanta Police Department said it would adopt specific training and to make changes to APD’s policies that should prevent a repeat of abuses that occurred during a 2009 raid at the Atlanta Eagle Bar. Yet, none of those reforms has been put into practice, said Dan Grossman, one of the lawyers involved in three lawsuits brought as a result of cases.

Tuesday, Grossman was before a federal judge for a second time in less than a week, asking that the city be found in contempt for reneging on the promises made when one of three lawsuits was settled in late 2011.

Though U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Batten did not find Atlanta in contempt, he demanded that the city’s lawyers to negotiate with attorneys for Atlanta Eagle employees and patrons.

“I’d like to get these matters worked out in a (way that will) eliminate the plaintiffs ’ need to come to court,” Batten said.

Grossman said APD is not training officers on the U.S. Constitution’s protections from illegal searches and seizures. Grossman also said APD is not telling officers they needed to always have name tags visible to the public; the only exceptions outlined in the consent order is when they were wearing rain slickers or reflective vests.

Last week in another Atlanta Eagle case, U.S. District Judge Steve Jones gave APD similar instructions to do what it had agreed to do when it settled another lawsuit. APD is not telling officers citizens have a right to make audio and video recordings of police activity as it said it would, Grossman said.

Atlanta’s attorney, Robert Godfrey, conceded that APD has not complied with the agreement, but he said there is no ill intent. “Hopefully, things will get resolved,” Godfrey said after the 30-minute hearing.

On Sept. 10, 2009, officers from APD’s vice squad and the now-dismantled RED DOG unit stormed into the bar, shouting obscenities and slurs and ordering about 60 patrons and Atlanta Eagle employees to lie on the floor.

Afterwards, officers lied about what happened, saying they saw open drug dealing and men have sex with each other, according to several investigations. Three investigations — by a prominent law firm hired by the city, APD and the then-new Citizen Review Board — found officers had deleted text messages, photos and emails from their phones to cover up what happened, even though a federal judge ordered them turned over what they had recorded from that night.

“We want something good to come out of something bad,” Grossman said.

The three lawsuits have cost taxpayers a total of more than $1.5 million. Taxpayers also spent another $1.2 million for one of the investigations.

APD Major Jeff Glazier said the police agency will meet the judge’s deadline of re-training almost 2,000 officers within 90 days.

“Clearly, from the judge’s order, we have to go back and train the entire force,” Glazier said.

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