Atlanta residents question police reorganization

A community unhappy with a spate of Atlanta Police Department promotions has asked Acting Police Chief George Turner to hold off on at least one change.

"We believe it is too destabilizing to move Maj. (Renee) Propes," City Councilwoman Natalyn Archibong said, speaking Wednesday night for several dozen residents from the police Zone 6 communities East Lake, Edgewood and Kirkwood at a meeting with police leaders.

"We ask that the decision be deferred at least six months, or until a permanent police chief be named."

Turner said he could not meet the residents' request.

"I'm not prepared to do that," he told them.

The concern followed Turner's move to reorganize the police department at the behest of newly-seated Mayor Kasim Reed, just three days into the new year.

Fourteen ranking police officers were either promoted or reassigned, among them Propes,  who was moved from command of Zone 6 to head the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport precinct.

"We are very concerned that if you pull Maj. Propes, you will pull all of the connections she has made with our communities," homeowner Doug Williams said.

Propes commanded Zone 6, which includes Poncey Highlands, Cabbagetown,  Lenox Park, Inman Park and DeKalb County Atlanta neighborhoods like East Lake and Kirkwood, for five years and was credited by residents and police with helping reduce crime.

"Why take someone who is responsible for reducing crime and more her to some place where she won't have an impact on the street?" Kirkwood resident Matt Arden asked Turner.

"We're starting to see the fruits of her longevity," Kirkwood community activist Maria Azuri said. "You just can't duplicate that overnight."

Turner noted the airport precinct commander would manage a $15 million budget, and be in direct and constant connection with the Federal Office of Homeland Security.

He acknowledged that the move was lateral, done to give Propes more experience that will benefit both her and the department in the future.

"There's an opportunity for Renee to go there and grow as a manager and as a police manager," Turner said. "I have an obligation to make sure this organization is ready to move forward."

Maj. John Dalton, who moves from heading the major crimes division, promised to try to live up to Propes' reputation.

"I will be every much as accessible as Maj. Propes," Dalton said.

Propes, who lives in Zone 6, promised to help Dalton with the transition. She said there is a learning curve that she overcame when she started there, and believes Dalton can quickly conquer it.

"Five years ago, I did not know where the crack houses were," Propes said. "I learned. He doesn't know where all of the crime hot spots are now, but if I can learn, so can he."

Councilman Ivory Young sat in on the meeting, and said both sides will have to work together to maintain continuity in policing the neighborhood.

"You're partners in this," Young said. "If there is going to be anything meaningful to come from this, there has to be dialog, not demands."

The group will continue their discussion with police Thursday evening at a time and location to be determined.

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