Council committee issues subpoenas to four Atlanta police officers

An Atlanta City Council committee voted Monday to issue subpoenas against four police officers who declined to answer the city's Citizen Review Board's questions about excessive force complaints.

The officers are Larry Bennett, Charles Brown, Byron Martin and Charles Yacuone. The board wants to talk to them about complaints made against them by citizens from incidents that took place in September, October and December. The complaints against the officers included punching to a high school who said one of the officers handcuffed him to a file cabinet.

Penalties for refusing a subpoena range from fine to being arrested, said CRB executive director Cristina Beamud.

The council created the Citizen Review Board in 2007 to investigate allegations of misconduct by public safety officers in the wake of the fatal police shooting of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston during a botched drug raid.

Police officials have been reluctant to participate in some of the board's investigations because they fear it could hurt their own internal investigations if some information goes public.

Beamud and two board leaders met for 45 minutes Monday afternoon with Mayor Kasim Reed to discuss asking the council to issue subpoenas. The board members also complained that Interim Police Chief George Turner, and his predecessor, Richard Pennington, rejected all five of the board's recommendations of discipline against police officers.

"We think it's a problem that none of our recommendations were adopted," said board member Seth Kirschenbaum, an attorney.

Reed said he would look into the subpoena issue and disciplinary recommendations made since Turner became chief.

The mayor also agreed to allow the board talk to the five finalists for police chief.

“I support the Citizen Review Board’s goal of building better relationships between Atlanta residents and their police officers,” said Reed. “In fact, the CRB is the only city department, other than public safety, that I recommend receive a budget increase in my FY2011 budget proposal. I look forward to working with the CRB.”