Lawsuit claims Alpharetta cop was fired for not writing traffic ticket

A former Alpharetta cop says he was fired for not writing a traffic ticket.

And now, he’s suing the city.

The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. A pair of Decatur-based attorneys, James E. Radford Jr. and Radford Keebaugh, are representing Daniel Capps, the former police officer.

Capps, who was fired in January, claims that he was wrongfully terminated, that his civil rights were violated and that he was denied due process. He is seeking compensation for lost wages and benefits since his firing, and he wants his job back.

“The city has not received such a suit, so we are unable to provide comment,” James Drinkard, the assistant city administrator for Alpharetta, wrote in an email. “That being said, it is our policy to not comment on matters of pending litigation.”

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Capps claims in the suit that he was fired for not following a “citation directive” established by the city in 2015.

When asked if Alpharetta officers were expected to meet a quota on the number of traffic citations they must write, Drinkard said he could state “unequivocally that no such quota exists.”

The directive is not a quota related to the number of traffic citations that officers must write, but rather a policy that says anytime there is a traffic violation in Alpharetta that results in property damage, an at-fault driver should be issued a citation if that driver can be determined, the city said.

Elsewhere in metro Atlanta, a 2016 lawsuit claimed that a DeKalb County police officer planted drugs near a man so the officer could meet an arrest quota.

On Jan. 3, according to the Capps’ lawsuit, he was informed that he violated the directive by Lt. Jim Little. The suit says that Capps “failed to write a citation to the at-fault party in a motor vehicle accident.”

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After discussing the city policy with Little, Capps consulted with other officers in the department about their general practice on writing traffic citations. On Jan. 8, Major Scott Mechler placed Capps on administrative leave for being insubordinate, the suit says.

Capps, who began working for the Alpharetta Department of Public Safety as police officer on June 30, 2008, was terminated on Jan. 18 after a meeting with Mechler, Captain Trent Lindgren and John Robison, the Director of the City of Alpharetta.

In a letter given to Capps, Robison wrote that he was being terminated for violation of several department rules, the suit says.

The suit claims that Capps didn’t receive a written notice of any charges brought against him and was not given an opportunity to present his defenses to the decisions to suspend and terminate him. This, he claims, violated department policy by failing to provide Capps with due process.

Drinkard is also mentioned in the suit, which claims he denied Capps’ appeal of his termination.

On April 13, Capps’ younger brother, Tom, started a GoFundMe page called “Assist unjustly fired Police Ofc.” Three people have donated to it, raising $180 as of Thursday.

“My brother showed compassion by using his discretion not to ticket a motorist at minor non-injury traffic collision,” Tom Capps wrote on the GoFundMe page. “These are the types of police officers the public wants and needs.”

On the page, Tom Capps says that Daniel had only previously been disciplined for using the bathroom at his own residence while on duty instead of a public one on his beat.

However, according to Capps’ personnel file obtained by the AJC, he had previously been disciplined by the department for leaving his service weapon and gun belt at a training range, wearing earrings in roll call, unprofessional radio traffic and for not handling the arrest and release correctly regarding a 17-year-old shoplifter. He was suspended for six days in 2017, four of which were without pay. 

Before Capps was employed by the Alpharetta Department of Public Safety, he worked at a Volvo dealership in the city. He spent time in the Army and attended Cameron University in Oklahoma. 

In denying Capps’ appeal, Drinkard wrote to him in a letter obtained by the AJC that said, “Your actions constituted a continuance of a pattern of behavior, willful or otherwise, that negatively impacted your performance and the operation of the department.”

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Operation Safe Summer was a collaborative effort between the FBI’s Atlanta field office and 38 law enforcement agencies in six metro counties.

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