Review finds widespread wrongdoing in Atlanta Eagle bar raid

At least 10 police officers lied and then many of them deleted data on their  cellphones in an attempt to hide their actions the night of a raid on a Midtown Atlanta gay bar, according to the findings of an independent review.

The report from former U.S. Attorney Joe Whitley and a team of attorneys from the law firm Greenberg Traurig also found top police officials gave misleading information to the public when they answered reporters' questions about the controversial raid at the Atlanta Eagle bar on Sept. 10, 2009.

A statement from the mayor's office, released late Tuesday evening along with a 343-page report, said the independent review corroborated claims made in a federal lawsuit that has since been settled for more than $1 million. The mayor's office also released simultaneously a 39-page report of the internal police investigation of the raid.

"The reports conclude that most of the officers involved in the operation did not conform to the APD’s standard operating procedures," city attorney Cathy Hampton said in a statement Tuesday night.

"Mayor Kasim Reed and Chief George Turner have made the resolution of this matter a top priority and will review both reports," Hampton said. "Chief Turner will determine appropriate disciplinary action in short order."

There also are plans for an expert to conduct extensive training for every APD officer within the next 90 days.

The controversy began when APD vice officers and members of the now-defunct RED DOG unit raided the bar. APD said the raid was conducted based on reports that men were engaging in sex at the bar while others watched. Patrons and employees said they were illegally detained and some were forced to lie on the barroom floor for as long as an hour while officers checked for criminal histories and peppered them with slurs about their homosexuality.

The report confirmed that some officers directed offensive language and slurs at some of the patrons during the raid.

Eight people were arrested that night but the charges were either dropped or dismissed.

According to the Greenberg Traurig report, 10 members of the vice unit and the RED DOG team, including three supervisors, violated APD's policy regarding truthfulness. Most law enforcement agencies consider lying a firing offense, partly because that officer's credibility can be challenged in court.

The report also found 24 officers illegally searched patrons, illegally detained them and illegally took their belongings, including cellphones and wallets.

The reviewers did not find any fault with eight of the 32 sergeants, investigators and officers who participated in the raid.

The internal APD investigation sustained complaints violating police policies against 23 officers, including a major. Their offenses ranged from lack of supervision to lying, to showing bias, to using unnecessary force.

It was not immediately known if any of these APD officers would be disciplined.

The Dec. 8 settlement of the federal lawsuit filed after the raid, which cost taxpayers more than $1 million, required APD to complete within 180 days all internal investigations, including a review of the raid at the Atlanta Eagle. The initial deadline for a report of the internal review of the 2009 raid was June 6. But the city secured a three-week extension, which pushed the deadline to Monday. The mayor's office released the two reports in tandem after 10 p.m. Tuesday.

Earlier Tuesday, the mayor's spokeswoman said Whitley and Greenberg Traurig were putting final touches on the separate  investigation of APD and the City Law Department's handling of the lawsuit. The Greenberg Traurig report did not have a court-ordered deadline, however. That review was requested by the mayor.