Six Atlanta police officers have been fired following an investigation into the botched raid of an Atlanta gay bar in 2009.
The firings come as a result of a three-month investigation by the city into the Sept. 10, 2009, raid at the Atlanta Eagle that found many officers lied, knowingly violated the constitutional rights of those at the bar, destroyed evidence, and tried to cover up what they had done.
More than 20 Atlanta Police officers descended on the Atlanta Eagle, including its now-disbanded “Red Dog Unit” dressed in SWAT team gear, allegedly responding to complaints of drugs and public sex. But inside the bar the APD found no drugs, no public sex, and no illegal weapons.
During the raid, patrons of the bar were forced to lie face down in spilled beer and broken glass, and heard police refer to them using anti-gay slurs.
Police arrested or detained 62 people, but never filed charges against any of the patrons. Only 8 employees were charged with permit violations, but those charges were soon dropped or dismissed.
Atlanta’s LGBT community was furious, calling the raid “aggressive,” “indiscriminate” and “harassment.”
A federal lawsuit was filed and in December 2010, the city paid more than $1 million to settle the suit filed on behalf of 19 patrons.
The actions come almost 10 days after the release of 343-page report detailing how 16 officers lied or destroyed evidence when asked about the raid at the Atlanta Eagle bar. The report said 10 of them lied, which usually leads to a termination because those officers can no longer testify.
“Honesty goes to the very heart of a police officer’s credibility,” Chief George Turner said. “The public must be able to trust its police officers and expects them to tell the truth at all times. Failure to be truthful has serious consequences at the Atlanta Police Department. I hope my actions today serve as a reminder to those men and women on the force that dishonesty simply will not be tolerated.”
In addition to the six terminations, nine other officers were reprimanded or suspended over the raid, and three more officers await discipline hearings next week. Two other officers accused of lying had already been dismissed in connection with an unrelated internal investigation.
Major Debra Williams, who oversaw one of the units that raided the bar, was demoted to lieutenant and retired from the department on Wednesday.