"A Culture of Corruption" in Atlanta Police Department

Last Night in Little Rock wrote earlier about the two cops in Atlanta who pleaded guilty to manslaughter and civil rights violations for killing a 92 year old woman in her home during a botched drug raid.

The cops have agreed to cooperate in an investigation into corruption at the Atlanta Police Department's drug unit.

Sentencing in both courts has been deferred until later to allow the men to cooperate with a federal investigation into the Atlanta police department's narcotics unit. The men are expected to serve at least 10 years in prison on the federal charges alone.

The New York Times has more on the "culture of corruption" inside the Atlanta Police Department.


First, there are more details about the officers in the cases in which they pleaded guilty:

In court documents, prosecutors said Atlanta police officers regularly lied to obtain search warrants and fabricated documentation of drug purchases, as they had when they raided the home of the woman, Kathryn Johnston, in November, killing her in a hail of bullets.

Narcotics officers have admitted to planting marijuana in Ms. Johnston’s home after her death and submitting as evidence cocaine they falsely claimed had been bought at her house, according to the court filings.

But, as to the larger picture:

Paul Howard, the Fulton County district attorney, said his office was reviewing at least 100 cases involving the three officers, including 10 in which defendants were in jail.

This culture of corruption is not for personal financial gain. It's to circumvent the constitution -- they made up their own rules as they went along, under the machiavellian theory that the ends justifies the means.

Their goal was to arrest drug dealers and seize illegal drugs, and that’s what we want our police officers to do for our community.

“But these officers pursued that goal by corrupting the justice system, because when it was hard to do their job the way the Constitution requires, they let the ends justify their means.”

I doubt this is confined to Atlanta. In this case, because someone was killed, there was an investigation followed by criminal charges.

Most criminal defense lawyers know searches, particularly so-called consent searches, such as during a traffic stop or a "knock and talk" don't go down the way the cops said. It never ceases to amaze me how many judges take the word of cops over the defendant at a suppression hearing.

During jury selection, prospective jurors are always asked whether they will give more credibility to the testimony of a law enforcement officer because of his or her position. Jurors who want to be on the jury are smart enough to say "no." It's difficult to challenge them, particularly in federal court where you don't get individual voir dire -- the judge, not the lawyers, ask the questions, except in unusual cases.

Hopefully, the media will stay on top of this Atlanta story and do some digging into other jurisdictions.

Fourth Amendment safeguards and the exclusionary rule have been watered down by the courts for years. When you add lying cops to the mix, particularly with "good faith exceptions" to the warrant requirement, you get a totally unfair result. It's sad that it takes a killing of a 92 year old woman to expose it.

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    They can investigate all they want (none / 0) (#1)
    by SeeEmDee on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 07:51:26 AM EST
    But the root of the problem is drug prohibition, itself. Unless and until that is ended, the probability of the corruption, itself, happening remains a 100%.

    And the pols who want to self-righteously pile on in this instance are no less to blame for it, as they made the situation by ratcheting up penalties for possession and distibution so that dealers made more risk-based profit. And thus DrugWarriors play into the hands of the cartels, who laugh all the way to the bank. In a word, the DrugWar is stoooopid.

    Culture of Corruption (none / 0) (#2)
    by downtownted on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 09:23:24 AM EST
        The deference given police officers is appalling. Difficult, almost impossible to attack testifying cop. Just look at cover up after cover up exposed by video tape. In each the cops written report is in, detectives' written investigation are in, and ranking officers' oks are in.

        Video shows up that completely blows away all those reports and shows the officers and chain of command to be total liars.  What do judges do?  They act as if this was an aberration and continue as if every other policeman testifies with the veracity of George Washington.

        Judges are part of the justice system and the system breaks down if police officers' veracity is questioned. A strong baby step for true justice would be to establish an electronic bank containing the prior testimony of detectives, experts and street cops.  So many cases are appealed that taking a few moments to post each witnesses' testimony to a searchable data base for attorneys, judges and defendants would be a helpful first step in finding duplicity.

        Certainly the drug war is part of our problem.  Look at 4th amendment law pre drug war and now.  But the Justice Department isn't indicting cops in your town today. Even if it does they do not get them all and the culture of corruption marches on. Every little step is important for attorneys and their clients. This kind of data base would help me and mine.