Last year, the Eagle in Atlanta was raided by 15 police officers who forced all 62 patrons onto the floor, where they were forced to stay for two hours. The patrons weren't told why they were being held. The police searched them all, confiscated their cell phones, and ran criminal background checks on them. Several people reported being called "faggot" and other epithets. Eight people were arrested on various license charges.
The police originally said the raid happened because of reported drug use in the bar, and then they changed the story to public sex shows. Many suspected the raid was part of the police's larger mission to shut down several clubs as they had similarly raided six other clubs, five of which were strip clubs, four of which served the African American community. Raiding bars and searching for any evidence of criminal activity, setting up stings, and entrapping clients are many of the tactics police will use when a city wants to close certain establishments but has no legal reason to.
The police continue to say they did nothing wrong, even though they don't have the right to detain and search people who aren't suspected of having done anything. The police department is currently being sued by 19 patrons and protests have been held. Justice is, of course, unlikely here.
But this week the Citizens Review Board found that the police were wrong in detaining those people, showing that when the police aren't in charge of policing themselves, there can be accountability for their prejudice, criminal actions, and violence:
Review Board Executive Director Cristina Beamud confirmed to CBS Atlanta in an e-mail that the board wants Atlanta Police officials to take action against the 24 officers involved in the raid.
The board decided recommendations for disciplining specific officers should wait until investigators determine the exact roles of each officer.
That's something. Usually the police are quick to cover up their buddies' wrong-doing, often getting the prosecutor's office to help them cover up their crimes. More cities should have independent review boards to monitor the police. We don't live in a dictatorship, so the police's power should not be absolute. No one is above the law.
There's only one problem with the way the review board was created:
But according to AtlantaUnfiltered.com, board chairman Joy Morrissey said the maximum penalty under APD personnel rules -- a three-day suspension - would not be enough.
No, that won't be enough. If I was openly packing heat and forced someone (let alone 62 people) onto the ground for two hours while verbally abusing her and took her possessions, I doubt I would get just three days suspension from my job as punishment. If anything, police officers should be held to a higher standard than ordinary citizens and lose their job if they break the law, even though I know they're going to be arguing that they should be held to a lower standard because what they did is legal if done differently under different circumstances.
It's still better than nothing. But people in Atlanta now know that this board needs to be given teeth.