Settlement in Atlanta Eagle Case Forces Atlanta Police Department to Reform Unconstitutional Practices

"Nobody in this city should have to endure the inexcusable law enforcement conduct that occurred 15 months ago at the Atlanta Eagle."

Date

Date: 
12/08/2010
Gregory R. Nevins

"I am very proud of our clients, who stood up against the injustice done to them."

(Atlanta, December 8, 2010)—A settlement in the Atlanta Eagle raid lawsuit will force the Atlanta Police Department to rewrite unconstitutional policies regarding arrest, search and seizure, and make other changes to protect the public from police misconduct.

These reforms require Atlanta police officers to document certain types of warrantless detentions, frisks and searches; prohibit officers from interfering with the public's right to take photographs and make video and audio recordings of police activity; require uniformed police officers to wear clearly visible nametags and identify themselves upon request; require the Atlanta Police Department to rule on citizen complaints of police misconduct within 180 days; and require the City of Atlanta to conduct mandatory in-person training of all police officers every two years regarding Fourth Amendment issues and the safe use of firearms. The agreement also requires the Atlanta Police Department to conduct a thorough and meaningful investigation of police misconduct, failure to obey the law, and untruthfulness during and after the Eagle raid. The settlement also provides for a payment of $1,025,000 by the city of Atlanta.

The settlement resolves the case of Geoffrey Calhoun, et al. v. Richard Pennington, et al., a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Atlanta and 35 individual Atlanta police officers brought by 26 individuals and two businesses. The federal court order ending the case found that that each of the plaintiffs was unlawfully searched, detained and/or arrested during the raid and that none was personally suspected of any criminal activity. The plaintiffs were represented by Atlanta attorney Daniel J. Grossman along with lawyers from Lambda Legal, the Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR) and Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P.

"It shouldn't be necessary to go to federal court to get a police department to follow the law," said the lead counsel for the plaintiffs, attorney Dan Grossman.

Gerry Weber, senior attorney at the SCHR said, “The events at the Eagle were directly tied to systemic issues with APD. This settlement is a step forward, but only if reforms are embraced and fully implemented.”

"I am very proud of our clients, who stood up against the injustice done to them," said Greg Nevins, Supervising Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta. "Because they did the right thing, the Atlanta Police Department will be a better force for good in the community. Nobody in this city should have to endure the inexcusable law enforcement conduct that occurred 15 months ago at the Atlanta Eagle."

Patrons at the Atlanta Eagle were forced to lie flat on the floor, some lying in spilled beer and broken glass, while police searched them, conducted background checks, and hurled antigay slurs. Lawyers for the plaintiffs have contended from the beginning of the lawsuit in November 2009, that the police department's policy of detaining, searching, and taking ID from every person present during an operation such as the Atlanta Eagle raid was in violation of the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. The city of Atlanta, after more than a year of litigation, finally entered an agreement that acknowledged these obvious violations.

The plaintiffs' attorneys will release a "know your rights" FAQ that will be available online and will follow up with community engagement to explain what this settlement means.

Read the order.

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Contact Info

Contact: Jonathan Adams 212-809-8585 ext 267; jadams@lambdalegal.org

Contact: Kathryn Hamoudah 404-688-1202; khamoudah@schr.org

Contact: Daniel J. Grossman 404-654-0326; dan@dangrossman.com

Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.