Sunday, December 14, 2008

Targeted before it even begins

The Atlanta, Georgia Police Department is pushing for legislation to fatally hamstring the city's brand-new Citizen Review Board, just as it's finally getting off the ground:

"The city law recently enacted to create the review board gives the board “full access” to police reports and documents. Police officials are asking the city to allow them to only turn over documents and information that are public record, which is minimal when an investigation is ongoing.

If the change is approved, it would essentially allow the police department to withhold most information from the Citizen Review Board until after the department conducts its own investigation. (Emphasis mine)

Professional and thorough investigations like the one that led to the creation of the Board in the first place, no doubt:

"Created in the wake of an illegal police shooting that left an elderly woman dead, the board was intended to restore the public’s trust in the police department."

Obviously the goal of public trust in their actions doesn't rate nearly as highly down at the ol' cop shop as the ability to give out only the info that the police brass decides the board needs, and then not until the muckety-mucks are good and ready to release it.

I have been following an internal police investigation out of Woodbury, Minnesota for over two years now, with no sign that it's ever going to be complete. Apparently this sort of timeline sounds just fine to the Atlanta PD. That's obvious, because such temporal whitewashing favors the department and allows them to hide embarrassing or illegal actions by officers from the peasants who pay their salaries (and legal judgments against them, of course) until the heat goes away, so to speak.

The Atlanta City Council shouldn't mess with the new CRB process just because the police don't like it, and they should definitely give the board an honest shot at successfully beginning its legislatively mandated job. Considering the quality of recent recruits to that department, it looks like board members will quickly become quite proficient at investigating alleged crimes by Atlanta officers.

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