More stories are surfacing about members of Atlanta Police Department’s Red Dog unit, an anti-drug unit, that suggest these police officers would be better suited to working as TSA airport screeners.
In a case that happened last June in a traffic stop, two men in a vehicle were pulled over by members of the Red Dog unit. Routine traffic stop, right? Well, only if your idea of “routine” includes body cavity searches on the side of the road in broad daylight.
A video on Youtube describing the incident is disturbing, to say the least. What’s distressing is that Atlanta Police Chief George Turner left the officers involved on active duty for over a month after he first learned about the allegations. They have since been placed on administrative leave, or what I like to call “paid vacation”.
The unit has long been under fire for abusing the Constitutional Rights of the citizens it was supposed to “serve and protect”.
Bruce Harvey, a defense lawyer, said the unit was famous for illegal searches and arrests. “They were traditionally a unit that did what it wanted to do and found a way to justify it afterward.”
That’s not the kind of behaviour we want from our police forces, is it?
Atlanta’s Citizen Review Board has fielded other complaints about the Red Dog Unit’s conduct, for instance, a 27-year-old man’s claim that he was improperly searched by members of the unit. He says that on March 20, 2010, Red Dog officers charged him outside a Southwest Atlanta eatery and — similarly — searched him by pulling down his pants and underwear in broad daylight. The board found that the stop was unlawful and had been improperly documented by the officers, but Chief George Turner rejected that finding.
It seems Chief Turner is finally listening to reason, although what the final outcome will be is anyone’s guess.
On February 7th it was announced that he was disbanding the Red Dog unit, which brought cheers in the city’s Fourth Ward.
“People started cheering,” said Matt Garbett, president of the Old Fourth Ward Neighbors. “There is obviously some ill will toward the Red Dog unit.”
The unit will be replaced with one that “will use technology and sophisticated analysis to prevent and solve violent crimes.”
Unless he’s also replacing all the officers, and not just transferring them over to this new unit, not much will change. Instead of illegal strip searches, there will just be illegal phone taps and illegal searches.
I wouldn’t hold my breath if I lived in Atlanta though, given comments by Chief Turner when he announced the disbanding of the Red Dog squad.
Turner said the unit that will replace the Red Dog squad won’t be less aggressive, but he insisted that new unit of 50 officers will use smarter tactics.