Rhonda Cook, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 18, 2011
The Atlanta Police Department is still reviewing records but already has found that dozens of officers lacked the authority to make arrests because they had not met state requirements for training.
Some cases involving those officers are two decades old, although how many could be affected by the discovery is unknown.
All sides in the criminal justice system agree, though, that the end result could be far-reaching.
“The APD administration’s failures have just compromised a ton of criminal convictions and pending cases,” said a past president of the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Christine A. Koehler. “Somebody’s not doing what they are supposed to be doing over there. . . . They have big problems.”
At least 51 APD officers had not received the state-required 20 hours of training per year, and that meant they could not make arrests. Maj. Jeff Glazier, commander of the Atlanta police training academy, said Thursday that more APD officers will likely be found deficient as agency investigators still have about 600 files to review–or about one-third of the force.
The department does not know how many arrests could be affected.
But Fulton District Attorney Paul Howard, whose office prosecutes Atlanta cases, said an arrest or conviction “is not automatically overturned because a police officer’s certification has expired. Individual, case-by-case analysis of each criminal matter must take place before such a determination is made.”
The APD audit also uncovered “clerical errors” in the training files of about 200 officers. Turner said those errors did not affect officers’ authority to make arrests or take warrants.
Attorney Dan Grossman said the problems from the training deficiencies will not go away after the officers make up the training.
“Even if they were to wave a magic wand . . . that doesn’t resolve the issue that there are hundreds of pending cases that are in jeopardy, not to mention the closed ones,” he said. “The public is going to be paying the price for a long time.”