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Monthly Archives: March 2011
This just in from the Atlanta City Council:
Please note the Atlanta Police Department’s Zone 6 Beat Redesign Informational Meeting planned for TODAY, Thursday, March 31st has changed locations.
The new location is the Entrepreneurium, 1599-A Memorial Drive SE, Atlanta 30317. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m.
Some are casting accused Athens cop-killer Jamie Hood, 33, as a victim because police killed Hood’s brother years ago. Hood himself told his acquaintances—the so-called “hostages” he held to stave off the closing loop of a manhunt—that he feared the police because they killed his brother.
The Daily Mail, a British paper basing its coverage on that of Atlanta’s own WXIA, Channel 11, begins its story with Hood’s apology for killing Athens Clark-County Police Officer Elmer “Buddy” Christian last week and his statement that “you know, they killed my brother. They were going to kill me.”
An apology offered with an excuse isn’t quite an apology, but it made great TV. Hood gave himself up to authorities three days after the killing on the condition that he be allowed to surrender on live TV because, he claimed, he was afraid of cops.
His orchestrated spotlight-grab has a lot to do with why the story reached the British tabloids and other international outlets. It also, let’s face it, plays into time-honored stereotypes about Southern law enforcement and blacks.
The Atlanta Police Department has chosen a name for the unit formerly known as Red Dog: APEX, the acronym for Atlanta Proactive Enforcement & Interdiction. True, there is no “X,” but the unit hasn’t been obsessed with details in recent years and APEI doesn’t have the same ring to it.
The 36-person unit is scheduled for training March 28 through April 1. It will be under the command of Lt. J.D. Patterson.
In 2010, the Atlanta Police Department responded to more than 73,000 commercial and residential alarms. A staggering majority, 54,700, were false, eating up hundreds of personnel hours and dragging officers away from fighting real crime.
With the APD stretched thin already, false alarms present a dangerous waste of police resources, a problem Atlanta shares with other cities.
North of Atlanta, at the Sandy Springs Police Department, Lt. Steve Rose says suburban traffic ensures an alarm call takes about 45 minutes for each officer who responds, and sometimes longer. The SSPD gets between 800 and 1,200 calls for alarms each month. Most, he says, are false, which creates hazards that go beyond mere inefficiency.
DeKalb County Police received 74,452 alarm calls in 2009 (the most recent numbers available), of which 73,136, or 98 percent, were false.
“Nationally, we know that about 99 percent of all alarms are false,” says Marietta Police Chief Dan Flynn, chair of the alarm management committee for the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police (GACP). “It is an enormous problem for police.”
Alarms, he says, both false and valid combined, account for about 10 percent of the demand on police across the country.
Read more of my story on false alarms and what they cost us at The Buckhead Reporter, where I’m currently helping out a little:
If comments posted on this site are any indication, the majority of readers of the Ramage Report are fiercely opposed to Mayor Kasim Reed’s plan to cut City of Atlanta employee pensions.
They feel that a contract is a contract and they came to work for the city under certain assurances, not the least of which was that the pay is not great, but the pension isn’t bad. Now they are threatened with reduced retirement income, even after years of making sure that a portion of their paychecks was put toward their later years.
The mayor, however, says the city cannot afford to continue paying out pensions at its current rate. It will go broke, he says, unless something is done. He has invited anyone with a better idea for saving the city some money to bring it forward.
So, now’s our chance.
I’ll start: Work with surrounding governments and the state to form a metro-area-wide police and fire agency. Fewer than half a million taxpayers fund the City of Atlanta’s police and fire services and yet, everyday, 1.5 million people come into the city to work and play. While they’re here, they get their laptops stolen or their cell phones boosted, or they have heart attacks or crash their cars.
My tentatively named Atlanta Metropolitan Public Safety (AMPS) would address that imbalance. Why not make sure that those who benefit from the services are paying for them? It also enhances crime fighting by knocking down jurisdictional walls that help hide perpetrators.
How big should it be? Sharper minds than mine need to figure that out. Some say all of Fulton County should be in the metro-area public safety district, while others (like me) think that the area inside the Perimeter might be right, because it has a clear and distinct boundary.
The downside is that this is not a quick fix. It could take more than a decade to set up the metro police and fire authority. But we’d still get it finished before the Beltline.
What are your ideas? If you can think of a better way than cutting pensions to bolster the city’s budget, please share it in the comments section below. SR
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed asked members of the Atlanta City Council today to consider cutting the pensions of existing city employees, a move that unions say is illegal and would set a precedent allowing other cities to alter the retirement of their current employees.
Chief Operating Officer Peter Aman said the mayor would like to see the council come to a decision on the matter by July 1.
Each of two plans put forward by the mayor to the council’s finance executive committee would shift more of the cost burden of retirement from the taxpayers onto the employees themselves and would slightly reduce retirement benefits.
Both plans call for “closing” the amortization of pensions—meaning the obligation to pay off the funds would be spread over a set period of 30 years. “Option 1” would move all employees from a defined benefit plan in which they know how much money they will draw in retirement to a defined contribution plan similar to a 401 K that fluctuates according to financial market performance. It would require a 6 percent contribution from employee paychecks. The mayor claims it would save the city between $27 million and $31 million in the first five years.
Option 1, according to the mayor’s office, has been the plan in place for all higher ranking employees hired since 2001.
“Option 2”would shift employees at pay grade 18 or below—sergeant and below in the police department—to an 8 percent defined contribution plan and would also allow them to participate in Social Security, which the city opted out of in the 1970s to avoid the funds matching required by the federal government. Reed says this option would save the city between $12 million and $18 million in the first five years.
The changes would affect a majority of employees. Those with less than about 27 years with the city would see an increase in the amount of money withheld each pay period in order to achieve slightly less than present projected retirement earnings.
Recent lawsuits brought against the City of Atlanta over the actions of its police have cast a spotlight on the Atlanta Police Department’s recruiting, training and testing standards, which were lowered a few years ago. The drop in standards was intended to accelerate efforts to fill vacancies on the undersized force.
As Atlanta officials consider how to reform the APD, it might be instructive to take a look at how its lowered benchmarks may have played a part in the department’s current legal morass. Dayton, Ohio, for example, agreed last week to lower police testing standards to allow more minorities on the force, but even the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) isn’t happy about the softening of requirements. A local NAACP official there says the organization doesn’t believe that someone who fails a test for employment should then be employed anyway.
“If you lower the score for any group of people, you’re not getting the best qualified people for the job,” Dayton NAACP President Derrick Foward said, according to the local ABC affiliate. SR
My father fought against the Japanese in World War II. He and his fellow American soldiers suffered unimaginably at Guadalcanal. My uncle, Army Lt. Col. George B. Pierce, was part of the American occupation of Japan after the war, and he, too, had stories of deprivation, torment and grief to tell.
You would expect that growing up in such a family, I would have heard those stories, and I did, but it may surprise you to know that overwhelmingly my father and uncle spoke of the Japanese with admiration. They admired their ability to innovate, to make the best of a bad situation, their steadfast loyalty to their own country even in the midst of an occupation, even in the bitterness of doubt regarding their emperor and other leaders, and the amazing courage they showed in extending friendship and kindness to their recent, crushing enemy.
My father once remarked that the Japanese had suffered the very worst that America ever doled out to any nation—dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki—and yet these extraordinary people found the substance of spirit and hope to become our stalwart allies.
ATLANTA POLICE AND U.S. MARSHALS MAKE 46 GANG-RELATED ARRESTS, BUT CAN THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY KEEP WITNESSES SAFE?
The Atlanta Police Department and the U.S. Marshals Service made 46 gang-related arrests this week in what marshals describe as a “surgical operation.” The arrests were carried out in the Mechanicsville, Pittsburgh and Cleveland Avenue areas of Atlanta.
“Operation Zero Deep” was quickly organized after a “violent attack on a witness from the Jonathan Redding trial,” according to the USMS. Redding, who is affiliated with the 30 Deep gang, is being tried for the January 2009 murder of John Henderson, a bartender in Grant Park.
The arrests were announced today at a 10 a.m. press conference at the USMS offices in Clayton County.
James Ergas, a supervisory inspector with the USMS said the operation was “surgical” because the individuals arrested were specifically named in warrants. Officials took pains to say the arrests of 37 associates of 30 Deep, and nine others for violent crimes and drug trafficking, was not a “round up.”
But the real problem, as illustrated by the shooting of Eddie Pugh, the star witness in the case against Jonathan Redding, is how to keep witnesses safe so that violent gang members can be effectively prosecuted and put behind bars.
As of 12:45 p.m. The Ramage Report is fielding early information that a bank robber has been shot by an Atlanta Police officer in the Lindbergh area. More details will be posted as they become available.
UPDATE 1:12 p.m.: The APD has confirmed that there has been an “officer-involved shooting near the Lindbergh drive area.” The officer is okay. The Ramage Report has received a tip that a bank was robbed and a tracker device in the bank bag led APD officers to the suspect in the Lindbergh area. An APD officer, according to my sources, shot the suspect during the confrontation.
UPDATE 1:44 p.m.: APD Homicide Unit about to begin press conference.
UPDATE 2:32 pm: Just to fill in some blanks: The bank robbed as a Wells Fargo on Northside Drive in Sandy Springs. Sandy Springs Police chased the suspect and were assisted by Georgia State Patrol before APD picked up the chase within city limits.
UPDATE 2:51: Police confirm suspect is dead.