Friday, April 23, 2010, 6:13 AM
News, Opinion, Politics
By Stephanie Ramage
According to trusted sources, in recent weeks the search committee for Atlanta’s next police chief trimmed a total list of only six candidates for the job to three. They did so by subjecting the six to a grueling round of interviews and resume reviews. They methodically ranked the applicants according to their performance and came up with a list of the top three. My sources have informed me that Acting Police Chief George Turner was not among those three.
The committee members expected to forward those three to Mayor Kasim Reed, but Lisa Borders, who has overseen the search, has informed them that a list of the top five names will be sent to Reed.
Even worse, Borders has told the committee that the transition team she co-chairs—the team in charge of filling all of the high-profile vacancies in the Reed administration--will be giving the mayor an unranked list of the five. Borders verified to The Sunday Paper on Thursday, April 22, that she would indeed by forwarding five of the six to the mayor.
Choosing five out of six isn’t a substantial narrowing and makes a mockery of the service that the search committee members have rendered to the city. They are volunteers with busy lives. The fact that their hard work would be thrown away to satisfy political needs is a travesty.
I believe that asking for a list of five is the only way Turner’s name would have made it into the group being sent to the mayor for consideration. He is not one of the top recommendations of the committee.
Turner should not be Atlanta’s next police chief and here’s why: Cowardice is the root of all evil. Everyday, lives, jobs and families are lost because good people fail to find the courage to speak out, and nowhere is that courage more dangerous than in a police department.
Edmond Burke, one of the great thinkers of the Enlightenment said it best: “Evil triumphs when good men do nothing.”
You notice he still calls them “good.” Good people are to blame for letting bad things happen. Turner is a good man. I’ve met him. He’s a nice person, and he’s been nicer than ever over the past four months as he’s vied for the chief’s job. However, a good man who does nothing is not who Atlantans need in charge of their police force.
Mayor Reed should ask himself if Turner fulfilled his responsibility to speak out and step in to right the wrongs of APD policy under Chief Richard Pennington. The answer could only be a resounding “No, he did not.”
Turner served under Pennington as a deputy chief. Under Pennington and Turner’s administration, the president of the local chapter of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, Sgt. Scott Kreher, spoke out about quotas being forced on officers. Cops had to carry out a certain number of arrests and search warrants each month. Kreher was punished by Pennington for speaking out, slapped back to the police department’s graveyard shift. U.S. District Judge Julie Carnes, in effect, corroborated what Kreher claimed when, in her opinion on the case brought against officers involved in the deadly shooting of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston, she said “the pressures brought to bear” by the quotas helped precipitate the officers’ actions. In its investigation of Johnston’s tragic killing, the FBI “found performance quotas of nine arrests and two search warrants a month expected of officers” according to one of the attorneys in the officers’ trials, as reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Turner was a deputy chief at that time. It would have packed quite a punch if he had publically blown the whistle on the APD’s numbers game, a game that he would have had to have known about. But he said nothing. He did nothing.
Instead, in a taped interview with me in February, when asked to evaluate the performance of Pennington, he said “I thought he was a great chief and that he professionalized our police department in that he understood how important it was to grow talent inside the department.”
In his position as deputy chief of support services Turner oversaw the 911 center—the same 911 center that became a citywide laughingstock and a threat to public safety. Citing data from the Atlanta Police Department, WSB reported last November that “some callers have been placed on hold as long as 38 minutes before getting through to an operator in the city's 911 center." According to a report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Standards set by the National Emergency Number Association say that 90 percent of 911 calls should be answered in 10 seconds or less.”
It was courageous residents and determined reporters who brought the disgraceful performance of the 911 center to the public's attention. But the man who should have been the first person to say “We’ve got a problem,” was Turner. He was in charge. He, more than anyone else, was privy to the failure between the 911 center and police responders.
He said nothing. He did nothing.
Turner should not be Atlanta’s next police chief, and given Border’s blatant manipulation of the police chief search process, Mayor Reed should ask her to resign immediately from the transition team. Reed should consider only the search committee’s top three picks, not the “top five” of six. SP