3 APD officers face discipline in woman's wrongful jailing
By David Ibata
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
8:51 p.m. Monday, April 23, 2012
Three Atlanta police officers face disciplinary action in the case of a woman wrongly jailed for nearly two months, Channel 2 Action News reported.
Teresa Culpepper spent 53 days wrongfully incarcerated in Fulton County Jail because she had the same name, Teresa, as a woman wanted by authorities in an aggravated assault case.
Culpepper was taken into custody Aug. 21. She was released Oct. 12 after her public defender got the crime victim to come to court and say the woman in custody was not the attacker.
Atlanta police investigated the incident and acknowledge in documents obtained by Channel 2 that Culpepper was wrongly arrested. The department also issued “notices of final adverse action” against three officers.
Officer Nicole Aguinaga faces 30 days’ suspension. Records list her as being the arresting officer, but she did not personally interview Culpepper, request a lineup or have fingerprints taken "to dispel any questions regarding her identity," APD documents state.
Though Aguinaga expressed her concerns about discrepancies in Culpepper’s identity to someone in the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office, “you did not contact a supervisor to seek guidance,” documents addressed to her say.
Officer Jaidon Codrington faces 14 days’ suspension for having “transported Ms. Culpepper to Fulton County Jail without attempting to dispel questions regarding her identity,” documents say.
Another document says Officer Justin Strom could be suspended for 10 days because “by directing Officer Codrington to transport Ms. Culpepper to Fulton County Jail immediately, the process of Officer/Prisoner verification was eliminated.”
Kliff Grimes, with the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, told Channel 2, “All three are appealing to the civil service, so we really can’t speak on the specifics.”
Ken Allen, president of the union’s APD local, said the incident sheds light on problems with the existing system for handling suspects in custody.
“What we’re trying to do is get round-the-clock, 24-hours system in which the officers can take the suspect, go before a judge,” Allen told Channel 2. Such a system, he said, could help prevent incidents of mistaken identity.
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