Atlanta, Georgia – Eight men were arrested at the gay bar American Eagle, located at 306 Ponce De Leon, during a raid by the Atlanta Police Department’s Vice Squad and the resulting fallout has left six police officers without a job, nine other officers received official reprimands for their participation and three more officers await their disciplinary hearings on the matter.
WSB TV reported that the raid prompting the police action actually took place in September of 2009, when police planned a raid after Mayor Shirley Franklin’s office received a tip about alleged illicit sexual activity occurring at the American Eagle.
Another report said it was numerous tips that were actually received, according to the AJC, and those reports contained very descriptive language about the alleged illicit activities going on at the bar involving both drugs and sex.
Officers descended upon the bar in typical fashion: some were plainsclothes, others were in uniform. But Richard Ramey, one of the bar’s owners, took issue with the patron’s treatment during the raid, prompting a complaint.
The officers required the patrons to lie on the floor as they conducted their raid, a typical law enforcement maneuvere in any raid, generally, but also in situations where officers fear their may be a safety risk to them.
One patron of the American Eagle said he overheard an officer giving the following excuse for requiring all in attendance to assemble on the ground, “Seeing another man have sex with another man–I would classify that as very violent.”
Officers face potentially life threatening situations when they conduct raids or respond to calls for assistance in the community. They are trained to take all necessary precautions to limit that risk. The APD officers appeared to be following standard operating procedures in this regard.
The officer’s comment, if accurately portrayed, serves to show that he had a concern for his own safety in the environment in which he was called to respond and raid.
When officers are witnessing men roughhousing with other men in a brawling bar environment – with or without sex being an issue – they attempt to limit the potential for more violence by getting bar patrons to lie face down on the floor. Factor in the potential sexual angle and the officer was well within his right to protect his person from harm during the raid. Officers are taught to do so during police training.
But additional compliants from patrons of the homosexual bar about harassment followed the bar’s owner, and an investigation conducted after the incident has now led to the firing of six APD officers over the matter.
The six dismissed APD officers, however, are not being fired for violating police procedures during the raid, as their conduct was typical law enforcement procedure in that regard.
Instead, they are being fired for not being “truthful” about the raid, afterward, with investigating personnel and for making discriminatory statements during the raid — and violating patrons’ fourth amendment rights, according to WSB TV.
One of the eight men arrested during the raid by Atlanta police included the bar’s co-owner Robert Kelley. Atlanta City Council candidates — Miguel Gallegos and Shelitha Robertson — used their influence with a local judge to get six of the eight arrested men released on bail after the raid, according to the AJC.