When a police officer is accused of breaking the law or violating someone’s rights, they should be sanctioned, right? Most people would agree that even (or perhaps especially) police officers should be held responsible for their unethical or even criminal behavior. But with how things work in the Atlanta Police Department, these cops are able to keep their badge and stay on the streets.
They game the system. If you are a police officer and you have a misconduct or criminal charge pending with the state, it’s in your best interest (especially if you are guilty) to draw it out as long as possible. When it’s over you could lose your job. But, if you can keep it in a perpetual state of limbo, you may be able to hold on for several years.
That’s what many cops in Atlanta are doing, according to an Atlanta Journal Constitution and Channel 2 Action News investigation have revealed. They looked at 2,200 cases between 1997 and now. Some of these cases have been pending for years—including one that’s been up in the air for 15 years.
Cops file appeals. They are able to extend the life of their case and put off the final sanction by keeping it in an appeals state. Some are hung up in the appeals process for more than a decade. On average, the findings say, these cases have been on file for 5 years.
In the disciplinary process, a police officer first faces sanctions from their own department. Then, it’s reported to the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) if it is serious enough. Once it goes through POST and an officer appeals the decision, it is then moved to an administrative judge, with the state attorney general’s office acting as counsel for POST. This is where the cases get held up.
Some cases revealed to have been caught in the backlog include serious allegations—where officers are accused of drunk driving while on the job or walking into a bar with gun drawn and saying “This is a stick up.”
Police officers careers can be cut short by a criminal act. But often, at least to the average citizen, it seems they are allowed to get away with seriously questionable and criminal acts with little more than a slap on the wrist.
Unfortunately, most other people in the state of Georgia don’t get the protections that a police officer does. When it’s time to face the judge, it can easily feel like you against the world.
If you are charged with a crime, whether it’s a drug offense or allegations of a violent crime, we may be able to help. Give us a call.