Thursday, September 3, 2015

What The Public Is Thinking

Something Is Very Wrong With DeKalb’s Police

September 2, 2015 4:28 am
I’ll start off by saying that I’m grateful for a fast response from the DeKalb Police tonight to a horrible shooting near my home. Two young men from the Aberdeen neighborhood east of Pine Lake are dead.

I was writing on my porch around midnight when the gunshots — some kind of rifle or machine gun, I suspect — woke everyone within a mile of us. It sounded like 30 or 40 shots, rapid fire, louder than anything I’d heard here before. I wanted to dismiss it as fireworks, but the thump had a rhythm and a ring, and it was just too loud. It took a moment for the dread to register.
Facebook lit up. I could hear conversations in the background of the 911 call center, all about the same thing, when my frantic call connected. DeKalb Police had a dozen cruisers there within minutes, the first within seconds.

I don’t mean to detract from that. DeKalb has erased my concerns about response time.
But our county police have had a litany of use-of-force issues arise over the last year, and after what I saw tonight I am beginning to understand why. I found the conduct of officers on the scene to be deeply disturbing, despite the conditions.

For one, DeKalb arrested an Atlanta police officer who lives in the neighborhood. The fellow went to the scene to see if his son had been involved. He identified himself as a police officer. It didn’t matter. Police apparently didn’t give him a chance for that to matter. People at the scene told me they threw him to the ground and used a Taser on him, in front of neighbors who had come out to see what happened.

The crowd screamed at the police, telling them the fellow was a cop, and a neighbor, and belonged there, and it didn’t matter.

I know this man.

We met last year, when I was knocking on doors for Sheriff Mann’s campaign. (I’m not naming him until I’ve had a chance to talk to him.) He had a campaign sign in his yard … for another guy. We talked for a long time about violence in the neighborhood, about Pine Lake’s changing reputation, about policing in general, about politics. The neighborhood looks to this man as an intercessor between themselves and the police. This is the guy that keeps them safe.
Tonight, his wife told me that had he gone armed as he usually does, DeKalb Police would have simply shot him dead.

DeKalb’s recent track record supports her fear. Police shot an unarmed, naked man earlier this year. DeKalb police probably violated their internal use of force rules when they tased a man running from police three weeks ago. The man had climbed a chain link fence when he was hit. He fell and died. And last night, DeKalb Police managed to enter the wrong house, kill the owner’s dog, shoot the startled homeowner … and one of their own rookie cops in an act of friendly fire.
I received DeKalb’s police policy manual in a Georgia Open Records Act request last week. (You may thank me by helping to defray the cost of retrieving it.)

On paper, DeKalb has an extraordinarily progressive use of force policy. In practice, I’m wondering now. I think they’re going to have to charge the cop they tased tonight, just to keep someone from being fired for inappropriate use of force. They’ll do that, even though it may end this man’s career.
I am told half a dozen people had cell phone cameras out tonight, recording the incident. Police shined flashlights into cameras to keep them from recording effectively. I’ve asked people to upload those videos and send them to me.

It is a violation of DeKalb’s Police employee policy book, Section 4-1.16, “to prevent photographers from taking photos at crime scenes, fires, and accidents or at other incidents involving Department employees.” No punishment is named, which makes it a worthless rule. But it’s there.
It’s also a fairly straightforward violation of the 1st Amendment, and the subject of a federal consent decree that Atlanta Police routinely ignores.

Traumatized neighbors in Aberdeen milled around outside of the yellow tape. Young men screamed at the police in anger and at their friends in grief. No real effort came from the assembled sergeants and patrol officers to restore peace in the crowd, except to move the tape back another 50 feet and get pissy at people who asked why. I’m sure I’ll be told that they were doing incredibly important work … standing around watching the crowd go mad, and that no one could be spared earlier for a quiet human word for people unaccustomed to this kind of violence.

Lt. Fonseca, the watch commander (who is generally a standup guy) eventually emerged. I brought the camera problem to his attention. He shrugged, then told me to back off.
I’m not interested in heaping blame on any given police officer tonight. That’s counterproductive. And I’m sure I’ll hear all about how I have no business at a major murder scene (that’s all of 600 yards from my house.) But I believe in seeing things firsthand.

And from what I’ve seen, the force has a systemic problem right now that must be addressed. DeKalb has been bleeding talent to other agencies for years, and it’s become visible. The county has been running police academies to try to fill the ranks, but the exits of veteran officers has accelerated. The result is a police force that is substantially less experienced.

Consider that the county ran five academies between February of 2014 and January of 2015, graduating about 150 police officers. The county has 1060 slots, of which only about 850 are filled. (That was 900 in January.) One sixth of DeKalb Police, today, have less than 18 months of policing experience and the total strength has continued to fall despite a serious recruiting push.
Pay problems contribute to the bleed. A place like Sandy Springs can offer a much better package to an experienced officer. The county pledged to conduct a pay analysis across departments this year. It’s not clear to me how that turned out for police, nor whether a significant increase in police pay will result. Lifestyle issues — like requirements for police to effectively be permanently on call in ways other police departments don’t impose — also factor into the bleed, as does concerns about the health of the police pension fund in light of the county’s shrinking unincorporated tax base.
Events like tonight show how these problems — policy abstractions for quiet neighborhoods — play out in practice on the street. This was a moment when DeKalb Police could have cemented themselves as heroes in the eyes of this neighborhood. Instead, people are angry at them and afraid of them. This, despite gangbangers with heavy weapons killing two people tonight.

What the hell.


Anonymous said...

Go to hell... I'm sure the Atlanta officer was being professional... I've seen their level of "professionalism" on display often..... NOT pretty... Arrogant SOB's.

Pay study... Haven't heard anything...probably in the key box for the take home cars that drivel out a few every six weeks.

I noticed Lee May was quick to dismiss the initial findings of the corruption committee. He'll probably do the same with the pay study as they did with the last two.

Dekalb is losing veteran officers and their experience in droves... They lost their veteran officers years ago. Now they employ the clock watchers they pay for.

PatsQB said...

George, just cause you have a right to do something doesn't mean it's the right/correct thing to do. I have a right to open carry an assault rifle down your street in plain view. After what you heard a few nights ago do you think it's a smart/correct thing to do? I have no right to enter another jurisdiction's crime scene. In these trying times how safe do officers feel responding to automatic gunfire calls. Then an angry crowd gathers? Do they have the right to be there and film? Yes. Is it smart? Is it helpful to the investigation? Most likely not.

You know what would help? Citizens who step up and say something about what they saw. Folks who are forthcoming with helpful information. A county gov't that isn't corrupt beyond belief, a PD department that pays its people what they are worth (DKPD last raise was when? Merit raise?, COLA raise? A graduating rookie class replaces a body in a uniform on one end of a radio. Sure they are an officer but it'll take close to two years before they are a COP. Those men and women are (hopefully) doing the best they can under stress under extreme scrutiny, for little reward, and even less respect these days.

A camera in our face hoping to catch someone off their game isn't going to help? Saying "I'm Not laying blame" but putting the LT's name on here..? Sure it's your right...but is it the right thing to do?

Anonymous said...

Check out the news stories, your neighbor had a rifle and he shot his two friends, don’t blame the DKPD. Ref the APD, it sucks he was arrested but it boils down to cause and effect. He punched an officer trying to protect the crime scene and the result was he was arrested. The rest of your rant is useless dribble.

Anonymous said...

There are times that I very much disagree with the opinions of Mr. Chidi, though I find him to be extraordinarily well-informed about issues - doesn't mean I agree with his conclusions.

Here, however, I find that he and those who comment have a lot in common. He just has more specifics. When the news first came about regarding this "wrong house" entry and the shootings, one of the early comments on that thread had to do with it being a consequence of "running off all the experienced officers and supervisors."

So now Mr. Chidi says essentially the same thing.

The real problem is that the inexperience extends now to all areas, so who's to know if an internal affairs investigation will be competently or impartially conducted either by DKPD or APD to get to the bottom of what happened with the APD officer.

Personally, I detest the idea of citizens making videos at crime scenes. I think a one perspective video, which almost never shows the developments that lead up to what's being filmed, and which often makes something (such as physically restraining a suspect) appear worse than it is. However, agency rules are what they are and if police shine flashlights into cameras, it makes it appear that they have something to hide. Certainly make me think you have something to hide.

DeKalb is a county that unfortunately is increasing filled with a culture that has a significant criminal subset. Those who are not in the subset say they detest it until one of those who participates in it gets into a police confrontation, at which point he becomes a community hero and a victim of the police.

It is a win-lose-lose situation. Law enforcement loses, the community loses, the bad guys win.

And since it appears that the person who currently holds the presidency is no more sensible than anyone else with respect to making bad guys the hero, we are in for a long and bumpy ride. With a bad ending.

A retiree

Anonymous said...

Let me get this straight. An Atlanta cop punches a Dekalb cop that he calls a "Pine Lake bitch," but Chidi thinks it was the Dekalb cops who were wrong that night. Do people take this idiot seriously?

Slim Willy said...

George before you lay any blame you should pull a copy of the report under the open records act and then you will see that the outstanding Atlanta Officer assaulted an outstanding DeKalb officer by punching them in the face.
Yes he was struck back in self defense as you too would have that same right!!!, see when you interfere with a criminal investigation its called Obstruction the same as it would be in Atlanta no matter who you are. Give the officers time to quail the scene and I could assure you that great Atlanta officer would been given much professional courtesy as any one else would have.
If society hates the police so much why not stop calling them for help and handle the criminals yourself, this is where society is headed so I would arm yourselves.

Harry Johnson said...

George sounds to me like you should be thankful those DeKalb officers came running into gunfire to save your ass and your neighbors. Had they not I am certain more people would be dead, perhaps even yourself.

Perhaps you should blame the criminals who came to your neighborhood and point the finger at them for creating this problem for all. Start pointing your cameras at them to clean up your community and give that info to your local beat cop.

Just think when gunfire erupts every citizen on that street probably coward in fear and hid in a closet desperately dialing 911 for another human to save their bacon.

I guess you could have called 1600 Pennsylvania Ave for protection, im sure they would have sent the military right over.

Anonymous said...

Mr childi you are amazing. You wanna ask ridiculous questions at the time of a double murder. Ive been on numerous crime scenes where officers from other depts wanted to know either whats going on or know someone involved and they walk up to the crime scene tape and simply ask like a civilized person not an animal. Then we will call a detective over to answer their questions but you never i mean never cross a double homicide line then strike an officer and expect not to be arrested. It amazes me what officers do just because theyre officers. What would you do if officers nationwide should just pull back like in Baltimore . Ill tell would sandbag your windows and pray that you wake up alive because its war out here. And the officer with the taser....if he would have put his hands up he would be alive. When you run from the police bad things sometimes happen. Its not CSI out here. Some think television is reality but its not. Next time you see a cop shake his hand and thank him because without police theres chaos.

Anonymous said...

I worked with Fonseca for years, I was there when he hit the street. He was a stand up guy then and I'm sure he still is. Of course I wouldn't know because I was just one of the veterans that left

Anonymous said...

Since Childi knows so much about LE and crime scenes let him have his pubes pulled at the root to compare with others inevitably left any the crime scene. Realize your place and shut the fuck up. FUCKING IDIOTS...

Anonymous said...

Here is the thing about law enforcement officers and pay...

Is it a factor? Sure; officers owe it to their families to take pay and benefits into account.

Is it ever THE factor, at least for officers for whom law enforcement is a calling? No.

Back in the day, our small department often attracted from other departments experienced officers with good records, who were willing to take pay cuts in return for the better working conditions and superior training we offered. I left that department two decades ago, but have been told that only a few years ago, at least three officers left another, much larger agency, for jobs at my old department, though it meant pay cuts of up to 10k per annum. Simply put, they wanted to be treated as intelligent, well-intentioned, trurstworthy people, to be able to take advantage of training that was disigned to add to their knowledge and increase their skill levels, rather than to allow check boxes to be marked off, and to work with like-minded colleagues, for whom they would not have to make excuses or be asked to cover for.

Back during the era of F. D. Hand, Jr., DKPD clawed its way up from an organization that lent itself to partisan political purposes, and where the "N" word was tolerated during radio communications to an organization that was respected by honest citizens and, quite often, consciously avoided by law breakers (as evidenced by arrested burglars, etc., berating themselves getting confused about which side of the Atlanta/Unincorporated DeKalb line they were on when they committed the crime in question). Even then, there were departments that paid better, and even more departments that expected less work and less quality, and where officers could get away with more. Despite, or because of, that, DeKalb attracted applicants who barely considered applying anywhere else...some with degrees (Steve Schildecker had a B.S. and M.S. from Emory, and was considering law or medical school), some without degrees but with plenty of brains, and almost all with heart.

High salaries attract everyone. Great training and high standards attract the best, and often dissuade or run-off the worst.

Anonymous said...

Hey George, looks like you're ahead of the game there buddy. Got all the answers on how to be a cop and how to handle a crime scene. Even got all the answers on how to handle a bunch of hostile neighbors while securing that crime scene. Sounds like you also have the balls to take a punch in the face by an Atlanta Officer that comes barging into an active crime scene. You already have your copy of the rules and regs. and have started studying soooooo what's stopping you? Suit up my friend do your time in the academy and do your time on the road and show us ALL how it SHOULD be done...Walk in the shoes I walked in for 30 plus years or shut the fuck up and sit on the side lines (or porch in your case)....Oh yea and if ya come to my party acting like a thug (badge or no badge) you will be treated like one..Come professionally and I will extend professional courtesy from here to China..It's all how you present yourself, as an officer, as a concerned citizen, and as suspect. Act like a human being and you will be treated as such. Act like an animal out of it's mind and we will put you down....
Retired, thank God.

Anonymous said...

"i'm so happy the cops got there in a hurry but after that they screwed up everything." That is the translation of what he is saying. Ungrateful bastard. I have never been a cop but respect and admire what you do and put up with. Be very careful out there, I would look the other way now on minor problems and keep driving. Patrol neighborhoods that appreciate your presence and only go into difficult areas when you have to. Be safe guys and gals!

Anonymous said...

"Something is very wrong with DeKalb Police" Your damn right there is.....THUG POLITICIANS IN CHARGE! You elect the politicians who represent YOU so YOU get what you deserve. Those fools have destroyed one of the greatest counties in the nation and the finest police department that ever was. You need to look in the mirror and see where the problem lies. You DONT WANT a good police department because you WANT to act like a criminal thug. You created the problem by systematically destroying the police department then you bitch because of it. Your lack of simple logic amazes me. NO WAIT.....I get it now.... If you create a disaster and make yourself out to be a "victim" then other good charitable people will feel sorry for you and you get pity and I right??? "My neighborhood is a war zone..guns and violence and theft and rape and murder everywhere" YOU MADE IT LIKE THAT...YOU ARE THE ROOT CAUSE....YOU ARE THE PROBLEM. The good honest tax paying WORKING citizens who support the police have had enough! So....sleep peacefully in your beds at night. You have gotten exactly what you wanted....enjoy!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Chidi needs to look to the leadership or lack of it in DKPD. Even when a chief the troops respect is put in charge, there is always someone who is technically higher and closer to the CEO. I speak of the Dr. Wiz position. Yes, DKPD has been in a funk for about two decades, nice of you to notice, Mr. Chidi. it started while you were probably still a child. It started with CEOs who decided that the complexion of DKPD was all wrong and went about choosing people not based on the content of their character. Do a little research into the disasters that were wrought by that policy as talented, respected police left or were "let go." Remember the $100,000 plus recreational vehicles? Remember the nationwide searches? Find out why two commissioners were not arrested when they should have been, one for DUI the other for bad check warrants. FInd out about the Dr. Wiz position and its true purpose. And it isn't to provide an ambassador to the rest of the country in times of trouble.
Find out if the current Dr. Wiz was even POST certified. It would seem important that such a person would be And that Doctorate came from a school ranked 197th in the nation.
This problem that you now percieve has its roots in the corruption that is DeKalb. What do you want to bet the report by Bowers is delayed and not released until after the November election and vote on cityhood for LaVista Hills?
You are barking up the wrong tree.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

"............ you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to." A Few Good Men.

Anonymous said...

Lets start by firing that uncertified $180,000.00 a year Dr. Alexander. He is quick to run around the country on the taxpayers dime denouncing other departments but has not done one thing to solve issues in his own.

Anonymous said...

Haaaa to anonymous September 13 @ 4:32 PM

ABSOLUTELY!!! Mr. Chidi needs to sign up. We could use a few more experts around here.

Anonymous said...
Meanwhile officers are driving around in antiquated, unsafe vehicles, while LEGOS are being bought with tax dollars. Not only is this unbelievable but those who have remained silent while all this went on share complicity. What is done in the dark always comes to light. BE a man, BE the cop you swore to be, and start ACTING as such, even if it requires you arrest your boss. Just like other crimes, if you standby while it occurs you're just as guilty.

Anonymous said...

Good lord what does it take to get some authority to finally act on Dekalb corruption?

Anonymous said...

ugh. George - please just stfu until you know what you're talking about. I am not LEO - I am a citizen. I object to a public official who is so arrogant as to portray himself as a thoughtful, informed expert when....the exact opposite is the case.

Anonymous said...

Once again George shows us his who he is more than what others could ever say.

All of this "analytical thought" towards DKPD but WHAT ABOUT YOUR OWN PINE LAKE PD? You do such a good job giving commentary on others but when asked about your own house, you never seem to have an answer.

I've been screaming this guy is a joke since forever but he proved it more than I could ever tell it.

And like I said before, George can't stand DKPD and has said as much among his Pine Lake "inner circle" time and time again. I don't care how many times he tries to act like he does, it's simply not the truth. He longs to be "the god guy" when really, he's the polar opposite. he just wasn't banking on some of his own people seeing him for what he is and saying something about it.

Ever notice how he has all the answers to fix everything Dekalb but none to fix Pine Lake? What's pine lake's "State of the Union"? Fiscally? The PD? Homeowner satisfaction with governance? Reputation? The next time he offers us a dissertation on what's wrong with DKPD and the County, ask him what's wrong with his City and see what he says other than what he already said on this forum when asked which was; "No comment, but in the interim, identify and out yourself by name on the forum before asking me any questions".

This man is a disgrace, can't be trusted and should NEVER be taken seriously.