Butler Kahn recently obtain an order requiring the City of Atlanta to produce evidence showing widespread police misconduct in a police brutality case.
Facts of the Case
On April 5, 2019, two APD officers began following our client in an un-marked police car with no sirens or police markings that would allow a citizen to know it was a police car. Our client saw he was being followed and pulled into a private driveway. One officer approached our client’s car with his pistol drawn and aimed at our client’s face. After forcibly removing our client from the car, the other police officer sprinted out of nowhere and tackled our client. The tackle broke our client’s ankle in three places. The police officers made our client walk around on his broken ankle three times, as he cried out in pain. The officers made fun of our client and called him names. Instead of calling an ambulance, they shoved him in the back of a prisoner transport van. The entire interaction – from tackle through torture – was caught on body camera footage. None of the officers were punished for using excessive force.
Records Showing Widespread Misconduct
The records in this case showed that none of the defendants were punished for using excessive force on our client. Even more disturbing though, the defendant who tackled our client had been investigated for using excessive force several times. Each time, an independent investigatory body found the officer had violated the APD standard operating procedures, but his supervisor reversed the finding. The City swept the officer’s misconduct under the rug. The records also showed that the defendant police officers received glowing performance evaluation during the period they attacked our client. Based on these instances, we asked the City to produce other similar instances showing a supervisor reversing a finding of excessive force or a bad officer receiving a good review.
The City refused to produce any documents. The City claimed that our requests weren’t relevant and were overly broad. The City accused us of going on a “fishing expedition” even though the requests were based on evidence. We had no choice but to file a motion to compel, asking the Court to force the City to provide this critical evidence.
The Court’s Ruling
The District Court refused to accept the City of Atlanta’s arguments. Instead, the Court found that Plaintiff’s requests were relevant to proving that the City of Atlanta has a widespread practice of failing to adequately discipline its police officers who use excessive force. Specifically, the Court found that:
- “instances in which an APD supervisor reverses an OPS finding of excessive force
are relevant to Plaintiff’s claim that the City has a widespread practice of failing to
discipline police officers.”
- “instances in which ACRB finds excessive force, but OPS does not, are relevant to Plaintiff’s claim that the City has a widespread practice of failing to discipline police officers.”
- “performance evaluations of police officers who have been found to have used excessive force are relevant to Plaintiff’s claim that the City has a widespread practice of failing to discipline police officers.”
- “internal APD grievances where an officer experienced retaliation for reporting the use of excessive force are relevant to Plaintiff’s claim that the City has a widespread practice of failing to discipline police officers.”
These types of records are relevant in every case against the City of Atlanta alleging the widespread failure to discipline. Plaintiffs in civil rights cases alleging excessive force should request these documents in every case.
A copy of the Court’s Order is available online here.
Before and After the Hearing