ATLANTA - Attorneys representing a woman who is suing the Atlanta Police Department over a mistaken-identity arrest say they have uncovered evidence of a dangerous quota system.
In testimony, APD Chief George Turner said, “We’re down in crime 16 percent the last three years. I think that we’re arresting the right people.”
Attorney Ashleigh Merchant said she disagrees. She is convinced APD is using a quota system, and she thinks it could tempt an officer to arrest or charge a citizen when it wouldn’t happen otherwise.
Merchant’s evidence is quotes from officers’ sworn statements and allegations of arrest quotas for Atlanta police officers.
“The dangers are they might arrest people who aren’t the right person, or possibly overcharge people,” Merchant said.
Merchant and her husband represent Teresa Culpepper, who said she was mistakenly arrested. While investigating the arrest, Merchant said one officer reported that supervisors bluntly said “you need to bring in a body a week,” meaning at least one arrest each week.
Merchant said another officer suggested that, at least in Zone 1, a list hung in the roll call room identified officers who had not been able to keep their arrest numbers up.
“There’s no greater pressure, I would imagine, than having your family, so to speak, see that you’re not pulling your weight,” attorney John Merchant said.
Records show that Turner testified that the “body a week” quota was not true.
“There’s so many officers that don’t make that body a week and they are still police officers and they’re not disciplined,” Turner said.
Turner suggested that everyone’s name goes on the board, not just for arrests, but overall performance.
APD declined an on-camera interview with Channel 2’s Mark Winne, instead responding with an emailed statement.
“The Atlanta Police Department does not have arrest quotas,” the email said.
“They won’t use the term ‘quota.’ They call it ‘measuring enforcement activity,’” Ashleigh Merchant said.
The Merchants said they have documents suggesting that, at least in 2011 when their client was arrested, officers were evaluated on a point system covering a variety of patrol activities, but with a felony arrest worth the most points.
Kliff Grimes with the International Brotherhood of Police Officers said, consistent with testimony, pressure to meet numbers has eased since Turner has been chief.
“I don’t think Chief Turner would endorse quotas. I think he is trying more to decrease the crime in the city,” Grimes said.
Grimes said he is concerned that APD’s focus on numbers may lead some officers to think there is a quota.
Attorney Mark Bullman is handling another APD-related case. He said innocent citizens should fear quotas.
“Three Red Dog officers have stated unequivocally that there was a very tight quota system that was in operation the entire time,” Bullman said.
Grimes said he believes the Red Dog squad, a narcotics unit disbanded by Turner in 2011 amid a variety of allegations, was an exception.
“The culture has not changed. The methodology within the police department has not changed,” Bullman said.
Bullman acknowledged one of the three officers who said there was an arrest quota was fired over allegations that he was not truthful, not over failure to meet quotas.
The officer provided a recent sworn statement from that officer suggesting officers were even encouraged to exceed quotas with the promise of pizza and movies at headquarters on occasion.
Turner suggested in testimony that there have been quota allegations for all of the 30 years he has been affiliated with APD.