ATLANTA - Investigators are calling it the biggest corruption case they've seen in the Atlanta area in 20 years.
Ten current and former law enforcement officers across several metro Atlanta agencies have been charged in an undercover police corruption investigation.
Federal agents from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives made most of the arrests Tuesday morning. Channel 2 Action News crews were at the FBI Atlanta office as several suspects were taken into custody. They are accused of taking thousands of dollars in payoffs to drug dealers.
Seven of the 10 officers arrested have posted bond. The final three are expected to head to court Friday.
According to the criminal complaint, some transactions happened in a barbershop in a busy shopping center.
Channel 2's Rachel Stockman went to the Forest Park Police Department Wednesday where two of the officers involved worked.
They are now facing federal charges.
According to a criminal complaint, they worked together on a number of deals to provide protection to the drug dealers.
Stockman obtained six department-issued photographs after 10 current and former officers were arrested on federal corruption charges.
They look very different in uniform, than they did when Channel 2's cameras exclusively captured video of officer after officer in handcuffs being brought into federal custody.
According to a criminal complaint, as many as six of the deals were arranged at the Faith Barber Shop on Caroline Street in southeast Atlanta.
Stockman showed the workers at the shop a picture of veteran Atlanta police officer Kelvin D. Allen.
"Have you seen him here before?" Stockman asked shop owner Michael Odum.
"Yes," he replied.
"Do you remember what he is like," Stockman asked.
"He used to patrol the area of here, that is all I know about him," Odum answered.
MARTA police officer Marquez Holmes is also accused of arranging drug deals at that same barber shop.
According to the complaint, at one point DeKalb County police Officer Dennis Duren was willing to use his patrol vehicle to protect a drug transaction but that the cost would be $3,000 instead of the originally agreed-upon price of $2,200.
Stockman tried to track down many of the officers Wednesday, but so far hasn't been able to get their responses.
Half of officers involved from DeKalb County
Five of the 10 officers arrested in the corruption case came from one metro county.
Federal investigators arrested two DeKalb County police officers, two former DeKalb County sheriff deputies and a Stone Mountain officer in the sting.
Channel 2's Ryan Young spent the day asking what the department leaders are doing in the aftermath.
officials told Young the officers would pass backpacks from car to car to do the deals in public parking lots.
"Sometimes they go astray, and when that happens we clean house," DeKalb County Sheriff Thomas Brown told Young.
Brown said he's warned his deputies about stepping on the wrong side of the law, but said there's an important fact about the corruption arrest made by the federal agents.
"These two officers have been away from our family at least three years," Brown said.
The longtime sheriff told Young he will review each part of this investigation once it's over.
"Moving forward, we need to have the checks and balances in place, to make sure all uniforms are collected or if they have badges then they should only have one as well," Brown said.
Two DeKalb police officers, Dennis Duren and Dorian Williams, were also arrested by federal authorities. Both were patrol officers.
Interim Police Chief Lisa Gassner released a statement saying, "It is incomprehensible why these officers chose to aid and abet these criminals when they are sworn to protect our community from such offenders. These officers do not reflect the character of the hundreds of DeKalb County police officers that wear the badge."
"Close to 50,000 officers throughout the state of Georgia, eight were the actively involved. Those are really small numbers," Brown said.
Investigators said Officer Dorian Williams used his police car, even off-duty, to protect some drug deals.
In one line of the complaint, investigators note he wanted to use high school parking lots because no one would raise questions about what was in the backpacks used to make money and drug drops.
Some officers known by POST
Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne dug into the past of several of the officers involved. Officials with
Peace Officer Standards and Training said they were familiar with some of them.
"As far as a willful disregard for the
law, it would be at the top of the list," POST Executive Director Ken Vance told Winne.
"Worst police scandal in your administration?" Winne asked him.
"Since I've been here? Yes, sir. Absolutely," Vance said.
Vance said the allegations against the officers get him stirred up.
"Your stomach starts rolling; you get mad. How can somebody do this under the color of law?" Vance said.
He said the allegations have also moved POST to action.
"No later than the first of the week, these officers will be sent letters suspending their certification," Vance told Winne.
Forest Park Sgt. Andrew Monroe said by phone that he's innocent. Vance confirms some of the officers are no strangers to POST.
MARTA policeOfficer Marquez Holmes' certification had been put on 24 months' probation in 2010.
Records indicate he was arrested for DUI and open alcoholic beverage in 2009. A judge ruled certain evidence would be suppressed, and the case
was, in effect, dropped.
Vance said former DeKalb jail
Officer Monett McLaurin has an open POST case, but previously, his certification had been put on probation for 24 months in 2007.
He said former DeKalb jail
Officer Chase Valentine's certification is on 36-month probation, and he's been disciplined over the years for allegations including neglect of duty, conduct unbecoming and insubordination.
Vance said Atlanta police Officer Kelvin Allen had previously been investigated by POST, but no action against him was taken.
Records indicate he drove a police car outside city jurisdiction in 1996 and suggest a domestic incident, but all charges were dismissed.
Gang activity an increasing problem
According to the criminal complaints, at least four current and former officers are accused of doing favors for gang members.
DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James told Channel 2's Craig Lucie gangs are a major problem in the county.
"(I was) very, very, very disappointed and troubled when I heard about it," James said.
James could not speak directly about Tuesday's arrests of 10 officers, since it's a federal case.
But investigators said a few of the officers were willing to kill to protect their gang bosses and they received payments ranging from $700 to $7,000.
James said that's what the infiltration comes down to.
"Unfortunately if crime goes unchecked, crime does pay. (It's a ) very lucrative field as long as law enforcement doesn't do its job. So they entice law enforcement with money and these resources," James said.
But detectives said to get into the gangs it's not about money, its initiation.
James is currently seeking the death penalty for three men who police said beat and killed 46-year-old Robert Ross to be initiated into the Bloods gang.
"I've got murders that involve Bloods. I've got murders that involve Crips. I've got murders involving Latin gangs," James said.
According to the most recent national gang threat assessment by the FBI, there are more than 33,000 gangs in the United States and gang membership increased most significantly in the Northeast and Southeast
regions, and the numbers are rapidly growing.
"Eleven years later, we've gone from a few smaller gangs, hybrid gangs, Bloods to Crips, they're all here operating in DeKalb and I've got a case load to prove it," James said.
While gang members will hide their faces, they won't hide their presence even in social media.
DeKalb County is pushing for a gang database to help them work with other law enforcement agencies so they can identify a case as organized crime or not, to put a stop to the groups that are sending other gangs messages.