Police handling of state rep warrant under scrutiny

by: Jodie Fleischer Updated:

Rep. Roberta Abdul-Salaam turned herself in at the Forest Park Police Department on June 19, three days after a Riverdale officer told her she was wanted on charges of failing to appear in court in May.
RIVERDALE, Ga. —

Channel 2 Action News has learned a state legislator turned herself in after finding out there was a warrant for her arrest. But now, some are questioning the way police handled her case.

The scrutiny came about because the police officer who told state Rep. Roberta Abdul-Salaam about her warrant didn't take her to jail.
           
Abdul-Salaam turned herself in at the Forest Park Police Department on June 19, three days after a Riverdale officer told her she was wanted on charges of failing to appear in court in May.
           
"There is no issue. I'm the same as everybody else I represent. So you forget a date, so you get dates wrong," Abdul-Salaam told Channel 2 investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer.
           
After three days of unanswered phone calls, Fleischer tracked the legislator down outside a candidate forum in Clayton County, where she's running to be County Commission Chairman.
           
When Fleischer asked the legislator if she knew she was driving on a suspended license, Abdul-Salaam replied, "Oh hell no, oh hell no. From 2009, how would I know that?"
           
"So, you didn't know you had a suspended license, and you didn't know when your court date was?” Fleischer asked.
           
"I knew in my head it was July 2," replied Abdul-Salaam.
           
The correct court date, May 2, was printed on the tickets she received in April for speeding and driving with a suspended license. It was also noted on the ticket, that the license suspension was the result of missing another court date in 2009.
           
Abdul-Salaam said she didn't know about the most recent warrant until contacting Riverdale police June 16 to complain about missing campaign signs. She had placed them at a Riverdale doctor's office earlier that day and when she returned, they were gone. When the responding officer ran her license, he found the warrant.
           
Fleischer asked Forest Park Police Chief Dwayne Hobbs what the normal procedure would be in that instance.
           
"Normal procedure is the person would be arrested," replied Hobbs.
           
But that did not happen in Abdul-Salaam's case.
           
The officer wrote in his report that he told her to “contact Forest Park” and “make arrangements to take care of the warrant, per Chief Patterson,” who refused Fleischer's repeated requests for an on-camera interview. 
           
Forest Park's Police Chief Dwayne Hobbs said he couldn't say whether Riverdale gave Abdul-Salaam special treatment.
           
"Well I don't know the circumstances that Riverdale encountered," said Hobbs. But he added, "Sometimes when people aren't a flight risk, and are known in the community, concessions are made."
           
By phone, Riverdale Police Chief Samuel Patterson denied any special treatment, and said the report was incorrect. He said the real reason his officer didn't take Abdul-Salaam to jail was that she actually lives one house outside of Riverdale's city limits, so he didn't have jurisdiction. The officer still took the report about her missing signs.
           
Abdul-Salaam also made headlines in 2009 when a Channel 2 investigation revealed several tax liens filed against her.
           
Friday, Georgia's Department of Revenue confirmed Abdul-Salaam owes the state $15336.50 in back taxes.
          
She also has a federal tax lien for $6423.86.
             
She said those were mistakes on the part of the State of Georgia and the Internal Revenue Service.
           
Abdul-Salaam also has an open case with the State Ethics Commission for failing to turn in several years of required financial disclosure paperwork. She told Fleischer it had all been resolved.
           
But on Friday, the commission confirmed the case is still pending, along with a financial hardship application, an effort to avoid $3825 in fines and penalties.
           
Abdul-Salaam said none of that would affect her ability to run Clayton County.