Thursday, May 3, 2007

Up against the wall redneck mother

We do two things exceptionally well in Atlanta. Praise ourselves and embarrass ourselves. We haven't had a lot to praise of late.

There was a time when the opinion about this city in the national consciousness was that it is a progressive city with jobs and hope and prosperity, a place where a person can redefine themselves and make a good, decent, honest living. Now the opinion is tainted by the police force murdering an elderly woman and planting pot at the scene to hide their crime. Other longstanding "image" issues about the police force have been coming to the forefront of late.

I'm not going to bash the police simply because it's an easy thing to do or a rebellious act or even because its the type of thing that an outsider simply does. But we do have a major problem with the quality of our law enforcement in this city and it's been festering for a long time. It would be easy to dismiss this as just a handful of bad cops, every police force has them, and it would be easy to minimize the problems by comparing them to the historic problems that Philadelphia and Chicago had in the 60's and 70's.

I'll admit that I have a great deal of respect and admiration for our current Mayor. She has taken on the financial and operational problems left behind by her predecessors and has begun the process of getting the ship back on course. Her biggest mistake however, was hiring Chief Pennington. I've been to New Orleans many times in my life. I *know* how rough that city is and how the cops have a certain reputation there. When I first heard that the Police Chief from New Orleans was in the running for the job all I could think was that this was a bad idea.

What are we dealing with now? Other than the horrible situation that the police created when they shot and killed poor Kathryn Johnson we still have the issue of suspicious killings in several other cases. Most notably the killing of Jamal Smith in Buckhead. Not to mention the fact that the Dekalb police seem to have a shoot first ask questions later attitude when it comes to criminals, I mean citizens. Now, Creative Loafing's John Sugg has written about problems within the department related to several notable cases of lying by police officials and ethics violations.

I know there are rotten eggs in any organization, especially large organizations where power is concentrated. But to be honest I can hardly believe or trust what is said down on Ponce. City Hall East needs to stop circling the wagons and boot the rotten eggs, otherwise we are going to wind up with a scandal that would make Frank Rizzo blush. If the leadership in this city doesn't get on the ball and make some hard choices we are going to look as bad as Dekalb County did when Derwin Brown was assassinated. Do we really want that to happen?

1 comment:

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