Atlanta police powers revoked, convictions could be overturned - CBS46 News

Atlanta police powers revoked, convictions could be overturned

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ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA) -

CBS Atlanta News has learned a major mistake within the Atlanta Police Department could set countless violent criminals free. Hundreds of officers' certifications have lapsed and the arrests they've made could be dismissed.

Chief Investigative Reporter Wendy Saltzman has learned about 50 officers' arrest powers were pulled as a result of the training lapses. According to defense attorneys, that could call into question the legality of arrests made by these officers, warrants they've served and the future of criminals who are perhaps illegally locked up behind bars.

"What if one of these officers arrested someone for murder, a murder they did not witness?" Saltzman asked defense attorney Dan Grossman.

"It would be an unauthorized arrest," Grossman said.

According to sources close to the city's investigation, years of arrests by officers in the police department may be illegal because the officers who made them lacked the proper certification and arrest powers.

"Certain people who should perhaps be in prison might not be because of the Atlanta Police Department's lack of training," Grossman said.

Grossman sued the Atlanta police following an illegal raid at the Atlanta Eagle, involving officers who were later also found not to have been properly trained.

"There is no excuse to have officers who are not trained. That is a danger to the citizens and it is a danger to police officers," he said.

The city's audit has found mistakes in the certification of more than 200 officers. The lapses extend as far back as 1990, and confessions and evidence collected by those uncertified officers over the last 20 years could be thrown out.

"Unfortunately if there is a case where the officer who made the arrest was not lawfully authorized to do so, you are looking at the case being overturned if there was a conviction," former prosecutor Holly Hughes said.

Hughes, a former Fulton County prosecutor, said the biggest risk involves violent felony crimes.

"When you are talking about your seven deadlies which are going to be your murders, your rapes, your aggravated sodomy, your armed robberies, your arsons, that is where you are going to get in trouble because a lot of times those are cases that are made on arrest warrants," she said.

"The courts are very clear if a non-certified officer obtains a search warrant that evidence is thrown out of court. It is a real public safety problem," Grossman added.

Monday night, an Atlanta Police spokesman issued a statement, saying "the APD's Training Academy has started an exhaustive audit of all sworn officers' training records."

In the statement, Atlanta Police Public Affairs Manager Carlos Campos said, "The APD continuously works to ensure that all of its officers comply with state and internal training mandates."

The statement went on to say "As part of that process  As of today, more than 1,100 of the department's 1,800 officers' records have been reviewed, and the training Academy anticipates completing their audit in mid-September.  As a result of the Training Academy audit, 51 officers were found to need supplemental Police Officers Standards and Training (POST) training for certification.  Of that number, 26 were placed on administrative duty, 19 of the 26 officers placed on administrative duty were later re-certified and returned to active duty, and 7 of the 26 officers are awaiting re-certification.  The Training Academy is working now on corrective action for the remaining 25."

The Atlanta Police Department promised to sit down with CBS Atlanta News for an interview but then backed out at the last minute.

The department in the midst of their own audit to determine the exact number of officers who were operating illegally and what impact that is going to have on cases against the criminals they have arrested.

"You are looking at a huge trap door opening up where all of these defendants who were convicted and this officer was involved in their case, can now file an appeal. You are going to see writes, saying hey, we were imprisoned improperly," Hughes said.

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