Humbug Square - Securing the Homeland

‘Roadblock Mock’ is back on his old beat in Midtown

Col. Wayne Mock is pushing 60 but still runs six miles a day and weighs 160, just as he did in 1965 when he got out of the Air Force and went to work for the Atlanta Police Department. He keeps his hair in the same severe crew cut - “high and tight” as he calls it.

Mock and I got together the other day at the Flying Biscuit on Piedmont to talk about visions of planes falling from the sky and smoke rising from MARTA stations. We’d first met in 1993, when he was drawing up traffic plans for the Super Bowl and I was writing a traffic column for the AJC. He’s now public safety manager and homeland security coordinator for the Midtown Alliance.

That sounds like an awfully grand title for such a local job, but Mock knows the turf. He was a legendary hard-ass cop for three decades. He walked a beat on 10th Street and worked narcotics during the hippie heyday.

He’s best known for taking over the motorcycle squad and setting up roadblocks in the toughest parts of town, which earned him an enduring nickname: “Roadblock Mock.”

He retired from the APD in 1996, worked for the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, ran the ambassador program for Central Atlanta Progress and became the chief deputy in Hall County.

Mock was hired a few weeks ago to lead Midtown Blue, the Midtown Alliance’s security force. His new office is right in the heart of his old territory at 10th and Peachtree. Already, it’s covered with pictures of John Wayne, which accounts for his other nicknames - “John Wayne” Mock or, simply, “The Duke.”

Businesses in Midtown tax themselves to pay for the extra security provided by Midtown Blue, which employs 50 off-duty Atlanta officers. Crime in the district is down 19 percent, according to the latest figures.

The biggest thing on Mock’s plate is terror. Midtown already has been struck by terrorism twice. In 1958, The Temple, the city’s main Reform synagogue on Peachtree, was bombed, apparently by anti-Semitic Klan types who never were convicted.

In 1996, the Otherside Lounge, a lesbian bar on Piedmont, was bombed during the rash of attacks linked to alleged domestic terrorist Eric Rudolph. Rudolph was another right-wing hate nut, also suspected in two abortion clinic attacks and the Olympic Park bombing.

The fear now, of course, is that Midtown - as well as other parts of metro Atlanta - is ripe for a far bigger and more deadly attack by Islamic terrorists.

Before we got together, I urged Mock to read a disturbing article in the January/February edition of The Atlantic. “Ten Years Later,” by Richard A. Clarke, the former White House counterterrorism chief, looks back from 2011 at a fictionalized second wave of al-Qaeda attacks on America, beginning in the summer of 2005.

Two of the attacks Clarke describes take place in Atlanta - a mass transit strike on “Subway Day,” and the downing of a 767 airliner on “Stinger Day” with a shoulder-held rocket launcher stolen from an unsecured Iraqi weapons depot.

In the article, Clarke says President Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq was “ill-fated.”

Mock supports Bush on the war. “We’d better feel lucky as Americans that it’s being fought there,” he says. “But I tell you what: Do not feel that it can’t be fought here. I think eventually it will be fought in America, there is no doubt about it.”

Mock leads bothMidtown Blue and Midtown Green, the environmental force that works with the city to keep the neighborhood clean and street lights working. He sees all the functions as one piece. He’ll soon be putting up surveillance cameras throughout Midtown. Officers will watch monitors, looking for crime, traffic problems and potential homeland-security threats.

If a truck is parked on a sidewalk, for instance, Mock won’t consider it a nuisance. He’ll consider it a threat.

“In homeland security, that’s a priority call,” Mock says. “That’s an immediate call with an immediate response to try to figure out what the vehicle is doing, where it’s going, why it’s there and what is in the vehicle. Do we remove the vehicle? Absolutely.”

He’s working not only with Atlanta cops, but with police forces at MARTA, Georgia Tech, Norfolk Southern and the Federal Reserve.

Mock was keenly interested in a recent case in Charlotte, in which a Pakistani man was sentenced to six months on immigration charges and deported. The man had been videotaping buildings in downtown Atlanta and other Southern cities, but wasn’t charged with terrorism-related offenses.

“If I rode down the street as an Atlanta policeman in front of the Federal Reserve Bank and some guy was standing there with a video camera prior to 9/11, what would I do? Nothing. You know what I would think? The guy is a tourist,” Mock says. “Now, if I ride down the same street as an Atlanta police officer and the guy is filming, I’m stopping, I’m getting out, I’m frisking him.”

Islamic terrorists already have visited Atlanta. Prior to the 9/11 attack, two of the terrorists, Mohamed Atta and Marwan al Shehhi, rented a plane to fly with an instructor in Lawrenceville. They stayed briefly in Norcross and Decatur. Later, they returned and stayed in Stone Mountain. Another terrorist, Ziad Jarrah, also stayed in Decatur.

“We have found no explanation for these travels,” said the 9/11 Commission report.

That scares me.

I’m also concernedabout privatizing law enforcement. Gerry Weber, the Georgia ACLU’s legal director, shares that concern. He’s been involved in two cases in which off-duty officers allegedly took actions in conflict with public duties. Will the people who hired the cops be treated differently from the people who didn’t hire them? And in an emergency will some people get more protection?Another issue for civil libertarians is the cameras. Weber’s worried about who they’ll be pointed at and how long tapes will be kept.

I don’t want cops looking at me as I drive through Midtown singing along with The Best of the Pixies. But I understand the need to have surveillance. Midtown is full of potential targets, including three MARTA stations, the Federal Reserve Bank and Georgia Tech.

Besides, I’ve known Wayne Mock a long time. I’m actually grateful to have a vigilant, and ethical, hard-ass in charge of civil defense in a part of town that could be targeted.

Midtown is in better shape than the rest of the country. The Midtown Alliance is prosperous enough to pay for the extra level of security. The rest of us have to make do with an understaffed Atlanta police force, budget-ravaged public agencies and a Swiss cheese homeland security plan.

We get all this tough talk from Washington about homeland security. Meanwhile, President Bush is proposing $800 million in cuts for, of all places, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among those are substantial cuts in bioterrorism programs.

It’s crazy to cut back on protection from biological attacks at a time when every sentient person understands that terrorism will return to American soil and, quite possibly, to Atlanta.

Let’s not forget that the CDC is based outside Decatur. If I were a betting man, I’d wager that’s what drew Mohamed Atta and friends there. Will Clifton Corridor need to hire their own cops, too?

Senior Editor Doug Monroe, a fifth-generation Atlantan, is a native of Midtown. You can reach him at