Is APD’s Red Dog Unit out of control?

Three officers who participated in the Eagle raid are charged with another instance of alleged misconduct


The Atlanta Police Department’s Red Dog Unit gained notoriety following the unconscionable — and,
according to a federal court ruling, unlawful — raid of the Atlanta Eagle in Midtown.

Now, according to police, three officers who participated in the raid have been put on administrative duty following another instance of alleged misconduct.

Two men have alleged that during a traffic stop, officers with the Red Dog Unit humiliated and groped them whilst searching for illegal drugs. Brian Kidd says he was forced to pull down his pants on the side of the road; his roommate, Shawn Venegas, claims he was cavity searched — all in public and all in broad daylight.

No drugs were found on either of the men.

APD spokesman Carlos Campos released the following statement, a day before Kidd and Venegas’ attorneys planned on filing their lawsuit:
“The Atlanta Police Department is in the process of concluding the internal investigation into this matter. There is evidence to suggest that some of the officers’ actions during this traffic stop were inappropriate. As a result, Chief Turner intends to move swiftly to discipline some of the officers with actions — up to, and including, dismissal. The Atlanta Police Department expects its officers to be truthful at all times, to follow all policies and procedures and to follow all of the local, state and federal laws they are sworn to uphold. Failure to do so will not be tolerated.”

According to the Atlanta Police Department’s website, the Red Dog Unit is tasked with providing “aggressive police presence in areas that have high incidence of street drug sales, use and drug-related crimes.”

And they have been “aggressive.” In addition to the Eagle Raid and this most recent incident, Atlanta’s Citizen Review Board has fielded other complaints about the Red Dog Unit’s conduct, for instance, a 27-year-old man’s claim that he was improperly searched by members of the unit. He says that on March 20, 2010, Red Dog officers charged him outside a Southwest Atlanta eatery and — similarly — searched him by pulling down his pants and underwear in broad daylight. The board found that the stop was unlawful and had been improperly documented by the officers, but Chief George Turner rejected that finding.

Of what might be considered a pattern of misconduct, attorney Dan Grossman — who represented the plaintiffs in the Eagle case and is acting as co-counsel on this new lawsuit — said, “I think its fair to say there’s a surprising number of complaints that all have the Red Dog Unit in common. It’s more than you would expect statistically. There are a lot of police officers in Atlanta, so it’s unlikely you’d have so many complaints associated with such a tiny unit of people.”

APD currently has a total of 1,774 sworn officers. The Red Dog Unit is made up of 29.