By John Schaffner
Speaking like the permanent Atlanta Police chief he hopes to soon become, Interim Chief George Turner told the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods he hopes to have a plan to reorganize the city’s police zones ready for Atlanta City Council review within 30 days.
Turner said that Zone 2, the police zone that includes all of Buckhead, is certainly one of the largest geographically in the city and needs additional beats, if it is not split up into smaller zones. Zone 2 encompasses more than 40 square miles.
He reported at the BCN’s June 10 meeting that all of the zones are being reviewed and a plan for reorganization of the zones and police beats is eminent.
Speaking at his 76th community meeting since he was appointed interim chief by Mayor Kasim Reed in December, Turner touched on a number of subjects including the Citizen Review Board, which has been controversial with police over the past couple of years.
Turner said he is not opposed to having a Citizen Review Board that evaluates police actions in questionable situations. However, he does not believe Atlanta’s Citizen Review Board has sufficient resources to act as an investigative body.
Turner explained that Citizen Review Boards are in place in cities all across the country. He said there are two models for such boards: an investigation model and an audit model. He said Atlanta’s board originally was set up along the lines of an audit model, where the body reviews the internal investigation done by the police department and rules on whether or not the investigation seems to have been conducted fairly and reached the proper conclusion.
Turner said, however, that the recent direction of the Atlanta board, supported by a recent court ruling, has turned more towards being an investigative body. He does not believe it is properly equipped to perform those duties.
Turner, who started on the Atlanta police force in 1981, said “I want to be the chief of police for the next several years.” The city, he said, “needs to stem the tide of attrition” in the police force, which he said was 10 percent last year. He said it costs the city more than $100,000 to hire and train a new police officer.
“It is a flawed process if we lose that officer within two years,” the interim chief said. He said officers start at $39,000 to $41,000 per year and top out at $56,000. He said the department has 176 recruits in different levels of training right now. Fifty-five of those “are on the street riding with senior officers.”
Turner said the city has been “behind the eight ball” when it comes to technology in the police department, including a lack of technology to perform predictive analysis of crimes. He explained that no police vehicles have locators on them so that their positions can be determined in times of crisis.
However, he said the department is in a better position now of getting the technology needed because of the help of the Atlanta Police Foundation.
Asked about gang problems in the city, the man who said he started the gang unit in the Atlanta Police Department, responded that he does not believe the city has” traditional” gangs. He said police are tracking about 35 gangs with about 500 members.
“We do have upstarts in Hispanic gangs,” which he defined as at least two or three people “who work together in a criminal enterprise.”
He also reported that Atlanta police have arrested “300 people for burglary and those people have been arrested 2,000 times.”