Last Friday, what began as lively banter between two fellow Atlanta police officers turned into a full-fledged fist fight with one pulling his service weapon on the other. And the fight was over who could run the fastest. Officers Stephen Green and Joseph Tyler, veterans of the force for approximately five and four years, respectively, were both placed on administrative leave. Tyler subsequently resigned from the department.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, when the argument escalated into punches being thrown, other officers sprang into action and broke up the fight.
— Atlanta News 360 (@AtlantaNews360) March 25, 2016
Officer Lukasz Sajdak, Atlanta police spokesman, said that the fight took place at R. Thomas Restaurant in Buckhead, an upscale Atlanta community. A group of officers met there in the early morning hours at around 5 a.m. for a meal. Green and Tyler began to banter back and forth about who would be fastest in a foot race. For some reason, Tyler became upset and told Green, “I’m going to punch you in the face.” In fact, he said it twice. The argument moved outside where punches were thrown. Tyler allegedly pulled his service weapon, although no shots were fired at any time.
The police department has issued an official statement about the incident.
“The Atlanta Police Department takes these allegations very seriously, Chief [George] Turner has always prioritized officer accountability and professional behavior at all times. He will continue to take decisive action when necessary to hold his employees to the highest standard.”
— Buckhead Atlanta (@iBuckhead) March 23, 2016
Both officers were in uniform at the time that the fight took place.
The 11 Alive news team reported that both officers were members of the High Intensity Traffic Team.
The investigation for the case continues to be ongoing at this time.
— Aungelique Proctor (@aungeliquefox5) March 22, 2016
A quick search of Wikipedia reveals that APD has undergone a number of controversies over the last few years, not the least of which was the 2006 shooting of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston. Johnston shot at officers who entered her home on a no-knock warrant. Prosecutors alleged that the officers involved falsified information and documents after the fact to justify the warrant. Johnston died as a result of her injuries. In 2007, two of the officers pleaded guilty to manslaughter, criminal solicitation, violation of oath, and making false statements. One also entered a guilty plea to perjury.
Another controversy erupted in April 2011 when officers shot a 64-year-old Marine veteran. The veteran had fired several shots into the ground in front of a man who was trying to rob him, something that apparently had been a frequent occurrence in the past. Officers shot the vet, which caused him to lose one of his kidneys, and he was forced to do time in prison. Charges against him were later dropped, but by the time that he was released his home had been burned and looted by vandals who stole all of his possessions. The vet’s public defender contended that the officers never identified themselves when they arrived on the scene. The officers claimed that the vet pointed his rifle at them. The officers’ allegation was proven to be flawed as one of the 14 bullets that they fired at him entered into the side of his rifle.
In July 2011, sixteen officers were accused of improprieties surrounding a raid of the Atlanta Eagle Bar (which catered to a primarily gay customer base). The officers were accused of either lying and/or destroying evidence, and six of the officers were eventually fired from the force.
The Department currently has approximately 2,000 sworn officers who work to preserve the public peace and safety over six zones throughout the city.
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