The Atlanta Police Department has announced a series of policy changes in the wake of a botched November drug raid that left a 92-year-old woman dead and three undercover officers wounded. According to Chief Richard Pennington, the changes are necessary to protect both citizens and officers in cases where police are relying on informants.
In the November raid in which Kathryn Johnston was shot and killed after opening fire on undercover officers breaking down her door, police said a confidential informant led them to the home. The man police named as the informant has since denied leading them there and has said police asked him to lie about it after the raid occurred.
Fulton County prosecutors have said they will pursue murder indictments against the officers involved. The FBI is also investigating.
"I think a lot of times, some of these things could have been avoided" had the new reforms been in place, Pennington told a downtown press conference Tuesday.
While the federal investigation continues, Pennington said the department would not wait to implement reforms. "We're going to wait for the FBI investigation, but I thought it was incumbent on us to see what we can do to ensure this is not going to happen again," he said.
Pennington said the department would nearly double the size of its narcotics unit, from 16 to 30 officers, and will rotate them off the drug squad every few years to prevent complacency. [Editor: They're increasing the size of the unit after they killed a 92-year old woman?!?!? Doubling it?!?!?!?!?!?] The department will also drug test all 1,800 of its officers.
More to the point, Pennington announced that all applications for "no-knock" warrants, like that obtained in the Johnston case, must now be approved by officers with the rank of major or higher. Applications for regular search warrants must now be approved by an officer with the rank of lieutenant or higher. Previously, lower ranking officers could approve "no-knock" warrants and drug raids.
Also, police supervisors must now witness any payments to confidential informants, and informants must now undergo "integrity checks" to ensure their truthfulness. Police must now photograph informants as they enter a drug location to make a buy, Pennington added.