City of Atlanta police officers focusing on high-crime areas were pressured to meet unconstitutional arrest quotas and were promised rewards like pizza or shorter work days if they exceeded their numbers, according to court filings by two ex-officers involved in a misconduct lawsuit.
The department has long denied having arrest quotas, though it has said officers are expected to meet “performance goals.” Still, critics have blamed quotas for playing a role in the 2006 death of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston, shot dead in her living room during a botched drug raid, as well as in other cases that spawned lawsuits.
Last week, two former officers being sued over a public strip search filed affidavits in which they said pulling down the pants of men in hopes of finding drugs was necessary to meet their quota of daily arrests.
They said they were reminded before each shift that they had arrest quotas even though federal courts have said officers must have an “articuable” reason or “probable cause” for any kind of search and that public strip searches are unconstitutional.
In a 2012 lawsuit, Ricky Sampson said he was stopped by the five members of the now-disbanded Red Dog unit in late 2008 as they trolled the West End area looking for drug crimes. Sampson says the officers pulled down his boxers and inspected his buttocks and genitals in front of bystanders including his girlfriend. He said they found no drugs and did not arrest him.
“My supervisors and commanding officers encouraged these searches in more than one way,” former officer Cayenne Mayes said in his affidavit. “They told us to ‘always check the underwear,’ … making very clear that Red Dog teams had to meet arrest quotas.”
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