Drug Policy

More Kathryn Johnston Fallout in Atlanta

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Another nacotics cop pleads guilty to covering up botched drug raids:

A 23-year Atlanta Police Department veteran pleaded guilty on Monday to conspiring to violate civil rights by searching a private residence without a warrant, federal prosecutors said.

Wilbert Stallings, 44, of Conyers, a sergeant in the department's narcotics unit, faces up to 10 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.

[…] Prosecutors said that in October 2005, Stallings led a narcotics team executing a search warrant at an apartment on Dill Road in Atlanta.

Also on the team was Gregg Junnier, one of two narcotics officers who have pleaded guilty to charges in Johnston's death. Junnier had obtained the warrant for one apartment in the 2005 incident, prosecutors said. The team found some marijuana behind the apartment but not inside, they said. Stallings and Junnier then decided to search an adjoining apartment but no one was home and they found nothing inside.

Stallings told the team to leave the apartment and shut the door so it would appear there had been a break-in, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors argued the the incident was part of a pattern of conduct by Stallings and his team, which included misrepresenting unregistered drug informants as registered ones in order to secure warrants.

Seems Atlanta PD's narcotics division went about breaking down doors whenever its officers damned-well pleased.

It's good that all of this is coming out. But other cities should take a lesson, and not wait for someone to be killed before looking at their own narcotics divisions, and the way warrants are served. For example, it's troubling that the city of Houston doesn't even track the number of times its narcotics officers mistakenly raid the wrong house. Had Atlanta's department required its officers to track the number of times they raided a house in which no drugs turned up (one of the recommendations I make in my Overkill paper), they may have been clued in that something was wrong well before the raid on Kathyrn Johnston's home.

There's no reason why large cities shouldn't keep a database that tracks every search warrant from the time it's requested through its execution. That database should be available not only to the police, but also to judges, who could consult it to see if a particular officer or unit has a history of taking shortcuts or of executing fruitless raids. It should also be subject to open records requests. I don't mind keeping the names of informants secret, but they should at least be assigned identifying numbers, so we can see if the same informant has a history of giving bad information, and if police are continuing to use that informant, anyway.

It was something of a fluke that all of this has come out about Atlanta. As we've seen in other cities where a botched raid has inspired further investigation, these sorts of shortcuts in the investigations leading up to home-breaching drug raids are disturbingly common.