Shortly after the Kathryn Johnston raid, Assistant Atlanta Police Chief Alan Dreher sprang into action to defend the actions of his police officers. Less than 24 hours after the raid, before there had been any real investigation, Dreher assured the public that there was nothing to see, here. The police had made a controlled buy at Johnston's home, Dreher said. They arrived at her house in a marked car, and came in in marked uniforms. Johnston shot at the officers, Dreher said. He later added that Johnston "should have recognized" the men breaking into her home as police officers. The cops returned fire only in self-defense, he said. Dreher even suggested that it was a police officer, not an informant, who bought the drugs from Johnston (as it turns out, no one did, the controlled buy was a lie).
Police defenders and critics of mine were quick to jump on Dreher's statements to show that I and others were "jumping the gun" for questioning the raid. After all, if the police said they did a buy, they did a buy. If the police say they announced, then they announced. If the police inferred that this 92-year-old woman was a dope dealing criminal who got what she deserved, well, then she sure as hell got what she deserved.
We now know that just about everything Dreher said was wrong. Dreher was presiding over a corrupt narcotics unit that routinely lied on search warrant affidavits, harassed and intimidated informants, covered up mistakes, and was subject to damaging arrest and raid quotas that encouraged shortcuts and circumventing the checks in place to ensure the protection of civil rights. It was Dreher who spoke too soon, propagating the lie told to him by his officers that Johnston was some sort of dope-slinging, gun-toting granny.
Dreher was acting as spokesman just after the raid because Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington was out of town. When Pennington returned, he quickly dispensed with Dreher's clannish, old-school, blue-wall-of-silence approach. Pennington was more forthcoming, and quickly announced he'd be conducting a thorough internal investigation. Within days, Pennington turned the investigation over to federal authorities. We now know that Johnston was innocent, that there was no drug buy, and that Johnston didn't even get off a shot. The cops were wounded by fragments from their own bullets. When they found out they had made a mistake, the narcotics team handcuffed Johnston and left her to bleed to death in her own home while they planted marijuana in her basement.
I bring all of this up because you'd think that Dreher would have been fired. At minimum, as APD's chief of operations, Dreher presided over an astonishingly rogue and unaccountable narcotics department that put who knows how many innocent people in jail, and subjected who knows how many people to mistaken and botched drug raids. He was either oblivious to all of the corruption, or he was complicit in it. Neither speaks well of him as a police manager, or as a leader. Dreher then helped disseminate an ass-covering version of the Kathryn Johnston raid that proved to be wrong in just about every way possible. Dreher's early press statements were not only rash and wrong-headed defenses of his poorly-trained and poorly-disciplined narcotics officers, in the process he also sullied the name of the innocent woman his officers had just killed.
But Dreher didn't lose his job. In fact, he's now one of four finalists for the police chief position in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He's up for a promotion. And this isn't even the first time. He was also a finalist for police chief in Charlotte, North Carolina.