“Restoring trust and confidence as well as healing the communities we serve are paramount in our efforts to rebuild a positive relationship with citizens of Atlanta,” the department said in a statement.
Atlanta police also will continue to review a report submitted by the FBI, which investigated the force after Kathryn Johnston’s shooting, “and take the appropriate action where necessary,” the department said.
The department statement came a day after a federal judge sent three fallen cops to prison for their roles in the raid on Johnston’s Neal Street home.
The judge said performance quotas influenced the officers’ behavior.
“It is my fervent hope the Atlanta Police Department will take to heart what has happened here,” U.S. District Judge Julie Carnes said. After conducting an emotional two-day hearing, Carnes sentenced former officers Gregg Junnier, Jason R. Smith and Arthur Bruce Tesler to between five and 10 years in prison.
At the hearing, Tesler’s lawyer provided examples of other Atlanta police officers who broke the rules or violated the law and said a disturbing culture of misconduct pervades the force.
Following the sentencings, state Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), who represents Johnston’s neighborhood, called on Atlanta police to release the FBI report. Federal prosecutors have said it contains recommendations that could lead to some officers being disciplined, fired or indicted on state charges.
“The public ought to know what that report says,” Fort said.
Carnes imposed the most severe sentence — 10 years — on Smith, 36, who obtained the illegal, no-knock search warrant allowing officers to batter down Johnston’s door.
A terrified Johnston, thinking she was victimized by a home invasion, fired a warning shot through the door. Narcotics officers responded with a hail of gunfire, killing her.
Carnes sentenced Junnier, 42, to six years in prison. Junnier, the most experienced officer, was the first to cross the “blue line” — the unspoken code of silence among police — and divulge to the FBI what really happened at Neal Street and how the officers concocted a sophisticated coverup.
For Junnier’s cooperation, Carnes cut his time from the 10 years recommended by sentencing guidelines.
The judge gave the biggest break to Tesler, saying prosecutors’ recommendation of a 10- to 14-year term was “unduly harsh” because, overall, he played a “minor role.” She sentenced Tesler, 42, to five years in prison.
There is no parole in the federal system, but inmates can carve 15 percent off their time with good behavior. Junnier and Smith are to be sentenced March 5 in Fulton County on state charges, including voluntary manslaughter. Those sentences are to run concurrently with the federal time.
Tesler’s lawyer, Bill McKenney, told Carnes his client was being made “a sacrificial lamb and a scapegoat.” A former military man and a rookie on the squad, Tesler followed orders — including adhering to the script Smith provided for a cover story, the lawyer said.
After the shooting, Smith planted marijuana in Johnston’s home to make it look like a drug house.
In court, McKenney divulged details of an FBI report forwarded to Atlanta Police that shows how other officers broke rules.
McKenney said the FBI found that at least two other officers took “handoffs” from Junnier.
A “handoff” occurs when one officer collects information on a drug case and passes it on to another officer, who then falsely swears on a search warrant affidavit as if he or she had firsthand information about it.
Another officer, McKenney said, split a rock of crack cocaine seized in one case and used it for another case. One officer, he said, padded expense vouchers and used the cash to buy tinted windows for surveillance cars.
The FBI also found performance quotas of nine arrests and two search warrants a month expected of officers, McKenney said. Officers who failed to meet their quotas risked being transferred, he said.
This helped explain, Carnes said, why Smith, Junnier and Tesler — devoted family men and who gave selflessly to the communities — began cutting corners through lies.
“The pressures brought to bear” by the quotas had an impact on Smith, Junnier and Tesler, as well as other officers, Carnes said.
Following the sentencing, U.S. Attorney David Nahmias noted the Johnston tragedy prompted Atlanta Police to require new training and to revamp the narcotics unit. The prison terms also send a strong message to other officers who may think the “ends justify the means” by taking shortcuts or telling lies, he said.
Carnes also ordered all three former officers to reimburse Johnston’s estate the $8,180 it cost to bury her