No Knock and No Crack, Pt. 2
By Jordan Smith,
12:33PM, Wed. Apr. 4, 2007
Last week, Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington announced new controls over narco cops and so-called no-knock raids, policy changes prompted by the police shooting death last year of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston inside her home. Among the “new” policies, the Atlanta PD will adopt a requirement that “top supervisors” – that is, officers with a rank of major or above – sign off on all narco operations and all applications for no-knock warrants, will mandate that supervisors must witness payments to confidential informants, and will require all narco investigators to undergo additional training. (Among the more questionable policy changes is a move to increase the number of APD narco officers from 16 to 30, and to reassign officers every few years to “prevent complacency.” Of course, how increasing the ranks of narco officers is supposed to help reduce the incidence of such over-the-top raids – like the one that left Johnston dead – isn’t exactly clear.)
In announcing the changes, Pennington demonstrated his overwhelming grasp of the obvious: “I think a lot of times, some of these things” – like, uh, Johnston’s death – “could have been avoided” had the new measures been in place, he told reporters during a press conference March 27.
Narco officers shot Johnston to death during a questionable raid in November. Originally, police said a confidential informant told them he’d purchased crack at Johnston’s house, and in a warrant application Officer Jason Smith reportedly explained that police needed a no-knock warrant because the drug dealer living at the house – a mystery man named “Sam” – used cameras to keep an eye on his property. The cops got the warrant, and set out to raid the house. What they didn’t know was that the only person inside was Johnston who, hearing what she thought was someone breaking into her home (which, of course, she was right about), grabbed a revolver. When the door opened she fired, which led the cops to unleash a hail of bullets, killing her. After the raid, the CI that supposedly sent the cops to the house – to apprehend this “Sam” dude – came forward to rebut the official version of events, telling the local Atlanta Fox affiliate that he’d never been to Johnston’s house (she lived there alone), and that he’d never purchased drugs there. According to the CI, the police were willing to pay him to cover for them. (Nice, eh? Hey, I know, lets add more narco cops to the ranks – that’ll fix things!)
An FBI investigation into the shooting is still ongoing, and on April 2 the NAACP announced it would be undertaking its own inquiry into the incident. Meanwhile, Pennington last week said that the new guidelines will also require CI’s to undergo “integrity checks” and will require police to photograph their informants during drug buys. According to the Associated Press, Fulton Co. prosecutors have said they plan to pursue murder charges against three of the eight officers involved in the Johnston shooting.
(Note: In the Dec. 1 post about the Johnston killing, Reefer identified her as an 88-year-old woman. At the time, there was some question about her actual age. Since then, her birthday has been verified, meaning she was 92 at the time of her death.)