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Monday, March 21, 2005

CrimProf Comments on Atlanta Police Department's Failures in the Wake of the Courthouse Shootings

The fallout from the courthouse shootings in Atlanta continues to damage the city's reputation as a safe, friendly, and progressive capital of the South.  As details of how the rampage emerge, Atlanta's police have been dubbed inept "Keystone Kops" by local and national media personalities.  The courthouse police failed to moniter a surveillence camera that showed Brian Nichols, the 200 lb. rape suspect, overpowering and stealing the gun of the five foot, petite female deputy who was left to guard him as he was left uncuffed in the courthouse, without the extra security escorts as requested by the judge he later killed.  Twenty minutes passed between Nichols opening fire in the courthouse and local police beginning to control the crime scene.  And in that time period, Nichols carjacked five vehicles and walked to a downtown train station, where he escaped without notice.  An hour passed after his courthouse shootings before his photo was circulated to the media, and even so, he spent at least 12 hours wandering undetected outside a mall before assaulting a couple and killing a federal agent.  A local radio personality was recorded saying, "Thank God he left Atlanta [and fled to the suburbs], otherwise they never would have found him."  In response to the criticism, Atlanta's Mayor Shirley Franklin is quoted saying, "We're not perfect, but we seek to be the best we can be."  CrimProf Joe King commented, "Regardless of who failed or why they failed, to the general public the fact is they failed...The biggest black eye you could say happened to the Atlanta Police Department and the Sheriff's office is they failed to see this coming and they failed to gear up for it.'' In the past, Atlanta downplayed its crime to preserve its reputation as a thriving, sophisticated center for business and tourism, but law enforcement's failures have motivated the city to overhaul its policing.  According to police chief Richard Pennington, he will oversee a complete review of the mistakes made in the handling of Nichols' rampage and 26 hour manhunt. More from NYTimes... [Mark Godsey]

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