Disciplinary action against several dozen Atlanta police officers who left their jobs during last year’s NBA All-Star game to provide security for athletes and stars is being both criticized and praised within the department, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. A police union leader questioned whether police Chief Richard Pennington’s punishment of 56 people went too far, but another union leader applauded the crackdown.
Sgt. Scott Kreher, president of Local 623 of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, said it appeared that many of the officers suspended without pay for two or three days believed their violation of rules governing extra pay had been approved. “They knew what they were doing wasn’t standard procedure, but when the major or the lieutenant stood up at roll call and said, ‘Don’t worry, it’s covered,’ they took that to mean it was OK. They’re feeling pretty betrayed,” Kreher said. He said it has been an unwritten benefit for officers to sign out, do outside work, and sign back in.
Richard Straut, president of the Atlanta chapter of the Police Benevolent Association, declined to pass judgment on the punishments until he had more specifics. “But if these jokers were out there working extra jobs at the same time they were supposed to be working for the city, then the punishment needs to be severe,” he said.
Pennington is recommending that top brass and rank-and-file officers be disciplined for leaving their posts to escort celebrities during the game when the city was gripped by traffic jams. “It’s unfortunate that officers have to depend on extra jobs to make a living. Most departments don’t,” Pennington said. “When we pay you to do a job for the city of Atlanta, we expect you to do that. They put those jobs before their city jobs.”