Cops to get homeless training, monitoring by Atlanta Task Force

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Thu, 21 May 1998 07:57:56 -0700 (PDT)


FWD 2 related articles

FWD 1 of 2
http://search.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WAPO/19980520/V000016-052098-idx.html


    ATLANTA TO TRAIN COPS ON HOMELESS - May 20, 1998


ATLANTA (AP) -- The city agreed to train police on how to deal with the
homeless and pay $3,000 each to five homeless people who sued the city for
alleged harassment.

Under a settlement announced Tuesday, veteran officers as well as new
recruits will receive the training, and the Task Force for the Homeless, an
advocacy group, will monitor arrests of the homeless and allegations of
abuse by police.

``The monitoring that's required now gives us an authentic and entitled
role in terms of noticing the treatment of homeless people on the
streets,'' said task force co-director Anita Beaty.

The five homeless plaintiffs alleged they were arrested and harassed by
police under ordinances adopted in 1991 and 1996 aimed at cutting loitering
and aggressive panhandling.

The suit claimed that the ordinances were adopted to make downtown Atlanta
attractive to 1996 Olympic Games visitors, a charge the city denied.

A recent study estimated there are 11,000 homeless on Atlanta streets on
any given night.

Police officials said they would not comment on the settlement, tentatively
approved by the City Council in February, until they have reviewed it.

END FORWARD 1 of 2

FWD 2 of 2 http://www.accessatlanta.com/news/1998/05/20/cops.html


    COPS TO GET HOMELESS TRAINING

    By Julie B. Hairston, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution  5/20/98


The city of Atlanta has agreed to teach its police officers to be sensitive
to the homeless and will accept monitoring from the Task Force for the
Homeless, a sometimes controversial group that has been an aggressive
advocate for Atlanta's homeless.

The terms of a settlement of a 1996 lawsuit designate the task force to
tally arrests of the homeless and monitor allegations of abuse by Atlanta
police. The agreement was signed by both sides and announced Tuesday.

"The monitoring that's required now gives us an authentic and entitled role
in terms of noticing the treatment of homeless people on the streets," said
Anita Beaty, task force co-director. "We think that's incredibly important
for the present and the future life on the street, particularly in light of
the mood in downtowns across the country, which is very much `clean up
homeless people so we can have street life.' "

Beginning immediately, police recruits will be trained on how to deal with
homeless people, and veteran officers will receive updated training
annually, said Brian Murphy, a Boston lawyer who represented five homeless
plaintiffs.

Police officials declined comment until they have seen the settlement.

The city will pay $3,000 to each of the plaintiffs who, according to their
suit, were arrested and harassed by police under the city's quality of life
ordinances. Ordinances adopted by the city in 1991 and 1996 include strict
anti-loitering measures as well as prohibitions against urban camping and
aggressive panhandling.

Atlanta's growing population of downtown residents, as well as businesses,
have complained that the ordinances have done little to clear the streets
of the mentally ill, substance abusers and panhandlers whose presence
discourages pedestrian activity in the city center. A recent Research
Atlanta study estimated there are 11,000 homeless on Atlanta streets on any
given night.

The lawsuit claimed the ordinances were intended to help the city make its
downtown streets and parks more attractive to Olympic visitors, a charge
the city denied. After documenting more than 9,000 arrests in the year
before the Olympics, the task force selected the plaintiffs from among 161
potential litigants.

If the case had gone to trial and the plaintiffs prevailed, the city could
have been required to pay the plaintiffs' legal fees of more than $700,000,
according to an Atlanta City Council resolution authorizing the settlement.


and attracted attorneys from the law firm of Ropes & Gray in Boston to
represent them. Ropes & Gray and the firm's local partner, Carter & Ansley,
contributed the $60,000 fee awarded to them in the settlement to the task
force to use to set up its monitoring operation.

"Ropes & Gray got involved in this case only after two or three months of
pretty thorough investigation," Murphy said. "We came down to Atlanta. We
hit the streets and we ...came to the independent decision that we could
not in good conscience retreat back to Boston and let what was happening
down in Atlanta continue to happen without trying to do something."

If the case had gone to trial and the plaintiffs prevailed, the city could
have been required to pay Ropes & Gray's legal fees of more than $700,000,
according to an Atlanta City Council resolution authorizing the settlement.
I

Four of the plaintiffs attended a Tuesday press conference to announce the
agreement. Three said the settlement stops short of justice for the
indignities they suffered at the hands of Atlanta police.

"They can take the $3,000 back and buy the police some compassion," said
Wilson.

END FORWARDS

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