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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Atlanta Police Chief's son suspended for crash - 2 years after reporter raises questions

More than two years after officer rear-ends car, Chief's son receives a two day suspension.
Atlanta police officer Tim Turner has been reprimanded for causing a car accident more than two years ago.

The investigation into officer Turner's 2013 accident was opened this past July, prompted by a reporter's request to review his disciplinary history report. At the time, Turner's history report didn't include the accident he had caused in Cobb County and, as a result, Turner was never reprimanded for the incident.

During the past couple of years, officers with the Atlanta Police Department have rumbled about the accident and suspected Turner was given special treatment, especially since his father is George Turner; Atlanta's Chief of Police. 


Documents obtained from Atlanta police officers, who asked to remain anonymous, show 32 year old Timothy Turner crashed his assigned police cars on two separate occasions back in 2013, both within a 30 day period.

According to official records, the Cobb County accident was never investigated by Internal Affairs, also called the Office of Professional Standards (OPS), until this past July. Failure to investigate an officer-involved accident is in direct violation of the department's own policy. Department officials admit they've never heard of any other officer involved accidents that were not promptly investigated.

Union representatives with the International Brotherhood of Police Officers (IBPO) boldly called Turner’s accident a police ‘cover-up’. Vince Champion is IBPO’s Regional Director and says, “This should have been investigated, especially since the Chief’s son is the one involved.” Champion says a number of Atlanta police officers have complained to union officials about officer Tim Turner and the rumors they’ve heard about the Cobb County car accident that wasn’t investigated. Champion says most every officer has heard rumblings about the incident and would like to know the truth about what really happened. Champion explains, “It’s bad for morale, if officer Turner wasn’t investigated then that’s a violation of the department’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and it’s not fair to the other officers who do get investigated for these same violations.”

The department's investigation may raise more questions than it answers. For instance, in the memo below Turner's supervisor Sergeant K. Lambert states he doesn't remember being told to submit an accident package for the crash, which officers say is standard operating procedure and must be done whether Lambert was asked to or not.

According to newly released documents (below), during the internal investigation Turner also made a contradictory statement, saying his supervisor didn't respond to the accident scene, even though his initial report stated his Lieutenant, Terry Joyner, did arrive after the other driver had already left the scene.


WHAT HAPPENED?

A Georgia Department of Public Safety (DPS) report shows a state trooper responded to Turner’s accident at 3:52pm on September 11, 2013 in Cobb County. The report shows the wreck occurred on Barrett Parkway as Turner and another driver were attempting to merge onto I-75 Northbound. The DPS report states Turner was unable to stop his assigned 2004 Crown Victoria and struck the rear of the Toyota Venza in front of him. The trooper's dashcam video shows Turner admitting to the trooper he likely caused the crash. (still image of video below)




At about thirteen minutes into the dashcam video, officer Tim Turner is seen approaching the trooper in his cruiser and the dashcam's audio recorded Turner stating, “I should’ve been paying attention. I wasn’t paying as much attention as I should’ve been...I have no excuse, it’s still my fault, I know.”


In Major Adam Lee's Notice of Final Adverse Action (above) it states, "Employee excepts (sp) responsibility." As a result, Turner was found in violation of the city's rule governing the "Operation of a City Vehicle" and he was given a two day suspension. The fact Turner's accident was apparently not reported to the Atlanta Police Department and the incident wasn't investigated for two years is never mentioned in the internal affairs report.

 Turner’s Accident before the Cobb Crash

According to city policy, officer Tim Turner would have likely faced serious discipline for crashing his assigned police car just three weeks after he totaled another city vehicle. Champion says, “Turner would’ve been subject to Progressive Discipline, according to department policy.”

Turner’s first accident in 2013 happened early Sunday morning at 8am on August 18th. According to Turner's own report of the incident, he was driving his police car Southbound on the I-75-85 expressway in Atlanta. As he approached a curve near the Williams Street exit he says his car began to fish tale. He then lost control and slammed into a median wall. (car below)


According to APD’s SOP 3152, officers responsible for causing a 'major collision' are required to be given a one day suspension. Major collisions are defined as those requiring repairs between five and fifteen thousand dollars, the repair estimate for Turner's accident was more than six thousand dollars.
The APD’s command staff and Turner's supervisor, Lt. Joyner, all agreed the discipline in accordance with SOP was appropriate, however, Deputy Chief S.L. Jones did not. In a memo copied to officer’s Turner’s personnel file, Deputy Chief Jones wrote,
“The employee alleges as a contributing factor, that the rear tires needed to be changed. The employee says that the vehicle was taken to the shop for Preventive Maintenance service, and only the front tires were changed. The investigative file does not capture any information related to that line of inquiry.”  -  Deputy Chief S.L. Jones
As a result, Turner's discipline was reduced to a written reprimand. Champion says Deputy Chief Jones didn’t verify Turner’s claims or inspect the vehicle. Champion is a veteran police officer who also worked as a traffic homicide investigator during his law enforcement career. He reviewed photos showing the rear tires in question. “They just took Turner’s word and didn’t even investigate. That’s not the way they treat other officers and it looks like they did him a big favor.”

Tim Turner has not responded to emailed questions about the accident. The APD’s Director of Public Affairs, Elizabeth Espy, also failed to respond to specific questions about why the department didn't investigate the crash for two years. Chief George Turner has also refused to comment.

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