Barry Dampier was busy last week chasing shoplifters for a big box store in West Palm Beach, Fla.</
"Is this all I'm qualified to do?" he mused, the dejection ringing through his words. "Don't get me wrong, this is a decent job, but it's not what I'd planned."</
Until 15 months ago, Dampier was one of Atlanta's finest. He'd been a city cop for seven years, dodged criminals' bullets and boasted a good record. "I risked my life every day for a city that wasn't even my home," says the New Jersey native.</
In 2005, Dampier was involved in the investigation of a carjacking. The perp was nabbed, but escaped on his way to jail. Another officer finally collared the thief, but because Dampier's name was on the fugitive warrant, he was subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury. "I couldn't find a parking space," Dampier recalls. He called the arresting officer, who offered to do the grand-jury appearance. Dampier turned in a pay slip claiming he'd been at the grand jury.</
"It was a work-rule violation, and I don't dispute it," Dampier says. "I deserved to be punished. Take some of my money. Send me home for a few days."</
For a year, the case languished – although such incidents are supposed to be resolved in 90 days. Then Dampier was notified that he was in violation of APD rule 4.1.03 – "truthfulness." The cop was canned.</
Chief Richard Pennington, it seems, has a no-tolerance policy for lying, with dismissal being the penalty.</
But not always. It sort of depends on who you are.</
Kelleita Thurman, for example, has the title of "investigator" for the Atlanta Police Department. Her actual job is a plum gig on Mayor Shirley Franklin's security detail. A half-dozen fellow officers, including two in APD management, describe Thurman as "the mayor's driver," and say she is a personal friend of Franklin.</
In September 2005, Thurman took a trip to Cordele for the department, according to police documents obtained by CL. She claimed she spent $63.73 on gas, and submitted receipts minus the itemization of what was purchased. Sleuths at the APD obtained the complete receipts. As it turned out, she lied about $41.97 that she spent on personal items, including a catfish combo and S.O.S. pads. It's not that much money, but we are talking about cops and truthfulness. In addition to lying, Thurman pocketed money that rightfully belonged to city taxpayers.</
Up the chain of command, ranking officers concluded that Thurman lied, the police documents show. Recommendation after recommendation reaffirmed the judgment and urged that she be shown the door. Lt. M.L. Hendricks of Internal Investigations said fire Thurman. Assistant Chief Alan Dreher said fire her. Deputy Chief P. Andresen said fire her.</
Dreher wrote: "She was not truthful," and he added, "I concur with [the] ... recommendation of TERMINATION."</
Chief Pennington signed several documents agreeing with the findings and recommending Thurman's dismissal.</
But then, at about the same time Dampier was being booted in disgrace from the APD, his career ruined and his life in tatters, Thurman had a private meeting with Pennington.</
Abracadabra, and she was back on the force with a minor suspension.</
Maj. Pearlene Williams, Pennington's chief of staff, responded via e-mail to questions about Thurman and Dampier. Dampier got what he deserved, Williams asserted. But, about Thurman, Williams stated: "The investigation regarding 'Truthfulness' against Investigator Thurman did not develop sufficient information to prove or disprove the allegation, therefore, the charge was Not Sustained."</
Dampier says that when he had a meeting with Pennington, a lawyer for the city told the chief that if he made an exception for the officer, it would create the appearance of bias. "The attorney said, 'The rule has to be applied against everyone or no one,'" Dampier recalls. I guess the lawyer's legalese doublespeak meant that the rule had to be applied against everyone except those with powerful friends.</
Williams wouldn't explain why every top cop in the APD who reviewed the case had marked "sustained" on findings about Thurman and recommended her firing. Nor did she explain the apparently uneven justice in the two cases.</
But then, Williams knows a little something about not being completely truthful. In February 2003, Atlanta's traffic was paralyzed during the NBA All-Star Game. As it turned out, cops had disappeared from duty stations to work private gigs and hobnob with celebrities. Officers told me that the cops who went AWOL collected as much as $200 an hour from the glitterati that had descended on Atlanta.</
Williams was one of more than 50 cops who supposedly were going to be harshly dealt with by Pennington. The department told the press that she was to receive a four-day suspension for, um, not being truthful about her hours. (Sort of sounds like Dampier, doesn't it?) The suspension never happened. She says she received a reprimand. Ouch!</
Others in Pennington's inner circle also avoided pain with the NBA weekend. Maj. Stanley Savage, for example, is generally credited by more than 10 police officers with whom I spoke as being the chief culprit in the "Let's Make a Fortune" game of schmoozing with NBA players. His penalty, as announced by Pennington, was demotion to lieutenant and a push into retirement. He's still a major at APD.</
But according to multiple accounts from police rank and file, the poster child for favored treatment is C.J. Davis, a lieutenant in 2003 who claimed she worked for 72 hours straight during the NBA mega-party. With logic that could come only from City Hall East, a senior police officer explained that since she never changed her story, she couldn't be charged with untruthfulness.</
Davis' "penalty" for her role in the NBA catastrophe? She's been promoted to major.</
As to the remarkable feat of Maj. Davis' three days without rest, Williams attributes it to "Dedication to duty!"</
Meanwhile, ex-officer Dampier plods away chasing petty thieves for a Florida retailer. And he has filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charging race and sex bias by Pennington and the APD.</
"It's a laugh when they [the APD brass] say they treat people fairly," Dampier says. "And they know it. I know I made a mistake, but should it have cost me my job? If so, then the same rule should have been applied to others like Thurman."