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The case of ATLANTA Police Department

Monday, May 9, 2011

The case of ATLANTA Police Department

From 1915 to 1961 Atlanta, Georgia, was the national headquarters of the KU KLUX KLAN (KKK), which remained violently active in the city even after its largest faction sought whiter pastures in Alabama under Governor GEORGE WALLACE. For many years, Atlanta’s police department was infested with Klansmen, including officers of command rank.
Racist governors Eugene and Herman Talmadge encouraged Klan infiltration of Georgia law enforcement, and local policeman Sam Roper served as Imperial Wizard of the state’s dominant KKK faction in 1949–53. Some critics went so far as to claim that Klan membership was a prerequisite for employment with the Atlanta Police Department, and while that may not have been literally true, the case of Officer
“Trigger” Nash suggests the extent to which KKK sentiments subverted honest enforcement of law in Atlanta (and throughout Georgia at large).

On November 1, 1948, Officer Nash—whose nickname derived from his propensity for shooting blacks—was one of several police officers who addressed a Klan meeting in Atlanta. He was greeted with applause that night “for killing his thirteenth nigger in the line of duty” a few days earlier.
According to the minutes of that gathering: Trigger Nash, also a policeman, got up and made a talk and said he hoped he wouldn’t have all the honor of killing the niggers in the South, and he hoped the people would do something about it themselves
Infiltrator Stetson Kennedy noted that Nash and his fellow patrol officers faced no censure for their open expressions of homicidal racism. Furthermore, Kennedy charged, the Atlanta Police Department made a habit of suppressing evidence whenever KKK “wrecking crews” committed murders, bombings, and other crimes within city jurisdiction.
A generation later, racist malfeasance of another kind was charged in the case of alleged serial killer Wayne Williams.
Convicted on dubious evidence in the murders of two adult ex-convicts, Williams was publicly branded as the “Atlanta child killer” who was responsible for the murders of 30-odd victims since 1979. Critics of the murder investigation noted that Atlanta police (then led by a black chief and mayor) seemed intent on crafting an arbitrary list of victims, excluding some cases while others were illogically included, suppressing eyewitness statements that named an alternate (Caucasian) suspect in one of the slayings attributed to Williams.
Years after Williams was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, records from the FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation revealed that Klansmen had been suspects in the murders before Williams was arrested, but those files—including transcripts of an apparent confession in one case—were “lost” in favor of jailing a black defendant (and thus avoiding potential race riots in Atlanta).


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