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JULY 2020 • VOL. 11 — NO. 7

Dunwoody Reporter ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

K-pop fans cheer musicians’ Black Lives Matter activism

► Worth Knowing: A salute to 4th of July horses p18

Police complaint reform is one idea in racial dialogue

P5

AROUND TOWN

A neighborhood advocate steps aside, but not out P6 COMMUNITY

An Air & Space Museum at PDK? P20

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JOHN RUCH

Mayor Lynn Deutsch, left, speaks with resident Tanis Singleton at a June 2 City Hall protest against racism and police brutality. Singleton’s daughter, Lydia SingletonWells, organized the protest and is calling for some police transparency reforms.

The Dunwoody Reporter is mail delivered to homes on selected carrier routes in ZIP 30338 For information: delivery@reporternewspapers.net

who are demanding settlements of $500,000 each. Former Lt. Fidel Espinoza resigned about five days after the first complaints were filed on April 29. Police Chief Billy Grogan previously said DPD is investigating an “internal matter” he would not specify related to Espinoza’s resignation. Grogan said in late June that the investigation is continuing with “no

Amid nationwide protests against police brutality, Mayor Lynn Deutsch has called for a “dialogue” in DunFor more about woody regarding racism. race and local Already some policing, residents are see p. 15-16. calling for better transparency in internal investigations of the local police department through such mechanisms as a citizens review board. “It’s really important to have that dialogue, but how you do it when you’re not in person makes an already complex conversation harder,” said Deutsch, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic making large,

See EX-POLICE on page 22

See POLICE on page 14

Ex-police officers and civilian worker claim sexual harassment

BY JOHN RUCH

johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

Allegations of sexual harassment against a former Dunwoody Police Department lieutenant — including claims he demanded sexual favors for work benefits — are what triggered an ongoing internal investigation, according to complaints filed with the city by two former officers and a civilian employee

BY ERIN SCHILLING erinschilling@reporternewspapers.net

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2 | Community

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Changing times bring ‘Black Lives Matter’ yard signs to Dunwoody lawns BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

When the Black Lives Matter protests sweeping the nation made unprecedented appearances in Dunwoody earlier this month, longtime resident Kristy Vinot was unable to participate due to health concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, she joined several residents who are expressing their support in another way never before seen in Dunwoody: “Black Lives Matter” yard signs. “I just really wanted to support that cause and just to get people to think,” said Vinot, who was among the 15 buyers last week for signs depicting a black hand and a white hand shaking each other, along with the “Black Lives Matter” slogan and a localized “Dunwoody GA.” And it’s working, she says: “I’ve noticed some people slowing down to read it.” Andrew Ziffer and daughter Rachel, 14, ordered one of the signs for their Springfield Drive lawn. Andrew Ziffer, known for an unsuccessful run for a DeKalb County Board of Education seat this year, said they wanted their stance as “allies” to be clear. “And when you put a sign in your yard, it’s telling people very loudly that you’re here, you’re watching and you care,” he said. The signs are made by Custom Signs Today, a business based in Atlanta’s Midtown neighborhood that is Dunwoody’s go-to sign-maker because it is run by prominent local resident Heyward Wescott. He formerly served as Dunwoody Perimeter Chamber of Commerce board chair and city Planning Commission vice-chair, and last year unsuccessfully ran for City Council. Today, as it happens, he serves as a founding board member of the Dunwoody Police Foundation. Wescott said that two residents contacted him a couple of weeks ago with a request for custom “Black Lives Matter” yard signs, with word of mouth quickly expanding that to about 15 orders. After more than 25 years in business, he said, he has made many yard signs for political candidates, but never before had demands for such political-messaging signs. He attributes it to political shifts in Dunwoody and the pandemic’s social distancing, which has also led to a boom in orders for graduation and birthday signage for car-parade celebrations. “I think that people are really trying to express themselves in certain ways and signs are part of that vehicle right now,” said Wescott. Custom Signs Today was involved in a high-profile, and eventually controversial, yard-sign campaign related to the pandemic. The company produced miniature yard-sign versions of the city’s iconic “Everything Will Be OK” mural for sales by two arts nonprofits as a pandem-

Kristy Vinot arranged the signs outside her Tilly Mill Road home so that together they read, “Everything Will Be OK When Black Lives Matter.”

ic relief fundraiser. Those signs ran into copyright objections from the mural artist. However, the campaign drew international attention and the signs remain a fixture of the neighborhood as a message of coping with the pandemic. Vinot and the Ziffers bought those signs as well. The “Black Lives Matter” sign orders increased as the residents who originally commissioned the signs spread the word on such social media as Nextdoor. One posted a draft design that used the official city logo, which Wescott created for the city a few years ago. City officials saw the post and ordered the logo removed, according to city spokesperson Jennifer Boettcher, and Wescott said no signs were made containing it. Wescott said he has not directly advertised the availability of the signs, even though he generally supports the Black Lives Matter movement personally, in part because they were private custom orders and in part because of his status as a white business owner. “It’s not my space,” he said. “I believe in the cause. … This is pivotal, a pivotal time in our country.” For the same reason, Wescott said, Custom Signs Today intends to donate a portion of the signs’ sales proceeds to the NAACP Legal Defense and Education

SPECIAL

Fund. “There is no way I can do this and have a good conscience and not donate money to the NAACP,” he said. According to its website, that group is calling for a slate of policing reforms. Noting his position on the Dunwoody Police Foundation board, Wescott said he supports the local police and recalled that Police Chief Billy Grogan visited a protest at City Hall and had his photo taken with participants. “I love our Dunwoody police. I mean that sincerely,” said Wescott. “They are creative with their messaging. They’re creative with how they engage in our community.”

The movement and the messaging

The Black Lives Matter movement, which calls for reforms to halt police and vigilante killings of black people, began as a social media campaign after the 2013 acquittal verdict of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida. It gained prominence in the nationwide protests that followed the 2014 police killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City. The movement has been a prominent part of the current national protests that followed last month’s po-

lice killing of George Floyd in Minnesota. Dunwoody is among the cities in longtime majority-white, majority-Republican suburbs that incorporated in the early 2000s to separate from county governments led by black Democrats after political debates that included opponents decrying racial segregation and supporters demanding improvement in the quality of local policing. Even a small number of yard signs about police reform or racism would have been unheard of just a few years ago. But demographics and politics are shifting, with Democrats flipping the area’s state legislative and Congressional seats in 2018. Mayor Lynn Deutsch attended the recent protests, waving to honking supporters, and recently blasted “systemic racism” in healthcare and called for a “dialogue” on making the city more inclusive. In addition to the Ziffers’ “Black Lives Matter” sign, Rachel also ordered a sign to express support for LGBTQ people, reading “Dunwoody Pride” and “Love Is Love.” The background is the “More Colors, More Pride” flag, commissioned from an ad agency by Philadelphia city officials, which combines the rainbow LGBTQ flag with brown and black stripes to represent people of color. The version has been controversial within the LGBTQ community as either more or less inclusive and was created in response to incidents of racism within Philadelphia’s gay community. Asked whether the family had posted political-message signs before, Andrew Ziffer said no. But Rachel had a different take. “I don’t believe it’s really politics,” she said. “I believe these are basic human rights, and that’s not politics.” For Vinot, getting the “Black Lives Matter” sign after the “Everything Will Be OK” sign did not just make her a repeat customer of Custom Signs Today’s pandemic-era messaging niche. It meant her Tilly Mill Road lawn had messages that now were forced into dialogue with each other. Vinot said that “I really wanted a ‘Black Lives Matter’ sign. But then I just had this thought of, ‘They can’t go together without me adjusting some things.’” She placed the signs side-by-side and, on a separate piece of cardboard, added a word so that together they read, “Everything Will Be OK When Black Lives Matter.” “I have a total different perspective of ‘Everything Will Be OK’ now…,” said Vinot. “I really love the positivity of it and I still do… but it’s not the case for everyone. It’s kind of a — I hate to say the word ‘privileged.’ But everything’s not always going to be OK until some changes happen.” DUN


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Local K-pop fans cheer artists’ support for Black Lives Matter movement BY ERIN SCHILLING erinschilling@reporternewspapers.net

Na’Kia Hammock loves K-pop. The 26-year-old Sandy Springs photographer has been a fan of Korean pop music for years and said she doesn’t find many other Black K-pop fans. So when K-pop artists and fans came together to support the Black Lives Matter movement, Hammock was pleasantly shocked. “It was so unexpected, and that’s what makes it so much more amazing,” Hammock said. “We’re over here with the Black Lives Movement — angry, sad and scared — and then all of the sudden, it’s just the amount of people who showed up out of nowhere from the K-pop community to support it was just amazing.” K-pop fans and idols have made international headlines as fans have banded together to fill with K-pop photos and memes the social media hashtags that counter the BLM movement such as “#WhiteLivesMatter.” Fans of global K-pop sensation BTS, who refer to themselves as ARMY, matched the boy band’s $1 million donation to the Black Lives Matter organization in early June. Hammock said her surprise at the artist and fan’s support for BLM also comes from a yearslong controversy about Korean artists appropriating black culture. “They sample or are inspired by Black culture,” Hammock SPECIAL said. “Some things Na’Kia Hammock sports her gear from the K-pop band BTS. are pretty offensive, and yet because their fan bases are so large, they get away with doing such weird and wild things, like hair in braids or dreads or things like that.” However, Hammock said more K-pop artists are acknowledging their influence from Black culture, such as Korean-American rapper Jay Park, who posted a lengthy Instagram post in support of BLM. “Me being inspired by Black culture aside, me having Black homies aside, just as a man and a human being ... to think how helpless he felt and how inhumane he was treated ... to think what if that was my dad, or uncle or homie makes me sick to my stomach,” Park wrote in the post about the killing of George Floyd. Park’s post made ATLocal media director Robbie Atkinson an even bigger fan of the artist because of his willingness to speak up. At ATLocal, a promotion company that brings K-pop events to Atlanta, Atkinson creates videos for K-pop artists to send to local media companies. In that role, she said, she has talked to artists who have acknowledged their inspiration from Black culture. “It’s one thing to be able to align with our culture, our music, our aesthetic,” Atkinson said. “But when you can stand behind us in the face of these problems as well — and racism doesn’t just affect the Black community, but it’s also a human rights issue — that feels amazing.” Atkinson said the silence of some artists feels even more noticeable now that others are voicing their support for Black Lives Matter, but when she pointed that out online, some K-pop fans became defensive.

“I think education is a form of activism, maybe not the same as what other groups of K-pop fans are doing,” Atkinson said. “Showing them the perspective of a Black fan of K-pop. You don’t have a right to invalidate our perspective or experience just because you don’t have that same experience.” Atkinson made a video a few years ago pointing out the problems with K-pop artists appropriating Black culture, which she also said caused backlash from some fans. She said other K-pop fans sometimes dismiss concerns from Black fans, which she hopes is starting to change as artists stand with the BLM movement. ATLocal director Ashlee Rackthai said the company has turned to social media to educate its followers and employees about the BLM movement. Social media is the main way K-pop fans connect because they’re so scattered around the world, local K-pop fans said. Since K-pop fans also tend to be young people, social media platforms such as TikTok become a major connector. K-pop fans and TikTokers said they registered tickets to President Donald Trump’s recent campaign rally in Oklahoma and did not show as a prank to empty the arena, The New York Times reported. Kaylee Bolson, a 21-year-old Woodstock resident, said K-pop artists tend to do a lot of activism, such as for the LGBTQ community or during the international women’s march in January 2017. She said she’s proud of her favorite artists who have become so vocal about BLM. Bolson said the Atlanta K-pop scene is bigger than in other U.S. cities. There are speciality stores like K-Pop in USA on Buford Highway in Doraville. But fans still connect mostly through social media, such as Facebook groups and Twitter. When there are conventions or concerts in the city, Bolson said, she’ll use the platforms to meet up with fans and go together. Though Bolson said she misses concerts and seeing fellow fans in person at events, she hopes fans continue to use their voices on social media to support the BLM movement.

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Around Town

Joe Earle is editorat-large at Reporter Newspapers and has lived in metro Atlanta for over 30 years. He can be reached at joeearle@ reporternewspapers.net

Neighborhood advocate steps aside

of life.” Mary Norwood, a Buckhead activist, former Atlanta City Councilmember and former mayoral candidate, described Certain as “one of the most accomplished neighborhood advocates I have ever known.” Debra Wathen has worked with Certain for a decade on the Buckhead Council of NeighSigns of change show up all around Gordon Certain’s north Buckhead home. Newer, borhoods, an organization that brings together representatives of neighborhood associations bigger houses have replaced older, smaller ones. New tall buildings loom nearby. There are from across Buckhead. Certain has served as BCN’s secretary and plans to continue in that more people, more cars, more of just about everything else, except maybe trees. “Everything role. has just mushroomed,” Certain said. “I think the world of Gordon because he works from the heart,” Wathen wrote in an email. When Certain moved into his ranch home on North Ivy Road in 1975, there was a dance “He is passionate about what he does and does an amazing job. He educates himself on ishall across the street. It was surrounded by acres of forest containing more than 500 mature sues that concern his neighborhood, as well as those that concern the Buckhead Council. If he trees. A developer bought the place and now suburban homes cover that land. These days, doesn’t know something, he asks questions until he gets a full understanding before he forms the view from Certain’s steep driveway is no longer of woods, but of side-by-side houses and opinions. For that reason, I truly respect him and what he has to say. He is also a machine! I do front yards. not know how he accomplishes all that he does.” Not all change is bad, of course. Certain expanded his house, adding Certain, who’s now 77, grew up in Florida and came to Atlanta to study space as his family grew. As north Buckhead has developed, residents have engineering at Georgia Tech. That led to a job at Lockheed-Martin, where he seen parks and playgrounds sprout throughout their neighborhood. Not worked for 31 years. Upon retirement, he decided to get involved in what was long ago, it had no public green spaces. going on around him so he became active with his neighborhood associaThere are other, perhaps less obvious, signs of change, too. The state Sution, the NBCA. “I thought I could use what I learned in business to help the preme Court sided with the neighborhood and the city to keep commercial neighborhood,” the soft-spoken Certain said. “And I did.” development from encroaching into certain residential areas. And Atlanta The BCN, an “association of associations,” got its start in 2008 as a way adopted a master plan for the area that was developed by the area’s homefor Buckhead’s neighborhoods to play a larger role in debates over developowners’ association, the North Buckhead Civic Association. ment as the community grew. When it formed, the organizations representCertain, who headed the North Buckhead association for two decades, ing Buckhead were dominated by businesses. “We just needed a voice,” Cerplayed a big part in making those good things happen. He attended city tain said. meetings, called public meetings, conducted surveys of residents and lobIn public meetings and as the editor of his neighborhood’s newsletter, bied city officials to push the homeowners’ point of view on everything Certain often provided that voice or a way for that voice to be heard. At times, from street widenings to the need for playgrounds to community planning. JOE EARLE his engineering background would show through. He regularly drew maps He regularly put in a full work week on neighborhood business, said his and built charts for the NBCA newsletter. He comes off as a numbers guy. Gordon Certain chats on the wife, Sue Certain, who says he once suggested the couple celebrate their A decade ago, for instance, after complaints about crime in Buckhead porch at his Buckhead home. wedding anniversary by going to a Buckhead community meeting. “He does flared up, Certain mapped every reported major crime in Atlanta on poster this all day long, every day, including weekends, for 20 years. It’s just who he board to show people attending the NBCA’s annual meeting that there were is. He’s just made that way,” she said one recent morning as she and Gordon sat in a sunroom more crimes elsewhere in the city. “I just thought it was inappropriate for folks to focus up at their home and listened to bird calls from the surrounding trees. here [in Buckhead] on crime,” he said. Certain joined the NBCA board in 1998, after retiring from a career as an engineer. He He still has the map, which is covered with red dots showing concentrations of crime. “I served as the group’s treasurer in 1999 and took over as its president in 2000. He held the said we’re here,” he said, pointing out the less-spotted north end of the city, then gesturing neighborhood association’s top job until May. He plans to remain on the organization’s to areas with a greater density of reported crimes. “This is hell down here. We’re in heaven.” board. He plans on staying. If he and Sue ever need to move from the house on Ivy Road, he said, Atlanta City Councilmember Howard Shook calls Certain “an unflagging supporter of they’ve reserved a spot in a condo tower on Peachtree Street. “We might end up in high-rise the neighborhood” who worked “ceaselessly to improve its safety, infrastructure and quality heaven,” he said. He paused and grinned at the thought. “Or hell.”

We aren’t perfect, but

WE ARE ONE. One world, one country, one community, one family. When one man hurts, we all hurt. When one woman loves, we all love. When one child laughs, we all laugh. We all carry a heavier burden when we divide and separate, but we thrive when we lift each other up and celebrate. Celebrate our differences. Celebrate life. Celebrate love. Celebrate best friends, old friends, new friends. Celebrate little victories right along side the big. Celebrate the opportunity to stretch

One World One Country One Community One Family

our minds and open our hearts until they hurt. We celebrate this collective we call humanity, where you don’t have to fit in to belong, where being your own true self is the most precious gift of all. WE CELEBRATE YOU.

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Healthcare leaders say lessons learned in pandemic create opportunity BY BOB PEPALIS Healthcare leaders said in a Perimeter Center discussion that they expect the disparity of care for minority and rural residents to get worse, but they see an opportunity to use what they have learned during the COVID-19 pandemic to make positive changes. Dr. Kathleen Funk of Northside Hospital; Heather Dexter, CEO of Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital; and Brian M. Rivers, director of the Cancer Health Equity Institute at Morehouse College took part in the Dunwoody Perimeter Chamber of Commerce’s “Return to the Perimeter” virtual panel on June 9. COVID-19 safety measures increased costs, cut revenue All three of the panelists said the additional health safety measures re-

cedures resumed and for the past few weeks Emory St. Joseph’s was at 75% of its normal volume. For inpatient care, Dexter said the hospital had to “assure the safety of our patients but also assure the supplies were available for the personal protective equipment necessary for our staff.” Times became difficult right away. “We couldn’t find PPE so we had to start looking for alternatives. Then we asked our staff to reuse items not designed for reuse,” Dexter said. Testing capacity wasn’t available for a long time. Once testing was available, results took a long time to come back. Rivers said Morehouse School of Medicine made the decision to transition the platform of classroom work more toward a virtual setting early in spring.

quired because of the coronavirus have increased the cost of providing the same care. Elective procedures at Emory St. Joseph’s and Northside were stopped at the start of the pandemic to keep personal protective equipment available for working with coronavirus patients. “We went from our normal volume down to about 20% of normal,” Dexter said. Emergency Department and inpatient visits dropped 50%. If it had continued through August, Emory would have suffered a $660 million loss of revenue, she said. In May, Emory Healthcare announced furloughs or hour cuts for many employees. Reopening plans didn’t change based on projected and realized losses, said Dexter. By the end of May and June some pro-

Research came with other difficulties. If a researcher is not at the bench, most research can’t continue. They had to create novel pathways and approaches to continue their research. A lot of the patient population has been clinical based, Rivers said. Many processes could be converted to a virtual platform. He said it took some adjustment to move from the clinical setting while offering the same level of integrity. From a clinical point of view, Funk said COVID-19 is nothing like any other virus they’ve seen in their lifetimes — not only for its mortality, but also in the challenge in finding the different ways the illness can present. Northside’s staff canvassed across the nation and the world, reaching out

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Commentary: A note to Atlanta on race and inclusion Editor’s note: This commentary on recent calls for dialogue about race and racism is signed by founders of several organizations that have performed prominent work in such local communities as Buford Highway, as well as groups that serve various parts of metro Atlanta. As we consider and enter into conversations about race in every facet of our lives, let us center the Black women and nonBlack women of color who have been having these conversations for years, for whom this work is not something we picked up in the last three weeks, but lifelong. These conversations with one another have been survival mechanism, sustenance and sanctuary. We urge leaders everywhere to center, amplify and value us, our work and our stories, because much of what we have experienced and the treatment we have endured can serve as cautionary lessons for what not to do. Much of what we have learned and achieved can serve as a beginning point for reimagining how we think about and approach our communities and cities. While not elected or appointed to serve our communities, we have been at the forefront of addressing the entrenched inequities and disparities of metro Atlanta resulting from its repeated failures to care for its Black residents and residents of color. We have organized and built movements, and designed and implemented solutions that are based in care and rooted in community rather than relying time and again on policing as the predominant, daily and often only mechanism of community engagement with minoritized and racialized communities. Each of us has dedicated our lives to this effort, and we do this work daily, because we must. There are no days off. Especially in Atlanta, it is our responsibility and our salvation to contend with our history, to wrestle with the legacy of the Spirit of Atlanta and the Atlanta Way, to take leave of the systems, beliefs and habits that no longer serve us well or at all, and to make a new way by making it as we go. Because we do this work daily, we are a true barometer of the state of the city and the region. We are a compass informing Atlanta where we are and guiding where we must go. We are the best prescription and pathways for healing. Individually, and occasionally together, we have seen a lot. We have been in countless rooms and at countless tables where we have been the only women, the only people of color, the only women of color. We are constantly asked to have our brains “picked,” only to have our ideas dismissed and criticized, or “borrowed” and co-opted by, and credited and well-compensated for, others. We’ve been tone-policed, gaslit and silenced. We’ve been asked to “share” our expertise for free, sign on to letters of support for grants that will go to White-led organizations or White consultants, and to serve on task forces and committees that do not listen to what we have to say, while seeing men and White women consistently lauded and compensated handsomely. We’ve been asked by “allies,” in return for the token gesture of coffee or lunch, to facilitate introductions so that they can diversify their boards, recruit donors from our communities, or create programming to make their own organizations relevant to communities of color. We’ve been asked by Atlanta’s private institutions to teach their students and provide tours of our communities for free. We’ve had to parade and perform our trauma for the mere chance of support and funding. We’ve had White women’s tears weaponized against us. And we are tired. This is what it’s like to be “welcomed” and “included” in Atlanta. Yet we persevere. Each of us, as a founder, as a creative, as an organizer, is rediscovering and reclaiming our selves through our work in ways that are personal, transformative and liberatory. We’ve all leaned hard into our own trauma, grief, anger, fear, imposter syndrome and burnout, interrogating every intention, holding ourselves accountable for every mistake and misstep. This is what doing the work means. And we persevere in doing it because we love this place, we love who we are and are becoming in this city and region, and we love the women coming along with us and after us and every day coming more into their own.

We persevere because the Band-Aids are no longer enough, Atlanta. Ask us what an Atlanta that no longer desperately needs the organizations we founded might look like. Ask us what an Atlanta without homelessness might look like, an Atlanta where Black spaces are preserved and alive with joy might look like, an Atlanta whose public spaces welcome and reflect with love, compassion and healing every person who has felt left out, unseen or wounded. Ask yourselves what an Atlanta looks like that makes the most marginalized among us, the least of these, whole. Ask us, and, because these requests require our labor and the expertise acquired through experience and refined through our work, pay us when seeking our time, our advice, our intellectual property, our insight and instruction, and our endorsement. We must hold fast to our calling and fight for one another, step by step. Not merely to listen, not to become better individuals, not to make friends with people of a different race or ethnicity, not to increase diversity hiring. Atlanta is called in this moment to apprehend and excavate White supremacy, antiBlackness, our own internalized oppression, from the roots, to dismantle systemic, institutionalized racism, to heal ourselves, to make ourselves and the places in which we live, just, at peace and whole. Neda Abghari Founder and Executive Director, The Creatives Project Liliana Bakhtiari Community Organizer and Consultant Monica Campana Co-Founder and Executive Director, Living Walls Rutu Chaudhari Founder and Executive Director, The Dharma Project Stephanie Cho Executive Director, Asian Americans Advancing Justice Atlanta Nedra Deadwyler Founder and CEO, Civil Bikes Yvonne Druyeh Dodd Founder, Evi D. Consulting Nikishka Iyengar Founder and CEO, The Guild T. Lang Artistic Director, T. Lang Dance Owner and Founder, The Movement Lab ATL Makeda Lewis Social Media Manager, MINT Gallery Marian Liou Founder, We Love BuHi Tracy Murrell Founder and Chief Creative, Tracy Murrell Studios Tiffany Ray Chief Strategic Officer, Generation Infocus Martice Sutton Founder and Executive Director, Girls Going Global Malika Whitley Founder and Executive Director, ChopArt Leatrice Ellzy Wright Executive Director, Hammonds House Museum To join our discussion, please email nowwatl2020@gmail.com. DUN


JULY 2020

Commentary | 13

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A call to serenity

Robin’s Nest

Robin Conte lives with her husband in an empty nest in Dunwoody. To contact her or to buy her column collection, “The Best of the Nest,” see robinconte.com.

This is a difficult time to write a column that I hope people turn to as a source of diversion and perhaps mild amusement. Even the spreading virus and ensuing lockdowns could be fodder for jokes about weight gain and quarantine beards and wine tours that took you from your kitchen to your bathroom to your living room. Creative types repurposed popular tunes and masterworks of art with coronavirus themes. (My favorite was “The Girl with the Purell Earring.”) I thought it was a tribute to the human spirit that in the face of a global pandemic, people found a way to laugh. Humor gets us through a lot. But there’s nothing entertaining about the current events of our nation, and I’ve been hard-pressed to find a topic of diversion. Then I came across this quote by the writer Annie Dillard: “A writer looking for subjects inquires not after what he loves best, but after what he alone loves at all.” So I thought I’d start there, first focusing on what I love, which is a lot of things, then trying to identify that thing that I, uniquely, love. Chocolate and coffee are easy to cancel out, as they are items of universal adulation. Mountains and beaches, sunsets and waterfalls — they also garner wide-

Healthcare leaders say lessons learned in pandemic continued from page 11

to colleagues to learn more about the coronavirus. One board member had a contact that provided the hospital system with an early copy of the manual written by Chinese scientists on how they were managing things. In addition to postponing elective cases, the panelists’ institutions took many other steps to try to control the spread of the coronavirus at their facilities. Visitors were limited and only in special situations were allowed. Everyone coming into the hospitals gets screened. “I think unique for Morehouse School of Medicine is that we have returned to campus,” Rivers said. It took a lot of preventive measures to realize that, he said. “Everyone has to be tested. We tested our entire workforce.” Fear has people waiting too long to come to the emergency department, Funk said. “We worked really, really hard to make people safe when coming into our hospital,” she said. Funk and Dexter both said the cleaning and disinfecting process makes it almost an hour to turn over a room between patients. Employees and patients must wear face masks. Dexter said furniture has been removed to help assure social distancing. Outside of the hospitals, Funk said not a lot of people are wearing masks. To those people who find wearing a face mask uncomfortable, she said, it is less so than being put on a ventilator for COVID-19 treatment. Opportunity to change healthcare model The healthcare leaders said with the practices that became necessary with the coronavirus, an opportunity has been created to change the face of DUN

healthcare. “Even in the midst of this pandemic we realized that some individuals or families have it much worse than others,” Rivers said. African American, Hispanic and rural communities suffered more for various reasons, he said. Poverty and densely populated areas make social distancing ineffective. The pandemic helped magnify the healthcare disparity on a national level, Rivers said. He said we can’t go back to business as usual with how we structure healthcare. “But we have to make change to be sure we are… meeting the needs of all,” he said. Funk said they continue to seek partners in rural communities to arrange for specialists to visit these communities to increase the availability of care. “Telehealth can inexpensively bring quality care to those communities,” she said. Northside completed more than 70,000 telehealth sessions. Those included follow-ups from the emergency department and surgery. The primary care clinic took the lead, calling COVID-19 patients who were discharged from the emergency department. Emory St. Joseph’s has been working with telehealth for about 10 years, Dexter said. “We feel like we made more progress in 10 weeks than in the 10 years previous,” she said. Rivers said Morehouse found some people were having a difficult time understanding the health guidelines being issued. People were gathering in churches, choirs and barbershops when they needed social distancing. “But we knew that message needed to be clarified,” he said.

spread admiration, being the subject of everything from screensavers to dream vacations. I am developing increasing appreciation for Mason jars, versatile little things that can be used as drinking vessels, rustic vases and storage containers and are handily equipped with imprinted lines that render them useful as a measuring utensils to boot, but they’re making a comeback, so I’m not alone there, either. In truth, I could focus purely on glass jars, since, like the crazy lady who collects feral cats, I’ve begun inexplicably surrounding myself with washed-out glass jars and finding things to fill them with. I get little bursts of satisfaction when I can transfer slivered almonds from their plastic bag to an empty jar of spaghetti sauce. And then, suddenly, I thought of the whippoorwill. I know I’m not the only one to be enchanted by the song of a whippoorwill, yet for me it is singular in that it is the song of my own memories. The very sound carries me back to my childhood and nestles me softly down onto the old couch on the front porch of my grandparents’ house in rural New Hampshire. It was there that I learned of this bird as a herald of the night and heard its call, a piercing sound that begins at the first dusky moment of twilight when the sky melts into mystical shades of bluish gray (shades which I’m sure Benjamin Moore has a found a way to can and number). It was there that my Nono told my siblings and me a legend of a pair of star-crossed lovers who became separated, as lovers of legends are wont to become, and whose nightly calls to each other were immortalized in the whippoorwill’s repetitive trill. It was there that I would sit as the evening deepened and cooled, by then just with my siblings and our Nana, because Nono always retired early. We would sit in the comfort of her presence, watching and listening, and use the time to rest and reflect on the day that just faded and how it was spent and the promise of not much more to come but sleep and rejuvenation and the prospect of rising again. I think of the song as mine alone because it is the call of my wise and loving grandmother, as well as my own naive youth. And with it I remember the words I spoke at her funeral almost 20 years ago, when I struggled to describe her to the congregation. I admitted that my words were flat, like snapshots, and that to truly reveal the person that she was, I would have to take you with me, to her house on the hill, where you would feel serene just to be in her presence … the presence of a woman whose soul was as pure and clear as the call of a whippoorwill. Perhaps that’s why I love that bird’s call, because in reminding me of her, it calls for me to be the same.

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Police complaint reform is one idea in racial dialogue continued from page 1 in-person gatherings unsafe. Deutsch gave a speech about her tentative plans to make Dunwoody more inclusive at a June 11 faith-based protest at Brook Run Park organized by activist Lydia Singleton-Wells. Another protest organized by Singleton-Wells at City Hall June 2 drew praise from Police Chief Billy Grogan. Singleton-Wells, who wants to become a community liaison between the city and residents, has organized two protests in the city and continues to push for reform within the police department, specifically regarding racial profiling and transparency. Like all police departments, DPD has a process for filing and reviewing complaints against officers. However, as some recent and older cases show, the documentation is not always available and it is possible for officers to resign without a record of possible or pending sanctions. A racial profiling claim SingletonWells recently made to DPD was investigated by the chief, the mayor and the City Council and ruled unfounded, but without documentation due to its informal nature. And in a case that drew press attention about three years ago, a former Dunwoody officer cost the city $187,000 in settlement payments -- without admission of wrongdoing -- after being sued four times for alleged unconstitutional searches at traffic stops. The officer resigned in good standing before he faced what Grogan said were possible sanctions.

A racial profiling allegation

Singleton-Wells, who has met with

Deutsch and Grogan about her reform ideas, brought up a recent allegation of racial profiling during the June 15 virtual city council meeting. She said she had not heard back about the complaint she told to Grogan. “This tells me Dunwoody PD is not killing black lives with use of force but has no problem harassing and intimidating black lives,” Singleton-Wells said at the meeting. But Grogan said the investigation found there was no profiling. Grogan supplied Singleton-Wells with the body camera footage from the incident and responded to her complaint, and he said he did not find the officer in violation of racial profiling. Official complaints against officers can only be filed by individuals involved in the incident, Grogan said. Since the individual did not file his own complaint, Singleton-Wells’ allegation does not constitute an official complaint and has no documentation, though Grogan as well as the mayor and council evaluated the incident. Singleton-Wells said a local restaurant assistant general manager told her at a protest that DPD officers approached him as he was closing the restaurant late one night. Officers asked what he was doing because he was in a handicapped-accessible parking spot in front of a closed restaurant late at night, according to the body camera footage Singleton-Wells posted on her social media. He explained he worked at the restaurant and confronted the officer about stopping him because he is Black. “When an allegation of racial profiling is made from a simple contact like that, it really diminishes those real instances where racial profiling could be happen-

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ing,” Grogan said. “We certainly want to take all those complaints seriously but nevertheless want to be cautious when an allegation like that is made.” Singleton-Wells said she feels the mayor and the police took the complaint seriously. Though she does consider the incident racial profiling, she said “it’s really important to address the problem and not the person.”

Lawsuits over searches

Four separate lawsuits in 2016 and 2017 against former officer Dale Laskowski allege unlawful searches during traffic stops. Norcross resident Jermaine Muhammad, who filed the first lawsuit, said he felt racially profiled during the 2013 traffic stop. The city settled the lawsuits without admission of wrongdoing or liability. Laskowski voluntarily resigned from DPD in 2017 and now works for Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office, according to his Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council personnel records. Laskowski could not be reached for comment through the Sheriff’s Office. No internal investigation was documented in regard to the first three lawsuits, according to Laskowski’s exit and internal investigation documents obtained through an open records request, nor did he receive any documented reprimands. “That is case in point of what we’re looking at that is taking place throughout law enforcement in America,” said Muhammad, who used to own a barber shop in Dunwoody. “It’s this allegiance to this white power class of protecting only a particular group of the public.” Two other men, Daniel Green and Jo-

seph Anderson, also sued Laskowski for unlawful search and seizure for incidents that happened in 2013. No drugs or weapons were found in any of their cars, according to the lawsuits. All three men are Black. The lawsuits did not allege racial profiling because that’s a more difficult claim to prove, said attorney Mark Bullman, who represented the three men. Instead, he said the evidence of the unlawful search was “so clearly unconstitutional that was the basis we focused on.” Based on video evidence, Muhammad’s lawsuit alleges Laskowski said “he just looks like the kind of guy … he would try to run or something.” “Obviously, through the lens of white supremacy, I look like someone who is going to run,” Muhammad said. “I look like a criminal. I look like someone who belongs behind bars — through the lens of white supremacy.” Before the lawsuit, Muhammad filed an official complaint with the department after the traffic stop for his cracked windshield turned into a search for drugs or weapons. “They were in defense from the very beginning,” Muhammad said about the city’s handling of the case. “They were very adamant this was done by the books and no violation of any procedure or protocol.” A log of Laskowski’s incidents, including compliments, complaints and use of force, lists Muhammad’s complaint as “complaint citizen not found,” which Grogan said means it was unfounded. No other documentation shows how the officers investigated the claim. In 2016, Gary Brown submitted a complaint of racial profiling against Laskowski after a traffic stop. After an internal

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review of the incident, DPD found that claim unfounded, according to a letter to Brown. Another lawsuit was filed by Colton Laidlaw alleging Laskowski conducted an unlawful search and was settled in 2017. Laidlaw’s lawsuit was the only one that garnered a documented internal investigation, according to Laskowski’s records. He was found in violation of four department policies, according to a memorandum to Laskowski from Grogan. Two of which relate to the process for handling evidence. The other two are violations of the code of conduct, including not following procedure and unbecoming conduct. “The most recent lawsuit highlights a pattern of conduct by Officer Laskowski which has brought about a loss of confidence in him as an officer in the service of the City of Dunwoody,” the summary

of his pre-adverse action hearing states. Though Grogan found Laskowski to be in violation of four department policies, he was never sanctioned because Laskowski resigned before those actions could be decided upon, Grogan said. Grogan declined to comment further. No exit documents acknowledge the pending policy violations or settled lawsuits. Muhammad said Laskowski should have been fired. “You’ll have certain departments that will allow those loose cannons to remain in their department,” Muhammad said. “Then you’re only inviting corruption into your department. Eventually it’s going to be a liability.”

Reform discussions

Muhammad suggested a citizen oversight committee with diverse participants as a way to check police power. During a June 15 Dunwoody City Coun-

cil meeting, another resident suggested a citizen review board, which would also review complaints against officers instead of just having supervisors internally complete the review. Deutsch said she has heard that suggestion from a few residents but feels “leery” about the effectiveness of the option. “We already have a lot of committees in the city of Dunwoody that don’t have functions or do anything,” Deutsch said. “We have to create committees with meaningful work to do.” She said she is considering a mayor’s advisory committee to move forward with citywide conversations about inclusivity and diversity. She’s also looking to Decatur’s “Better Together” community initiative started in 2015 as an example of what Dunwoody’s conversations could be like. During the same June 15 council meet-

ing, Singleton-Wells suggested having all officers give business cards with their names so people could identify them to file complaints. Councilmember John Heneghan said Dunwoody’s website could list police staff members with their name and picture, unless they work undercover, so residents know the officers. “It’s a matter that police officers are part of the community, employed by the city and paid by the residents,” Heneghan said. “The city council of Dunwoody has worked very hard to incorporate our police department into the community itself.” The mayor and council are not involved in the daily management of the police department, but Heneghan said they will review complaints “from time to time,” and Grogan is also forthcoming with investigation materials about the incidents.

How race and racism shaped growth and cityhood in north metro Atlanta BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

In Buckhead and Brookhaven, in Dunwoody and Sandy Springs, mayors and other prominent elected officials have responded to the George Floyd protests by decrying systemic racism and calling for civic dialogues on race. According to some Atlanta historians, they won’t have far to look for subject matter. Racism, the historians say, was a driving force in making the communities majority-White and affluent, in the annexation and cityhood movements that raised them to prominence, and in the lingering segregation that they help to embody in the metro area’s housing patterns, schools and economic development. “I don’t think anything’s changed for the suburban areas. They resisted integration back then… The whole area’s still segregated,” said Ronald Bayor, a retired professor of history and sociology at Georgia Tech and author of “Race and the Shaping of Twentieth-Century Atlanta.” Race is one of many factors in Atlanta’s political and social history, he and other experts note, but early overt racism remains an enduring, underlying, systemic force that shapes where people live and work, whether intentionally or not. Bayor and others say old racist patterns continue to play out in redevelopments of places like Buford Highway and Sandy Springs’ North End, where mostly or all-White groups seek higherend remakes of minority areas for their own aspirations, or in separatist urges like rumblings about Buckhead leaving Atlanta. Two of the leaders involved in the political debates that led to the landmark DUN

2005 incorporation of Sandy Springs -the inspiration for other local city formations -- agree that race was a factor, though not on whether it came predominantly from White Republican proponents or Black Democrat opponents. “It was much more complex and complicated than just race, but race was a factor.” said Rusty Paul, who fought for cityhood as a state senator and is now the city’s mayor. “...By the time cityhood really got critical mass, racism was much more subtle but still just as effective. I would not be fair [or] accurate if I didn’t acknowledge that there were issues on both sides that had racial overtones. It wasn’t everyone.” Paul added that “for reasons that I truly never understood,” race became an opposition issue, along with class and partisanship, as the cityhood was led by “very affluent, White [and] Republican” community advocates. “I think it’s going to be difficult for them to have a quote-unquote dialogue on race until they come to admit that the city was birthed in racism,” said former state Sen. Vincent Fort, who opposed Sandy Springs cityhood. He said he sympathized with arguments for more local control, but that achieving it through separatism was unnecessary and a form of coded racism based in “resentment that you had a majority-African American board [on the Fulton County Commission] making decisions.” Paul’s recent moves to establish a series of virtual dinners to discuss race and racism is a major development in local politics. Yet racial dialogue is also not new to metro Atlanta and itself can be part of the pattern of racial hierarchy. The classic form is the “Atlanta Way,” a term recently used by J.P. Matzigkeit and Howard Shook, members of the Atlanta City Council representing Buckhead, in

praising or calling for peaceful protests. As described by former Georgia Tech urban planning professor Larry Keating in his book “Atlanta: Race, Class and Urban Development,” the Atlanta Way was a political tactic established by Mayor William Hartsfield for dealing with the burgeoning Civil Rights movement of the 1950s. It involved White business and political leaders teaming with Black community leaders to negotiate gradual desegregation in exchange for avoiding direct confrontations or more radical demands. The Atlanta Way is credited for making the city relatively progressive in its time and for avoiding more severe versions of racist backlash violence that gripped other Southern cities. “But beneath this surface civility harsh facts prevail,” wrote Keating. The effect, he said, was to ensure White business elites controlled the city, with some concessions for the Black middle class, and little interest in the needs of the White middle class and the poor of either race. Continued segregation and widening income inequality are among its results, he writes. It’s a political dynamic that has continued even after decades of Black mayors leading Atlanta, according to Keating and Bayor. “It’s always been a facade. First of all, Atlanta was never ‘the city too busy to hate,’” said Bayor, using another Hartsfield-era term. “...There’s always been problems over race and I think that continues. Obviously in the [Atlanta] police department it continues.” “Taking down statues -- and I have no objections to taking down Confederate statues -- but that’s facade also. That’s how they’re covering,” Bayor said. “Things have to go on that will change the systemic racism that goes on in our society. And

that’s so inbred into the system it’s going to take a while.”

Race and northern expansion

“White fear of a black-run city” dominated Atlanta politics for a hundred years after the end of the Civil War, when Black citizens got the right to vote, Bayor wrote in his book. Along with “Jim Crow” laws enforcing racial segregation, those politics shaped the development of the northside suburbs. Segregation of Black residents in less desirable areas helped to send more White residents into then largely rural northern communities. Brookhaven’s Lynwood Park neighborhood was created in 1930 by Black residents forced out of Buckhead, where many continued to work as personal servants, according to the book “Race and Ethnicity: Across Time, Space, and Discipline.” At least 15 African American communities were wiped out for White redevelopment by governments in the area in 1940-1960, according to Keating. They include Macedonia Park, razed in the 1940s and ’50s so the White Garden Hills community could have amenities at what is now Frankie Allen Park. Expansion of the northern suburbs came in the Civil Rights era and “was overtly racial at first,” writes Keating. “Affluent Whites moved to the northern suburbs to live at a distance from the city’s Blacks, whom segregation had concentrated in the near south side.” After Jim Crow, a degree of that segregation in real estate is maintained, Keating and Bayor say, through such mechanisms as restrictive zoning that inflates home prices and continued on page 16


16 | Community continued from page 15 agents steering Black clients away from White communities. Jobs shifted north as well, with Buckhead becoming Atlanta’s financial core and Perimeter Center a Fortune 500 hub. When integration exists, it is often just a temporary side effect of gentrification, according to Keating. That process is a recent dynamic in Atlanta, as White populations both return to the inner city and move to even farther suburbs, while Perimeter cities grow increasingly diverse. In the 1940s, Hartsfield attempted to annex Buckhead and some other White suburbs into Atlanta. Revenue was the public rationale, but privately he acknowledged it was also about maintaining a White majority. “Our Negro population is growing by leaps and bounds… [Black citizens] “will become a potent political force in Atlanta if our white citizens are just going to move out and give it to them,” he wrote privately to community leaders in Buckhead and Druid Hills, according to Bayor’s book.

Facebook.com/TheReporterNewspapers ■ twitter.com/Reporter_News Buckhead’s annexation was accomplished in 1952, and in the 1960s, Hartsfield set his sights on Sandy Springs for the same reasons. Local residents rejected annexation out of fears of higher taxes and that the White-majority tactic would fail. In one response, Sandy Springs activists wrote that they would “build up a city separate from Atlanta and your Negroes and forbid any Negroes to buy, or own, or live within our limits,” according to Princeton University history professor Kevin Kruse’s book “White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism.” When future founding mayor Eva Galambos got involved in the cityhood movement a decade later, such overt racism was gone. Like city founders who followed her in Brookhaven, Dunwoody and other metro areas, she and her allies talked about tax money going elsewhere rather than improving local streets and policing, and about corrupt or incompetent county governments that foisted unwanted developments on the community. In her 2011 autobiography “A Dream Come True,” Galambos presents

Black leaders’ opposition as inexplicably mean or irrational and hinted it was itself a form of racism, culminating in the moment cityhood supporters convinced Civil Rights icon U.S. Rep. John Lewis to endorse their right to vote on the plan. Fort says there was no mystery to the opposition: It was about maintaining revenue for less affluent Black communities in need. “I could sympathize with the zoning issue because I come out of that type of neighborhood protection background,” said Fort. But he believes the arguments about keeping money local and incompetent leaders were in part thinly veiled racist tropes, and that cityhood was a prelude to the “apartheid” proposal to break off north Fulton as a separate, majority-White county called Milton -which was politically viable as recently as 2011. “It is just so ironic they would charge that they were quote-unquote the victims and that their fight for the incorporation of Sandy Springs and other incorporations was a Civil Rights issue. … It’s really kind of mind-boggling,” said Fort. “Sandy Springs is a lot more diverse

than the concept of it,” said Paul, suggesting there was some stereotyping of the cityhood movement. He focused on the outcome, claiming the city today provides as much or more tax revenue to Fulton and that the recent incorporation of South Fulton shows the cityhood model is effective. “What we proved, I think, was that you can have your cake and eat it, too,” he said. Paul said that back then, he never sat down with cityhood opponents to ask about the racial issues; now he is among the leaders making that call for racial dialogue that is new to the young cities. Fort said he wonders whether it will result in significant changes like redrawing City Council districts to allow for the election of minority candidates. Bayor says that, while there is plenty to discuss, there are few models for successful integration anywhere in the U.S. “They’re all talking the talk, but let’s see if they’re walking the walk,” he said. “... It’s certainly better to have that discussion. But it’s not like we haven’t had it before.”

Mayor calls for diversity measures while police chief reviews use of force policy, complaints BY ERIN SCHILLING erinschilling@reporternewspapers.net

After nationwide protests against racism and police brutality, the Dunwoody mayor has put out a call to make the city government more diverse, while the police chief said his department does reflect the population. Police Chief Billy Grogan also said the department already bans some criticized use of force moves. According to police records, it has received 12 civilian complaints against officers in the past year, many of them unsubstantiated. Both the city government staff and police force are mostly representative of Dunwoody’s population, according to demographics from the government and police compared to the U.S. Census data. Mayor Lynn Deutsch said during a June 11 protest that she wants to make the city’s boards and commissions more diverse because she is “very cognizant that for years they didn’t reflect the community that we are.” Meanwhile, the police department condemned the video of the Minneapolis police officer killing George Floyd by kneeling on his neck, which sparked the ongoing protests around the country. “The conduct by all of the officers involved was unacceptable,” said Police

Chief Billy Grogan in a June 2 statement.

Use of force

Demographics

No DPD policies have changed since Floyd’s death, DPD spokesperson Robert Parsons said. However, the department already prohibits all neck restraints, including kneeto-neck or chokeholds, except in deadlyforce situations when an officer would also be justified to use a firearm. Grogan said officers have the obligation to intervene if another officer is using excessive force, such as the case in Floyd’s death. “We can always and we should always be reviewing our policies, especially use of force or any other high-liability policies to make sure there isn’t anything we need to change,” Grogan said. Officers should always try to deescalate a situation, Grogan said. Grogan said officers do de escalation and use of force training each year per the state requirement, and they do firearm training twice a year. They also do mental health first-aid and some crisis intervention training. Officers must document all uses of force, which is reviewed by multiple supervisors using the report or body camera footage. Many of the department’s use of force reports involve displaying a weapon, such as a Taser or firearm, according to a log covering the past 12

The force of 62 officers, with two vacant positions right now, mostly represents the diversity of Dunwody. Thirteen percent of officers are Black, compared to 12% of the city’s population. Thirteen percent of officers are Latino, compared to 9% of the population. About 68% of DPD officers are White, which over-represents the 52% of White people in the city’s population. Only 3% of officers are Asian, which under-represents Asian people in Dunwoody, who make up 17% of the population. Women are also under-represented in the Dunwoody police force, though this is a nationwide trend. According to the 2016 personnel data from the U.S. Bureau of Justice, they make up 12% of the nation’s police officers. In Dunwoody, 6% of the force are women. “We frankly don’t have a lot of candidates apply for the department in either one of those areas,” said Grogan of the two under-represented demographics. Dunwoody’s city staff sees a similar demographic breakdown and also under-represents Asian people and women. One percent of the city staff is Asian while 30% are women.

months. In 2019, Grogan said force was used in 3.13% of the 2,201 arrests made by DPD. A majority of those incidents involved shoplifting or retail fraud, he said.

Complaints against officers In the 12-month period ending at June 16, 2020, there were 12 complaints for seven different incidents, according to the department’s complaint record obtained through an open records request. One complaint about an officer speeding was substantiated, according to the log. He received a verbal reprimand. Two complaints were filed about the same officer using a racial slur during the same November 2019 incident. The log that notes it was investigated by internal affairs because of its seriousness. However, that complaint was found not to be true. Each complaint was reviewed by three or four officers, including the police chief. In each instance, all reviewing officers agreed with each other’s evaluation of the complaint, according to the log. The person who filed the complaint and witnesses are interviewed and the investigator comes to a conclusion whether it is true or untrue and takes appropriate disciplinary action.

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Carol Niemi is a marketing consultant who lives on the Dunwoody-Sandy Springs line and writes about people whose lives inspire others. Contact her at worthknowingnow@gmail.com.

Thanks to COVID-19, the 2020 Dunwoody 4th of July parade was canceled. Based on past attendance, more than 2,500 participants and 32,000 spectators were left with a gaping hole in their Independence Day. Especially disappointed were the members of the Central Georgia Mounted Color Guard, the patriotic riders and horses Carol Niemi is a marketing consultant who lives on the Dunwoodythat carry the flags andSandy leadSprings the parade. line and writes about people whose lives inspire ContactPam her at worthknowingnow@gmail.com. According to parade others. Co-Chair Talmadge, when the pandemic caused participants to start pulling out even before the cancellation, the one group that was all in was the CGMCG. Though most parade-goers have a favorite float or band, the horses seem to rank high on everyone’s list. No surprise. Even people who don’t ride them like them. In fact, for more than 5,000 years we humans have not just liked them. We’ve farmed with them, worked with them, traveled with them, gone to war with them and built a country with them. Today, we mostly just love them, which is why the members of the CGMCG are passionate about sharing their equine partners with the public. The Central Georgia Mounted Color Guard was founded in 2012 as a nonprofit by two lifelong horsewomen, Ruth Wilson and Ann Harris, with the motto “Honoring Those Who Serve.” They led their first Dunwoody parade in 2014. “We love the Dunwoody parade,” said Wilson. “It was the first parade to seek us out, and we were honored and thrilled.”

4th of July Parade’s riders hold their horses for pandemic’s end

PAUL WARD PHOTOGRAPHY

The Central Georgia Mounted Color Guard leading the 2019 Dunwoody 4th of July parade. Front to back: Lisa Stacholy on Joe, Jan Stacholy on Twister, Ruth Wilson on Major, Nick Stacholy on his patriotically decorated bike. Hidden behind Major is Serina Stacholy as safety walker.

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Unlike smaller parades, Dunwoody offers a small stipend. “We really depend on that stipend,” said Wilson, who adds that the group has some small sponsors, but the riders pay all their own expenses except for their official jacket and shirts, which they give back when they leave the group. Members pay for all of their own travel costs, which are significant when hauling a horse trailer, plus all their color-coordinated, parade-specific attire and tack (such as color-coordinated saddle pads, fly caps and hoof dressings). In the case of the Dunwoody parade, it’s red, white and blue down to the glitter on the horses’ hooves. The core group consists of four members, supported by children, grandchildren and spouses, who participate as riders, safety walkers and cleanup detail. Young riders don’t carry the colors. The safety walkers keep overly excited spectators from approaching and spooking the horses. According to Wilson, as proud as they are to carry the colors, their favorite part of the Dunwoody parade is the meet-and-greet after. “Parents can’t pull their kids away. A lot of them are as excited as the kids and buy watermelon for the horses,” she said. Two years ago, at the end of the 2018 parade, Dunwoody resident Lisa Stacholy visited the meet-and-greet and asked if she and Joe, her Appaloosa, could join the team. Normally, prospects must attend desensitizing clinics at Wilson’s farm, where horses are exposed to sights and sounds they might encounter at a parade. “We look for a confident rider with a confident horse,” said Wilson. “Our clinics expose them to people, noise, smoke, flags and a shooting range that sounds like motorcycle backfire.” Since Stacholy knew Joe was unflinchable and the team needed a rider for the upcoming Alpharetta Old Soldiers Parade in August, she skipped the trial. She and Joe rode in that parade but didn’t SPECIAL carry the colors. After the 2019 parade, Lisa Stacholy and Joe get ready for the meet-and-greet with the help of Jordan Fields. On July 4, 2019, they rode in Dunwoody, her hometown, and carried the colors of the U.S.A. “Dunwoody was an indescribable feeling,” she said. “We’ve lived here since 2002. To do something so huge was a proud moment.” Even more special, her whole family participated. Her husband Jan, who grew up with horses, rode Twister, one of Wilson’s horses. Her daughter Serina was a safety walker and her son Nick followed the horses on his bike along with a Dunwoody High School classmate doing clean-up. “Our vets give so much they deserve more than a wink and a nod,” said Stacholy. “I always get choked up when someone struggles to stand and salute the flag.” Like Wilson, Stacholy loves the meet-and-greet. “Joe understands the different levels of people,” she said. “When a family approached with their special needs son in a wheelchair, Joe patiently stood there, head lowered, as they lifted their son’s hand to pet his nose. It was a magical moment when the child made the connection.” Stacholy and her teammates all hope to ride in next year’s parade. Meanwhile, they are looking for riders, helpers and sponsors. For information, go to cgmcg.org or facebook.com/CentralGeorgiaMountedColorGuard.

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A nonprofit organization is raising money to preserve photos, records and memorabilia from the former Naval Air Station in Atlanta in hopes the materials eventually will go on public display at an aviation museum at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport.

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The Inspire Aviation Foundation hopes to eventually create an Atlanta Air & Space Museum at PDK, which once was the NAS Atlanta. For now, it seeks to raise $3,500 to help preserve the history of NAS Atlanta by digitizing materials assembled over the years by members of the Naval Air Station Reunion Group, according to the foundation’s website. The archives feature photos, base programs and directories, promotional literature, engineering and architectural drawings for construction of the original World War IIera Naval Air Station, the foundation says on its website. “It’s very rare material, very precious material,” said Moreno Aguiari, a member of the Atlanta Air & Space Museum’s board of directors, who worked on WWII-era airplane news publications from his PDK office. Before it became a public airport, the Chamblee airfield, located on Clairmont Road on the Brookhaven border, had a history of military uses. Camp Gordon, a World War I

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training camp, operated there until 1922. Naval Air Station Atlanta operated at the site from 1941 until the late 1950s, when it relocated to Marietta. NAS Atlanta was shuttered in 2009.

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The reunion group started annual meetings in 1960, once the air station completed its move to Marietta, Aguiari said. The group’s archives were donated to the foundation. In addition to the archive, the foundation intends to develop a ground tour of PDK airport highlighting the facility’s history, according to Aguiari and the webpage. Eventually, the foundation wants to develop the Atlanta Air & Space Museum and Educational Campus at the county-owned airport and to use the archival material in a display about Naval Air Station Atlanta. Anyone interested in donating to the archives preservation project can find further details on the website at AtlantaAirAndSpaceMuseum.org.


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Ex-police officers and civilian worker claim sexual harassment

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firm timeline of completion,” but that its documents will become a public record 10 days after it is done. City spokesperson Jennifer Boettcher confirmed that Grogan’s investigation is based on the April 29 complaint filing. “It is presently believed that the investigation will be completed and the chief’s investigative report issued within the next few weeks,” she said. “The city’s position regarding the legal claims presented in the April 29 notice will depend largely on the findings and conclusions of the chief’s investigative report; therefore, the city’s response to Ms. Austin’s demands is expected to await receipt and consideration of the report,” Boettcher said, adding that the city’s response to the other complaint is likely to be made at or around the same time. Espinoza previously did not respond to a voicemail and texts made to a number listed as his and confirmed by a neighbor, and as of this week, that number was disconnected. Social media accounts he previously used in his DPD role appear to have been deleted or deactivated. Espinoza’s whereabouts are unclear, as Grogan says he does not know where Espinoza went after resigning, and Laura Austin, the attorney representing the former officers, says she is unable to locate

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him and believes he may have left the state. Two separate complaints were sent to the city by Austin on behalf of former DPD Officers Roger Halstead and Austin Handle, as well as transport officer Brian Bolden, who is a currently employed civilian staff member. The complaints allege that Espinoza engaged in sexual harassment, and also, along with other higher-ranking officers, in retaliation, libel, slander, infliction of emotional distress and the creation of a hostile work environment over a period of years. The complaints and one of the former officers say that some of the allegedly sexually harassing language that Espinoza is accused of using was transmitted in text messages and emails that have been preserved. “The severity and frequency of the continuous sexual overtones by Officer Espinoza as indicated from his texts, emails and the sworn testimony is horrendous,” said Handle’s complaint, referring to actions other officers experienced. One of the complaining former officers told the Reporter that DPD has a “cult-like” atmosphere where certain officers are favored and others are picked on. Underlying the alleged sexual harassment, he claimed, was that some of the higher-ranking officers are gay and favored each other in workplace decisions, while Espinoza allegedly made sexual demands on some straight officers. The former officer said he is straight and emphasized his complaints are not based on homophobia. The complaints also involve allegations of unfair or incorrect write-ups of policy infractions. The former officer said that part of the complaint is that DPD continues to employ officers who, he said, faced criminal charges or internal investigations while serving in either DPD or other departments, ranging from DUI to possession of firearms missing from a police evidence room to an incident where one child shot another with a police-issued handgun. The complaints, filed in April and June, are “ante litem notices,” which are required under Georgia law to provide notice and seek a settlement prior to filing a lawsuit against a city government. “I would tell you that they have not responded to me. I am drafting the suit for one [client],” Austin said in an email. Boettcher said Austin is aware of the city’s pending investigation and response. Austin said in some of the cases, complaints have been or will be filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces federal laws against workplace discrimination. Austin said that she is attempting to get documents related to the complaints from the city through the Open Records Act process and was cited fees of $6.5 million. After consulting the state Attorney General’s Office and narrowing the search, those have come down to about $30,000, she said. Boettcher said the fee estimate was due to the “exceptionally broad and imprecise wording of her requests,” which could have included 100,000 emails and unlimited body camera and other video footage involving 11 different people. She said the city will continue to work with Austin on narrowing the scope of the search “despite there being no such requirement in the Open ReDUN


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Incumbent DeKalb sheriff, school board candidate win races; commission seats go to runoff BY ERIN SCHILLING erinschilling@reporternewspapers.net

DeKalb County incumbent Sheriff Melody Maddox barely clinched the majority to become the Democratic nominee for DeKalb County sheriff, while the District 1 and 6 commission races are headed to runoffs. Anna Hill won the vote for the District 1 Board of Education seat. Runoffs for will be Aug. 11, and the general election will be Nov. 3. The results from the primary elections slowly trickled in from the precincts after long lines and machine malfunctions made June 9 a voting nightmare in metro Atlanta. Despite trouble on election day and the postponement of the primary due to the COVID-19 pandemic, voter turnout in DeKalb doubled from 2016, the last year with a presidential primary on the ballot. About 37% of DeKalb County’s 529,175 registered voters completed their ballots this year, according to the county’s official election results. In 2016, 18% of the 378,798 registered voters cast their ballots.

DeKalb County Sheriff

Maddox received 51.34% of the votes in the Democratic primary against seven challengers, according to DeKalb’s official election results. Runner up Ruth “The Truth” Stringer had 13% of the votes. Maddox will face Republican Harold Dennis, who ran unopposed in the primary, in the November general election. The winner will assume the sheriff’s position for the next four-year term starting in 2021.

cords Act…” There may be other complainants as well. One of the former officers said another attorney, Mande Moyer, is representing a fourth former officer in a similar complaint. Moyer did not respond to a phone call and email. The City Clerk’s office said that the city possesses documents from her “that were provided at the request of the chief of police in connection with an ongoing workplace investigation” and claimed they are exempt from public disclosure under the Open Records Act. Espinoza was popular with city officials and some members of the public, who knew him for his one-time role as DPD’s media spokesperson. In 2010, the DeKalb Bar Association named him “Officer the Year” for creating a “Christmas for Kids” gift program and dinner. As a lieutenant, he headed the Administrative Services division, where he oversaw officers and employees in several departments, including records, community outreach, media relations and property and evidence. Espinoza’s DPD personnel records show no complaints more serious than a need to improve time-management skills, and several compliments as well. As of May 11, the date his resignation went into effect, he was listed as “in good standing” after a “voluntary resignation” from DPD on his profile with the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council, which certifies police officers.

The complaints

The complaints from the former officers and the civilian employee have varying details and cover varying time periods, as Bolden was hired in 2013, Halstead in 2015 and Handle in 2018. But they share common allegations involving claims they were unfairly criticized by commanders soon after hiring and then allegedly subjected to sexual harassment by Espinoza. Halstead received DPD’s 2018 Medal for Meritorious Service for saving a child’s DUN

life. He claimed he was forced out of DPD in 2019. He claims that, shortly after being hired, he was pressured to impose on suspects “harsher charges that didn’t fit the crime” and was criticized and unfairly written up in general due to “jealousy” from a commanding officer. After that, Halstead’s complaint claims, he “began to suffer sexual taunting and harassment by Lt. Fidel Espinoza… [who] began texting Halstead asking for pictures of his penis.” Halstead also claims the harassment included requests for sexual favors in return for favorable job performance reports and for “extra jobs,” a term for paid off-duty assignments that are a way police officers supplement their incomes. Halstead’s complaint says he complained to human resources, then was frequently written up for alleged job infractions. He claims DPD gave him a bad job review when he was seeking employment at another department. Bolden’s complaint claims that shortly after hiring, he faced “bullying” from Espinoza, who allegedly preferred someone else for the job. Bolden’s complaint claims that Espinoza began to “sexually harass” Bolden, including claims of the offer of extra jobs for sexual favors. The complaint claims Bolden was falsely accused of stealing candy bars that were misplaced. Handle’s complaint claims that shortly after hiring, he was subjected to writeups from Espinoza and Maj. Oliver Fladrich, DPD’s patrol commander. Handle claims that Espinoza used “sexual overtones and requests for sexual favors for favorable work documentation and extra work detail.” Handle’s claim is based on racial discrimination, with the former officer saying he did not experience the sexual harassment directly but was aware of it and was subjected to other harassment that “fit his pattern that [sexual harassment] would be next.” According to Boettcher, the city spokesperson, “Mr. Handle was terminated following an Internal Affairs investigation.”

However, Maddox will still have her name on the ballot in the runoff because of a postponed special election. Maddox was appointed to the sheriff’s seat in November 2019 after former Sheriff Jeff Mann retired after pleading guilty to committing “prohibited conduct” in a park in 2017. The seat was scheduled for a March nonpartisan special election to determine who would finish Mann’s term, but the pandemic postponed the special election to coincide with the regular primary. In the special election, which includes candidates from both parties, Maddox received the most votes at 36% but did not hit a majority. Stringer and Antonio “Block” Johnson, the two runner ups who are also Democrats, had 15% and 11%, respectively. Dennis, Maddox’s challenger for the full term in November, received 6% of the votes in the special. The runoff for the special election will be Aug. 11. In the meantime, Maddox will continue to lead the office.

DeKalb County Commission District 1

The District 1 commission seat, currently held by Republican Nancy Jester, will go into a runoff to name a Democratic nominee. Cynthia Yaxon had 34% of the votes and Robert Patrick followed closely with 33%. The winner of the runoff will face Jester, who’s held the seat since 2014, in the general election for a chance to become the commissioner of the north DeKalb area, which includes Dunwoody, Brookhaven and Doraville.

DeKalb County Commission Super District 6

The commission election for super District 6, which makes up half of the county, will also go into a runoff for the Democratic nominee. Edward “Ted” Terry led the three primary candidates with 38% of votes followed by Maryam Ahmad with 35%. The District 6 seat has no Republican candidates and current commissioner Kathie Gannon decided not to run again, so whoever wins the runoff will assume the position in January.

DeKalb County Board of Education District 1

Hill won the District 1 seat on the DeKalb County Board of Education with 59% of the votes while her opponent Andrew Ziffer had 41%. Hill was endorsed by current District 1 member Stan Jester, who has held the position since 2014 but decided not to run again. District 1 represents parts of Dunwoody, Chamblee, Brookhaven and Doraville.

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