At least 1,800 criminal cases have been dismissed in Fulton County’s Magistrate Court since 2010 because police officers failed to show up in court despite being subpoenaed to testify, an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows.
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‘The department must do a better job’
Some subpoenas that have been served at the Atlanta Police Department inexplicably haven’t found their way to the officers who need them to attend court, the AJC has found.
“What is clear is that the department must do a better job, collectively, of tracking subpoenas and ensuring they get into the hand of the appropriate officers in a timely manner,” Atlanta police spokesman Carlos Campos wrote in an email.
While reporting on criminal cases getting dismissed because officers fail to show in court, the AJC learned that more than two dozen complaints about officers failing to appear in Fulton County Magistrate Court did not prompt internal investigations.
The reason: Atlanta police supervisors had determined that the officers never received the subpoena or it was received too late.
However, the AJC found that most of those subpoenas were not only served, but they were served well in advance of the officers’ court hearings.
The AJC asked Atlanta police to review 27 such subpoena situations, and the police department largely reached the same conclusion. Police staff confirmed that 25 of the 27 subpoenas were received by the department with plenty of time to spare.
Campos said the breakdown in delivering subpoenas to officers appears to be occurring after the subpoenas have reached the specific police unit where the officers work. Once subpoenas are served at a central location, they are supposed to be picked up by police staff daily and delivered to the officers.
“The units are receiving the subpoenas in a timely fashion,” Campos wrote. “It seems where we apparently need improvement is in getting them into the hands of officers.”