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Airport officer from rough arrest reinstated

By Ed Brock

The Stockbridge woman who said an Atlanta police officer slammed her to the ground during an arrest at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is “very disappointed” that that officer has been reinstated to the force.

Attorneys for Diana Dietrich-Barnes expressed their client's emotions on Friday after learning that a civil service board had reversed Terrance Alexander's termination from the police department.

“We're extremely disappointed that the city would put this officer back on the street,” said Harlan Miller who is representing Dietrich-Barnes in a lawsuit filed by Alexander. “For the citizens who live around here I think it's pretty scary that this cop who likes to beat up women is back on the street.”

Steve Lister, who represented Dietrich-Barnes when she faced criminal charges from the incident, said his client would probably avoid going anywhere the officer is assigned.

On Nov. 2, 2004, a video camera recorded a scuffle between the officer and a Henry County woman. The video showed Alexander dragging Dietrich-Barnes from her vehicle, which she had stopped at the curb while waiting for her elderly mother. Alexander is shown picking up Dietrich-Barnes and slamming her to the ground before handcuffing her.

Alexander claimed Dietrich-Barnes had hurt him by slamming her car door into him. But the officer's supervisors dropped charges against the woman after reviewing the video.

Clayton County prosecutors also declined to press charges against Dietrich-Barnes when Alexander petitioned them to do so.

After an internal investigation Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington terminated Alexander this summer, saying he had used unnecessary force. The civil service board, in reversing Pennington's decision, decided a 30-day suspension was all that was necessary.

The board counted the time since Alexander's dismissal as time served on that suspension, said Atlanta Police Department spokeswoman Sylvia Abernathy, so he has been reinstated.

“He will be reassigned to the Atlanta Police Department in one of our zones,” Abernathy said.

Abernathy did not know if Alexander would be sent back to the airport.

Pennington has no plans to appeal Alexander's reinstatement, Abernathy said, nor does he regret his decision to fire him.

“He believes he acted appropriately based on the charges,” Abernathy said.

Alexander's attorney did not return calls seeking comment. In July Dietrich-Barnes filed a lawsuit against Alexander and the city of Atlanta but settled the suit shortly thereafter.

Miller said Alexander is still counter-suing Dietrich-Barnes, alleging that she injured him with her vehicle during the incident. Miller said that lawsuit is baseless.

“If you look at the video you can see it's ridiculous,” Miller said.