CBS Atlanta News has learned a major mistake within the Atlanta Police Department could set countless violent criminals free. Hundreds of officers' certifications have lapsed and the arrests they've made could be dismissed.
Chief Investigative Reporter Wendy Saltzman has learned about 50 officers' arrest powers were pulled as a result of the training lapses. According to defense attorneys, that could call into question the legality of arrests made by these officers, warrants they've served and the future of criminals who are perhaps illegally locked up behind bars.
"What if one of these officers arrested someone for murder, a murder they did not witness?" Saltzman asked defense attorney Dan Grossman.
"It would be an unauthorized arrest," Grossman said.
According to sources close to the city's investigation, years of arrests by officers in the police department may be illegal because the officers who made them lacked the proper certification and arrest powers.
"Certain people who should perhaps be in prison might not be because of the Atlanta Police Department's lack of training," Grossman said.
Grossman sued the Atlanta police following an illegal raid at the Atlanta Eagle, involving officers who were later also found not to have been properly trained.
"There is no excuse to have officers who are not trained. That is a danger to the citizens and it is a danger to police officers," he said.
The city's audit has found mistakes in the certification of more than 200 officers. The lapses extend as far back as 1990, and confessions and evidence collected by those uncertified officers over the last 20 years could be thrown out.