Stating that the Atlanta Police Department has needed to change its crime fighting tactics as crime has changed, Chief George Turner has announced plans to replace the Red Dog squad formed in the 1980s with a new tactical crime-fighting unit.
During a Feb. 7 press briefing, Turner said the new highly-trained force “will be second only to SWAT in training and tactical efficiency. The members of this unit will be carefully screened and selected.”
Over the next 60 days, the department will begin interviewing candidates for the new unit. Turner said the officers will have clean records, with no patterns of “use of force” complaints or disciplinary issues against them. Training will be paramount, with a particular focus on criminal procedure and court room testimony.
Turner noted that the nature of crime was different when Red Dog was created. The city of Atlanta had 37 public housing developments, homicides numbered well more than 200 per year (207 in 1987) and “crack cocaine was still used and sold at epidemic levels,” he added.
“Crime – and the drug trade in particular – has gotten more sophisticated, often moving indoors,” Turner said. “We, too, have gotten smarter, using technology and intelligence-driven analysis to strategize and shift resources as needed. But let me be clear: That does not mean there still isn’t a need for aggressive, street-level crime fighting. There is.”
Crime has dropped significantly since the 1980s as well Homicides now number less than 100 a year. Last year, there were 93 – only the third time since Lyndon B. Johnson was president that there have been fewer than 100 homicides in the city of Atlanta.
The Red Dog squad was Named Red Dog after the football play of “blitzing” – or pressuring – the quarterback. The idea was to pressure drug dealers, users and criminals associated with drug violence
When Red Dog was created in 1987, there were 37 public housing developments in the city of Atlanta. The squad presently has 29 officers, less than half of what it has had at various times over the years.
But Red Dog has remained active in crime fighting. In 2010, Red Dog made 2,374 criminal arrests, recovered 76 firearms, issued 625 traffic citations, seized more than $2 million in drugs and apprehended more than 300 wanted persons
Red Dog will continue to operate while the new unit is created.
John Schaffner

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