Forest Park Council Members Announce Lawsuit Over Police Surveillance Allegations

Amanda Cooper
January 07, 2020 - 3:39 pm

From police racial profiling, “pull over Christians Sundays, immigration complaints and targeted surveillance; Forest Park City council members Latresa Akins-Wells and Dabouze Antoine speak candidly about their experiences with the police department during a press conference today. 

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(Photo Credit: Amanda Cooper/RADIO.COM)

Standing alongside, Attorneys Rod Edmond and Harry Bowden as well as the Clayton County NAACP. It was announced that Akins-Wells and Antoine had sent a notice of intent to sue to the City of Forest Park for being targeted by the rogue police chief and police department.

Edmond, Lindsay & Atkins LLP is representing the council members, and they provided more details in the press release listed below:

In October 2019, Forest Park, GA City Council members Latresa Akins-Wells and Dabouze Antoine surprisingly were asked to meet with the City Manager and City Attorney for Forest Park, GA.  During this meeting, they were stunned to learn that Forest Park Police Chief Dwayne Hobbs used a group of officers in his department to conduct a secret surveillance operation against them for nearly four years.  During most of that time frame, Ms. Akins-Wells and Mr. Antoine were the only two African American City Council members and were vocal critics of Chief Hobbs and the Police Department. Without reasonable suspicion, probable cause or any warrant, Chief Hobbs, perhaps with the knowledge and support of other government officials in Forest Park, abused government resources to investigate two elected African American council members who challenged his leadership.
Ms. Akins-Wells and Mr. Antoine learned that they were routinely followed by police, often using undercover vehicles.  Among other violations of their civil rights and privacy, Chief Hobbs’ secret operation included surveillance videos taken of them, their families, and their homes.  Police officers also routinely rummaged through their garbage looking for anything that might be used to harass, embarrass, or threaten them.  Both City Council members are shocked, angry, and profoundly hurt by this revelation.
Mrs. Akins-Wells is a business owner, a wife, and a mother of 2.  She was elected to the Forest Park City Council in 2011.  Mr. Antoine is a special education paraprofessional at Forest Park High School.  He was elected in 2013.  Both council members were vocal critics of the Forest Park Police Department and Chief Hobbs.  They challenged and questioned the Police Chief about numerous practices that they felt were discriminatory, including what Councilman Antoine calls “Pullover Christian Sundays,” the practice where Forest Park Police placed roadblocks outside of Hispanic churches on Sundays to run license plates and identification checks on churchgoers.  Also, an investigation by the news found that more than 80 percent of arrests for small-quantity marijuana in Forest Park between 2015 and 2018 involved African American suspects.
“I sometimes felt as though people were following me and my family and that we were being watched,” says Mrs. Akins-Wells.  “I was fearful for myself and for my family.  I did not know why people were watching me, but this explains it all.  I feel violated.”  Mr. Antoine says, “As a young African American man in the South, I am very sensitive to racial profiling.”  “When I wondered if I was being followed, it scared me.  Was I going to be arrested?  Were the police going to set me up to be convicted of something I did not do?  I did not know for sure what was happening.  It was a horrible way to live.”

 Police Chief Hobbs was fired in disgrace in October 2018 with numerous questions surrounding police department finances.  A GBI investigation into the department under his leadership is still ongoing.