By David Pendered
The Atlanta police major who on Thursday took charge of the precinct for Midtown and Downtown brings a strong political record that includes a suspension for saying he wanted to beat then Mayor Shirley Franklin in the head with a bat, and delivering the local police union support to Kasim Reed in the 2009 runoff election for mayor.
Major Scott Kreher assumed command of Zone 5. Kreher succeeds Major Wayne Whitmire, who is retiring.
Kreher has been active at Atlanta City Hall in discussions about public safety for at least a decade. Members of the Atlanta City Council routinely give him latitude to speak his mind at various meetings, permission that’s not granted to many and an indication that they appreciate both his perspective and frankness.
Reed was not quoted in a Nov. 3 statement that announced Kreher’s new assignment. Police Chief George Turner was complimentary.
“I recognize that a key element of success is to put the right leadership in the right place at the right time,” Turner said in a statement. “I am confident that Major Kreher will bring fresh thinking to the table. It takes a strong leader to oversee the vibrant and busy downtown area and with his many years of experience, the transition will be seamless.”
Kreher’s comment in the statement reflects lessons learned in his 23 years rising through the ranks from patrolman in Atlanta, as well as his service as national vice president of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers and as president of IBPO’s Atlanta chapter, No. 623.
“I am grateful to Chief Turner for having the confidence in me to lead the men and women of Zone 5,” Kreher said. “Our partnership with the residents and business community is my number one priority and I look forward to working with everyone to make Zone 5 a safe place to live, work and play.”
The statesmanship on display in Kreher’s comment shows a marked evolution from his blunt comment about Franklin, made in 2009. The context of the remark was a budget hearing Kreher attended, as the local IBPO president, to bring forward the union’s concerns that Atlanta was not honoring worker compensation claims from officers who suffered career-ending injuries, according to a story on cnn.com.
The CNN story quoted Kreher as saying:
- “’I want to beat her [Franklin] in the head with a baseball bat sometimes when I think about it,’ Kreher said into a microphone earlier this month in an apparent off-hand remark during a presentation he was giving to the council. Within days, the 17-year department veteran was suspended.”
CNN covered a news conference at which injured officers explained their situations, which Kreher was representing at Atlanta City Hall. Here’s one comment:
- “I’ve been calling the mayor’s office for more than a year, and no one has called me back or I’ve been told to talk to another department. Kreher called me back the same day,” said Ryan Phinney, a 43-year-old paraplegic whose squad car was T-boned in 1989. “Kreher was defending us against people who refused to listen, and that is so offensive. It’s no wonder he got upset.”
Franklin offered her perspective, again from the CNN story:
- “’Some people think I’ll just shake it off,” she said of the sergeant’s threat. ‘I can’t shake off an officer at City Hall — not in his shower or in his front yard, but in official capacity — threatening to hit me in the head with a bat. That is a severe act of violence. When you hit someone with a bat, you intend to kill them.’”
Kreher apologized and accepted the suspension.
In 2009, Kreher delivered to Reed strong words of support in his role as president of the IBPO’s Atlanta chapter during Reed’s runoff campaign against Mary Norwood.
The timing of the support couldn’t have been better for Reed. It came Nov. 16, just 15 days before the Dec. 1 runoff election and in plenty of time for Reed to use the IBPO’s support to crystallize his message on crime and the need to reopen youth centers to give teens a place to gather.
This is Kreher’s statement in a Facebook post that appeared Nov. 17:
- “’The IBPO supports Sen. Reed for Mayor because he clearly understands the urgent need for more officers to be added to the police force. In order to keep our city safe, we cannot be under-manned and under-resourced. Ms. Norwood cast two votes that caused police to be furloughed, leaving our communities vulnerable to crime and gangs. Senator Reed has a commitment and a plan to keep this from happening again,’ said Sgt. Scott Kreher, President of the IBPO.”
Reed was quoted in the IBPO statement as saying:
- “’I am especially grateful for the IBPO’s endorsement. It comes from the brave men and women who protect and serve our communities. They know what it takes to keep our citizens safe and secure. As mayor, keeping Atlantans safe will be my number one priority and furloughing our public safety officers will never be an option in a Reed administration,’ said Sen. Reed.”
The website atlantaunfiltered.com reported in December 2009 that Kreher was promoted from sergeant to lieutenant even before Reed took office. Then police Chief Richard Pennington approved the promotion before he stepped down. Reed had already announced his choice of Turner to lead the department.
A comment posted on the story noted that Kreher had already taken the test to qualify for promotion, and had notched the top score of all those who took the test. Kreher’s promotion was the result of change at the top of the department, which resulted in lower ranking officers moving up the ranks.
“It is not a political decision, it is merit based,” said the comment attributed to Rick Day.