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APD launches new 'aggressive' crime-fighting unit

The new unit will be aimed at curbing the city’s rate of violent crime.

ATLANTA — Atlanta police have created a new unit aimed at curbing the city’s rate of violent crime, titled "Titan Unit" this summer. 

Chief Rodney Bryant made the revelation in response to a question about APD's 1990s era "Red Dog unit."

The Titan Unit "will have to be more aggressive," Bryant told a House committee Tuesday. But, Bryant also assured lawmakers "in no way" would it "replace what Red Dog was."

Red Dog was a well-publicized anti-drug unit activated by then-Atlanta Chief Eldrin Bell during Maynard Jackson's third term as mayor. At the time, crack cocaine was driving crime and gang violence.

“Like black-clad ninjas, they swoop down on their prey without warning,” an 11Alive News story produced by Paul Crawley started in a 1993 report. Video from that report showed police chasing suspects down a street as a gunshot is heard.

Red Dog targeted drug dealers and street crime with aggression and bravado.

"You’re in the projects, man. This ain’t Buckhead," a police officer is heard saying to an apparent suspect in Crawley's report.

The unit was effective and politically popular at a time when, like today, Atlanta residents were frightened by seemingly rampant crime. In fact, violent crime rates were substantially higher in the 1990s than they are now.

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However, Red Dog was also problematic. During one raid, its officers accidentally beat down an undercover Atlanta cop, Donald Jones, who sued the city afterward.

"Some of these (Red Dog) officers, they just attack people without any regard, without asking any questions or anything. Just attack you," Jones told Crawley. Jones notably wearing an APD uniform when he talked to Crawley.

The city eventually disbanded Red Dog. But, the appeal of specialty squads remains at a time when crime is resurgent.

"Atlanta had a squad noted to be called the Red Dog squad," longtime state Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) said during the committee hearing Tuesday. "Have y'all considered specialty squads?" he asked Bryant.

"Absolutely. That new unit is called the Titan unit," Bryant answered, quick to add that it would not be like the Red Dog unit.

Bryant says the new Titan unit will work aggressively to address violent crime, though he says, without Red Dog’s sometimes violent tactics.

"What we saw in the Red Dog era was drugs being sold on the streets and violence being committed right there. This violence we’re seeing is a tad bit different," Bryant said following the hearing. "We have to think more strategically with better ideas on how we are able to address crime."

Bryant was with Atlanta PD during the Red Dog era. Though the Titan unit’s strategic framework is still a work in progress, Byrant says he has no desire to repeat its mistakes.