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Rookie Cops Say Superiors Abused Them

(CN) - Two Atlanta men claim in court they were wrongly tossed from the city's police academy after being forced to spend extended periods in isolation and later, being abused by superiors.

In a complaint filed in Fulton County Superior Court, Joseph Young and Benjamin Wardell say they were hired by the Atlanta Police Department in 2014, and sent to the city's police academy to complete 21 weeks of training.

Despite the seriousness of the training, during which recruits were expected to meet certain physical fitness standards, complete a basic law enforcement court, and prove their firearms proficiency, the plaintiffs describe a lax attitude in how the program was run.

As an example, they claim that as they and their 25 fellow recruits were preparing for one exam, the instructor went over each question, gave them the answer, "and even assisted recruits in spelling some of the answers."

The exam itself was "administered in a room without desks, requiring recruits to use their knees to write their answers."

Further, so small was the exam space, that the recruits sat with their knees touching, the complaint says.

During the exam, "the Plaintiffs confirmed an answer which had been responded to by a non-verbal nod of the head. ... At least twelve other recruits were confirming answers during the test with the exam questions previously provided by the instructor."

Young and Wardell say that after the exam they were pulled aside and accused of cheating making them the only recruits singled out for what had been a widespread activity.

"They were jammed into a room with no desks," said William McKenney of McKenney & Froelich of Marietta, GA, who represents the plaintiffs.

"The atmosphere was one of sharing talking laughing joking. The proctors were laughing and joking outside of the testing room," McKenney said.

"They then singled out these two officers who were doing superbly," he added.

The Jan. 29 complaint says Young and Wardell were told they were being let go, but that it would take time for their dismissals to become official.

For the next 54 days, they claim, they were required to report to the academy where they were forced to sit in an isolated room from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., in which the only window had been covered with brown paper.

"Plaintiffs were ordered not to sleep and not to bring any recording material or cell phones, have no verbal communication and to bring their lunch," the complaint says.

"When one Plaintiff put his head on a desk, he was ordered to stand," it continues.

Young and Wardell says they were under surveillance the entire time they were in the room, and that they were only allowed to use a bathroom once a day.

The plaintiffs were later reassigned to police headquarters, where they were restricted to a file room. There they were watched by academy recruits and repeatedly told to move file cabinets.

During the next 30 days, "police personnel yelled at the Plaintiffs, called them names, [and] reported to supervisory personnel that the Plaintiffs were 'lazy,' 'schumcks' and were 'sleeping.'"

On April 10, 2015, the men say, they were told that an internal investigation of the matter had been completed, and that they were cleared to return to the police academy.

But just five days later they were told defendant Police Sgt. William Lyons had reopened the case, and was again intent on firing them for cheating.

"William Lyons had an issue with my clients and went outside his chain of command, which triggered another subsequent investigation," said McKenney.

A spokesperson for the Police Department said that they do not comment on pending litigation.

Young and Wardell are seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, and lost wages on claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress, hostile work environment, and false imprisonment.

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