A heroic police officer based out of the Atlanta Police Department in Georgia has been relieved of his duty.
What’s worse is that the officer in question can only speculate as to why it occurred since his supervisors and other officials didn’t clearly explain to him why he was summoned to turn in his badge and gun. All that can be determined was that this was the culmination of several instances of unsubstantiated allegations and smearing based upon the chain of events that led to his relief from duty.
Officer Larry LoBianco from the APD, barely a year after graduating from police academy in 2016, gained enormous praise after rescuing a kidnapping victim by shooting one of the kidnappers in the leg.
During that same intervention, Officer LoBianco managed to save the kidnapper he shot from bleeding to death by using his police radio cord as a tourniquet.
An outside psychologist hired by the City of Atlanta LoBianco has ruled LoBianco unfit for duty. LoBianco commented on the situation:
“It’s just horrible. How do you do this to a decorated officer who really has no bad history? We’re just going to cut him off.”
The APD first took Officer LoBianco’s badge and gun last December based upon the ruling of the pysch evaluation. Without his knowledge while he was on vacation for Thanksgiving, LoBianco’s lieutenant began building a file on him.
LoBianco’s lieutenant, Lt. Robert E. Petersen, wrote to his captain on November 30th this year that:
“[Internal Affairs] concluded that due to a lack of documentation on our part, there was not enough for them to relieve Officer LoBianco from duty.”
The lieutenant started creating even more documentation, writing a memo that would ultimately strip Officer LoBianco of his police powers, and land him in the office of a psychologist who has ended the APD careers of two other officers along with LoBianco’s.
In all three cases, the psychologist wrote that, because of the officers’ “overt efforts at impression management, the evaluator was unable to obtain an accurate diagnosis.”
What’s all the odder is that city kept sending officers to this same psychologist, even though she was not able to diagnose the three relieved from duty aside from saying the suffered from “maladaptive personality functioning” that rendered them “unable to function effectively in a law enforcement capacity.”
If that wasn’t bad enough, there’s no recourse available to challenge that doctor’s opinion and gather the thoughts from other medical professionals. Atlanta’s municipal ordinances were changed in 2017 to prevent officers from appealing the opinions of psychologists who determine them unfit for duty.
LoBianco had built an impressive series of annual reviews with above-average scores and arrest stats, including a compliment directly from Police Chief Erika Shields a month before he was relieved of duty. He was even recommended for a commendation by a sergeant on the force following his heroic rescue of the kidnapping victim in 2016, with his acts being described as “quick response, bravery, and professionalism.”
Another sergeant described LoBianco by stating he has an:
“Outstanding work ethic, productivity, investigative techniques…but where Officer LoBianco really excels is in his investigations. He puts in more effort in solving complex cases than those with similar experience.”
LoBianco was also promoted to the coveted APEX anti-gang unit, where he continued to perform outstandingly. While some coworkers had minute grips about him, they couldn’t ignore his contribution. One supervisor stated on an evaluation that LoBianco is:
“A handful, but…a loyal and hard worker.”
Shelby Zimmer, who witnessed LoBianco subdue an angry suspect on one occasion even wrote to the APD brass exclaiming his outstanding work:
“It was rush hour at a busy intersection, people were honking continuously, a crowd of people were gathering to watch, and the suspect would not relent. In my view, all of these factors created a tense situation that could have escalated, but the officer maintained control of the situation.”
Chief Shields from the APD wrote back to her command staff regarding the civilian letter stating:
“That’s some really nice feedback and says a lot about the officer.”
LoBianco’s captain forwarded the message from the Chief to him, adding:
“Very proud of you.”
However, four weeks later, Officer LoBianco was characterized as out of control, and a threat to himself and others. It seems that a series of events and memos put into place by Lt. Robert E. Petersen from the APD landed LoBianco in his plight.
After the November 30th correspondence citing that Internal Affairs couldn’t do anything to relieve LoBianco from duty, Lt. Robert E. Petersen penned a memo to the director of the city’s Psychological Services unit on December 5.
This memo alleged everything from sexual harassment claims to reportedly having a “hit list” of whom the officer liked and didn’t like at work.
The sexual harassment claims went so far as to even being refuted by the alleged target of the harassment in the memo sent, stating:
“Upon speaking with [the sergeant] about it, he has expressed that while the behavior is off and/or even weird, he does not feel like there is any sexual intent behind it, and therefore does not feel ‘harassed’ by it…I don’t think that there was any sexual intent behind it either, but more of his way of trying to connect.”
LoBianco mentioned the following after the fallout from the memos and psych evaluation occurred:
“I am suffering the consequences due to misleading and false information.”
Lt. Petersen did call Officer LoBianco “still one of us,” and offered that he was an effective law enforcement officer. Lt. Petersen also wrote:
“While I cannot deny that Officer LoBianco is very committed to the job and does go above and beyond the call of duty, he does get too involved and allows his emotions to get the best of him often, and it seems like this job is truly all he has.”
Officer LoBianco was summoned to a meeting in December where he was told to turn in his badge and gun. He says he was not told why at the time, and police records did not show that the department informed LoBianco of the allegations against him when relieving him of duty.
The officer was assigned to civilian duties thereafter. Officer LoBianco still had his personal, department-approved back-up pistol and a concealed carry permit, but he was counseled after clearing the weapon at work, and he was told to leave the gun at home.
For some reason the officer is still receiving negative reports from supervisors, or at least instances framed as negatives, such as that he was using binoculars to observe drug deals on the corner from the windows of the video integration center.
At around the same time LoBianco was relieved of police related duties, he learned he had been approved to take APD’s investigator exam for a promotion. His requests for information from commanders about his duty status went unanswered according to texts and police.