An Atlanta police officer who’s received official commendations and unofficial kudos from the police chief was kicked off the force after a psychologist declared him “unfit for duty,” despite admitting she could not “obtain an accurate diagnosis.”
WXIA-TV in Atlanta has the entire story of Officer Larry LoBianco, and there’s far too much for me to quote here, but the basic gist is this: LoBianco, by all accounts, is a good officer. He received praise after rescuing a kidnapping victim, and even saving the life of the kidnapper after shooting him.
A sergeant described LoBianco’s “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 promoted to the elite APEX anti-gang unit, where he continued to rack up top arrest numbers, but where he sometimes clashed with coworkers and supervisors, resulting in multiple transfers.
One supervisor wrote in his evaluation, he’s “a handful, but…a loyal and hard worker.”
It’s the “handful” part of the evaluation that seems to have led to his dismissal. LoBianco didn’t always fit in on the force, and there was one incident in particular that seemed to rub his superiors the wrong way.
The turning point, based on police records obtained through the Georgia Open Records Act, appears to be a burglary investigation that infuriated LoBianco’s supervisors shortly before LoBianco left for vacation.
Burglary calls typically involve an officer taking a report and some witness statements, then turning over any investigation to detectives. But LoBianco actually tried to solve the case, which was close to the end of his watch that day.
Records show both a sergeant and a lieutenant questioned LoBianco’s efforts to track the burglary suspects, after one of the victims gave a detailed description in his 911 call. They wanted him to come back because the next shift needed his police cruiser, LoBianco said.
LoBianco ended up talking to an individual identified as a suspect by one of the victims, which delayed his return to the station. He ended up complaining to supervisors a few days later that in his particular patrol zone, “whenever you try to do the right thing you get shot down.”
While he was on vacation, supervisors referred LoBianco to APD’s Office of Professional Standards to open an internal affairs investigation alleging the officer lied in the burglary incident report.
A detective investigating the burglary wrote, “I asked [the victim] if he pointed out a suspect to the officer while the officer was on scene. He said no, he never saw the suspects’ faces.”
LoBianco told internal affairs investigators the same story in a sworn statement, but the burglary victim could not be located when detectives tried to get a written statement contradicting Officer LoBianco.
Eventually, investigators would determine that the allegation of filing a false police report could not be sustained. They suggested only a written reprimand because LoBianco forgot to activate his body camera when searching the victim’s apartment.
That wasn’t the end of the story. In fact, supervisors continued to go after LoBianco, ultimately referring him for a psych evaluation on the basis of a memo written by one of his superiors that accused him of, among other misdeeds, repeated instances of sexual harassment.
A full page of the four-page memo details allegations of sexual harassment, but the lieutenant admits the alleged target didn’t think it was sexual or harassment at all.
“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.”
The lieutenant still suggested referring the case to internal affairs for a sexual harassment investigation.
When LoBianco went to Dr. Ifetayo Ojelade for his psych evaluation, she was somehow able to conclude that he was unfit for duty despite not being able to make an accurate diagnosis. LoBianco sought a second opinion, and then a third, and both doctors concluded that he could return to duty. In fact, one doctor called Dr. Ojelade’s assessment “one of the worst I have ever seen.” It didn’t matter to the Atlanta Police Department. Back in 2017, the city changed the rules regarding psychological fitness for duty, and no second opinions are allowed. LoBianco was officially off the force.
As it turns out, there were several other officers who lost their jobs with the Atlanta police department after Dr. Ojelade declared them unfit for duty despite not being able to make an accurate diagnosis. Both of them returned to law enforcement in other jurisdictions, and even Larry LoBianco has had his law enforcement certification re-instated by the state of Georgia. As WXIA notes, he can serve as a police officer in any jurisdiction in Georgia, with the exception of Atlanta.
Again, there’s so much more to this story that I encourage you to read the whole report. It really does sound like a promising police officer was kicked off the force due to personality conflicts. Atlanta needs all the good officers they can get, and it’s a shame that Larry LoBianco isn’t one of them.