In recent years, as corruption scandals at both the City and County level eroded public confidence in local government, the need for a unit within the District Attorney’s Office dedicated to the handling of these complex and sensitive cases became more and more apparent. Traditionally in Fulton County, such investigations were handled by federal authorities such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and, in some cases, this remains the most appropriate course of action. But District Attorney Paul Howard believed that this Office could and should do more with concentrated effort. To that end, the Public Integrity Unit was formed in 2000 with a staff dedicated to the maintenance of the public’s trust in local government and law enforcement.
The Unit is supervised by a Deputy District Attorney who leads a team of senior level assistant district attorneys and experienced investigators. It is housed separately from the bulk of the District Attorney’s Office due to the sensitive and sometimes political nature of its investigations. The Public Integrity Unit is responsible for the investigation and prosecution of cases involving public officials, corruption in County or City government, and law enforcement officers. The Unit–the first of its kind in a District Attorney’s Office in Georgia–handles these complex cases from their inception, often long before any arrest is made or any allegations are aired publicly. Such crimes require special attention, and their prosecution may differ from other felony crimes. All law enforcement-related shootings or incidents involving injury to civilians are automatically reviewed by the Unit in order to independently determine whether police action was legal, warranted, and appropriate. The Public Integrity Unit responds 24/7 to all officer-involved shootings and any death in custody matters.
Overall, the Public Integrity Unit ensures that anyone who commits a crime in Fulton County, regardless of position or standing, is held accountable.