Sandy Springs’ population is fairly diverse, with almost 46,000 residents people of color, but the city can’t say how diverse its own staff and police department may be. SSPD said it bans controversial chokeholds and has a single excessive use of force complaint in the past 2½ years, which it determined was unfounded.

The estimated 109,452 residents of the North Fulton city are represented by an all White Mayor and City Council.
City government does not have demographics figures available for city staff as a whole or for SSPD. The city does not ask a person’s race during the hiring process, so they do not have that information, city spokesperson Sharon Kraun said.

Minorities in Sandy Springs make up more than 40% of the city’s population, with Black people the largest group at 19.3%, or a bit more than 21,100 people.

The Latino or Hispanic population adds another 15,100 people, or 13.8%. Asians are 7.5%, or approximately 8,200 people. More than 1,600 residents are American Indian or Alaska Natives.

Statewide the Black population accounts for 32.5% of residents and the Hispanic or Latino population is 9.9% of the population. The Asian population is 4.4% of Georgia’s population.

The White population was recorded as 67.7% of the city’s population.

People in poverty represented 9.5% of the city’s population.

In 2018, 3.074 of the businesses in Sandy Springs were minority owned, compared to 8,446 non-minority owned firms.

Sandy Springs’ population grew by 16.7% between the 2010 Census and last year, with the population estimated to be 109,452 people.

Into this mix of people the Sandy Springs Police Department works on its mission of public safety. In the past 2½ years a single excessive use of force complaint has been made against an officer, which was determined to be unfounded, according to the department.

Internal Affairs Capt. Benji Cain said a single complaint for excessive use of force has been made against an officer since 2018. In June 2019, a person at Northside Hospital had been asked to leave. When she failed to leave, an off-duty officer arrested her and took her out of the hospital.

The woman filed a complaint of excessive use of force. Internal Affairs for the department investigated the claim, which was sent to the entire chain of command for review, he said.

“The evidence that was there led it to be unfounded,” Cain said.

Use of force has a broader definition, which includes whenever a suspect actively resists arrest and has to be taken to the ground to put handcuffs on, Cain said. It also includes the case of a felony traffic stop when an officer takes a handgun out of its holster even when no shots are fired by the officer.

“Our policies and training prohibit any type of neck restraints or any activity that involves choking. Further, our training and use of force policy strictly prohibits ‘choke holds’ or any other control technique that causes someone’s airway or throat area to be constricted,” said Sgt. Salvador Ortega, public information officer for the Sandy Springs Police Department.

The department’s public statement on use of force listed on its website said by policy its officers “are forbidden to use any type of neck restraint except where lethal force is authorized and is deemed reasonable and necessary.”

“Our officers are trained in zone handcuffing where multiple officers dealing with an uncooperative person on the ground can safely apply handcuffs; none of which include knees or choking,” Ortega said.

The Sandy Springs Police Department’s use of force model and all other policies are reviewed and comply with state certification standards, Ortega said. The department follows the International Association of Chiefs of Police use of force model.

Officers wear body cams and patrol vehicles have a dash cam and a prisoner rear-facing camera.

“Officers are required to activate their body worn cameras during each encounter with a member of the public to accurately document the encounter,” the statement said.

Bob Pepalis

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Reporter Newspapers.