According to data from the Brookhaven Police Department, while a majority of people arrested in 2020 were white, a majority of those the police used or threatened to use force against were Black or African American.
Lt. David Snively presented the BPD’s 2020 Data Analysis Report at an April 7 meeting of the Social Justice, Race and Equity Commission policing subcommittee. The commission is tasked with recommending improvements to diversity and racial equity in the city’s practices, this subcommittee with improvements to policing in particular. The 2020 report had not been posted to the police department’s website at the Reporter’s deadline.
The 2020 report included “use of force” statistics, data that has not previously been included in annual reports, said Snively. According to the document, out of 2,281 arrests in 2020, police used or threatened to use force 280 times. Officers are required to make a report every time they threaten to use force against someone, such as using a Taser, gun, dog or other physical force. In 2020, there were 186 instances where an officer threatened to use force, accounting for 8% of all arrests. There were 94 instances where an officer used force, accounting for 4% of all arrests.
Ethnicity data from the report showed that of the people who police used or threatened to use force against in 2020, 23% were Hispanic and 76% were non-Hispanic. When broken down by race, 44% of those who police used or threatened to use force against were white, 1% were Asian, and 1% were of an unknown race.
While Black or African American people represented 42% of 2,281 arrests in 2020, they made up 54% of people that police used or threatened to use force against.
Despite the data, in an emailed statement Snively said force was not disproportionately used against any group. He said “percentage points alone are not sufficient to contextualize any one, or any series of, police-citizen encounters.”
Snively said each instance of force is reviewed by BPD six times and by an external auditor a seventh time.
“The purpose of the first four reviews is to determine whether the individual use of force was objectively reasonable, lawful and policy compliant,” he said in an email. “A fifth review occurs to ensure that our training practices reflect real-world needs. The sixth and seventh reviews are to determine whether there is evidence that bias contributed to an unreasonable, unlawful, or non-compliant uses of force. Given these multiple reviews, there is no evidence to suggest that our officers’ presentations and uses of force in 2020, or any other year, were motivated by anything other than the circumstances encountered by officers during the lawful discharge of their duties.”
Snively did not respond to questions about the process of how bias reviews are conducted in time for publication.
The 2020 Brookhaven report listed the types of force officers used in 2020. Out of 280 instances where the police used or threatened to use force, officers applied “physical contact” 61 times. In 21 cases, an officer used a Taser, and in 11 instances an officer deployed a police dog. There were 186 instances where an officer presented force, but did not use it.
According to the report, Brookhaven and Chamblee officers killed one person in 2020. The incident took place along Buford Highway in Chamblee, and it is unclear who the offending officer was. A BPD press release at the time alleged the person opened fire on police. Snively could not provide reports or documents on this incident because it is still under investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
The report also included a breakdown of arrests and other crime statistics by different demographic factors. According to the report, of the 2,281 arrests made in 2020, those arrested were more likely to fall in the 25-29 age group than any other, and 77% of those arrested were male. Of those arrested, 64% were not residents of Brookhaven, while 36% were.
The report also breaks down arrest data by ethnicity and race. During the SJREC’s policing meeting, most of the conversation centered around the need for more precise race and ethnicity data in police reports, not use-of-force statistics. Prior to 2020, BPD did not include an ethnicity category. Instead, they mostly reported Hispanic arrestees as white, a choice the department made even though Brookhaven has a large Hispanic population.
The department now requires officers to ask someone who is arrested whether they identify as Hispanic or not, but ethnicity and racial data are still reported separately. Some commissioners expressed concern over the accuracy of self-reported data, wondering if people might have reason to lie about their ethnicity due to fear or mistrust of police.
According to the report, out of 2,281 arrests in 2020 57% of those were white people, 42% were Black or African American, and 1% were Asian. When broken down by ethnicity, 63% of those arrested did not identify as Hispanic or Latino, while 37% did.
According to data from the SJREC’s website, 53% of Brookhaven’s population is white, 10% is Black or African American, 5% is Asian, 30% is Hispanic, and 2% is of another race.
According to BPD, 2020’s crime numbers are not directly comparable to 2019. The police department previously used the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report (UCR) to keep track of crime data, but replaced the system with the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) in 2019.
At the April 7 SJREC policing meeting, Snively gave an example of the difference between UCR and NIBRS.
“[UCR] summarized the crimes that were happening in a community,” he said. “For example, if someone robbed a gas station tonight, and they entered carrying a gun and they pointed the gun at two customers, and they shot and killed the clerk during that robbery, UCR would report that as one homicide and no other crime. By contrast, NIBRS would report that as one homicide, one robbery, and three aggravated assaults.”
According to a 2020 Crime Statistics report — not the 2020 Data Analysis Report — and raw 2019 cime data provided by the BPD, burglary reports in the city decreased by about 26% from 2019, moving from 220 cases to 163. Larceny saw a 7.4% increase, moving from 1,105 cases in 2019 to 1,193 cases in 2020. Motor vehicle theft also saw a slight increase, rising from 161 cases in 2019 to 176 cases in 2020.
Aggravated assault reports saw about a 3.6% decrease, moving from 111 cases in 2019 to 107 cases in 2020. Reported rape cases increased by one, moving up to nine reported cases in 2020. Murder reports decreased by one, moving down from three to two. According to Snively, murder could also include non-negligent or negligent manslaugther.
According to the 2020 Crime Statistics Report, calls for service decreased in 2020, moving from 94,046 in 2019 to 91,159. The Data Analysis report previously showed that there were 98,575 calls for service in 2020, but Snively said the statistics report pulled out all calls for service that were canceled.
The Crime Statistics Report showed that arrests decreased in 2020, going from 3,073 in 2019 to 2,281. However, the 2019 annual crime report lists the number of arrests in 2019 at 3,061. Snively said the discrepancy in this data is a result of the dates on which the arrest data was pulled.