Members of Brookhaven’s social justice commission recently reflected on what types of training are required for police officers.

Brookhaven created the Social Justice, Race and Equity Commission in September of 2020, following months of protest against police brutality. The commission is meant to address issues of diversity and equity. They also review the city’s mission statement, hiring practices, contracting practices and policing practices. 

During a June 2 meeting, the commission’s policing subcommittee reflected on a use of force training that members took through the Brookhaven Police Department. 

Co-Chair Shahrukh Arif said the training had two parts. First, commissioners watched dashboard and body camera footage of situations where officers used force and discussed those situations. Commissioners then went over laws and court cases regarding use of force policies. 

In the second part of the training, commissioners participated in two roleplay situations. One was a virtual simulation where commissioners had to react as though they were an officer to different scenarios unfolding around them. The other was a live-action situation where commissioners acted out different scenarios with officers. 

Most commissioners said they found the exercise useful in understanding how training works and how quickly officers are trained to react. However, they also discussed limitations in that training.

Arif said he would be interested in seeing what sort of training officers receive for everyday interactions, not just interactions with somebody who may act violently. 

“You knew that you were addressing a person who could potentially be violent. They met the description of someone who murdered their wife, or they hurt someone right in front of you,” he said. “When that’s not the case … what are the policies of how to engage with that person?” 

Commissioner Conni Todd agreed and said she found the training insightful, but it also left her with more questions about what other training officers receive, in particular  training to make officers aware of internal biases they might hold. 

According to the police department’s website, officers are required to complete a basic law enforcement program from the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (POST), which sets the standards for police training in the state. BPD spokesperson Lt. David Snively said POST requires a diversity and cultural awareness training, and BPD officers have a separate bias training provided through the department’s Georgia Law Enforcement Certification Program designation. He said both trainings are done annually. 

According to the website, Brookhaven officers are also required to do eight hours of training on de-escalation techniques, use of force policy, and firearms qualifications; eight hours of defense tactics, physical control techniques, and intermediate weapons; and eight hours of “scenario-based training” on subjects such as first aid and overdose response. 

The website also states that BPD holds annual reviews of use of force and community policing policies, and officers are required to receive at least 46 hours of education a year, which is more than the POST requirement. 

Commissioner Davis Burnett, who is a former police officer, said he was optimistic that Brookhaven police required extra training, had more experienced officers and had data to share with the commission.

“I think we should be grateful that there is data,” he said. “Just that they even have it. That is not something that is normal. It just doesn’t happen.”

However, some commissioners were hesitant to offer praise.

“I of course want to give all the kudos in the world, but … this is what you’re supposed to be doing,” said Co-Chair Monique Hudson. 

Todd agreed and said she thought the community should be careful not to feel “lucky.”

“Just because someone has a degree or they’re more experienced, doesn’t mean that they check the box on what we’re concerned about, and that’s use of force,” she said. “If the intent is for Brookhaven … to be the best, to be better at it, then there’s got to be room for accountability even when you’re good.” 

The public can view SJREC meetings on Brookhaven’s Facebook page. 

Sammie Purcell

Sammie Purcell is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers.