Citizen complaints against GPD increase as more citizens become aware of review committee

by Jordan Green

Assistant City Manager Michael Speedling and Chief Tim Bellamy prepare for a press conference in May. (file photo)

New data released by the city of Greensboro earlier this month indicates that citizen complaints about interactions with police officers that were internally investigated by the police department quadrupled from nine in 2008 to 38 in 2009. Out of 80 cases opened by the complaint review committee, a citizen oversight body, since 2005, 57 have been closed.

Only four of those resulted in findings sustaining violations by officers.

Those numbers tell a different story than a similar set of numbers cited by City Manager Rashad Young during a May 13 press conference. Young said 58 complaints were received by the department in 2008, and 50 in 2009.

“We have a great police department that is performing well, by all performance measures you would judge a police department by: recruiting, selection, training, crime statistics and interactions with the public,” Young said at the time. “They demonstrate their pride and professionalism every day.”

Michael Speedling, assistant city manager for public safety and human resources, said the recently developed set of numbers showing an brought to the complaint review committee, while the earlier set of numbers cited by his boss that shows a decrease reflects complaints filed directly with the police department. Speedling said there could be some overlap in cases, so adding the two numbers would not provide an accurate composite.

“There’s an increase, but when you look at the number of complaints compared to the number of interactions, they’re still very minor, plus there are probably additional interactions that were not documented,” Speedling said. “That bodes well for how the department is handling citizen complaints, but I also expect that as the CRC becomes more and more vibrant [the number of complaints] will go up.”

In the past, members of the complaint review committee have complained about the police department withholding information so that the citizen body was hampered in making appropriate determination.

Speedling acknowledged as much in a recent interview.

“We weren’t doing well before this year,” cooperation, in passing information forward and in our transparency.

“Number-one, we didn’t have a sense of urgency in getting those cases done,” he added. “Now, we have a 90-day metric because. If the Greensboro Police Department is not getting [internal] investigations done, we will challenge them.”