Annual Professional Standards Report released by Greensboro Police Department

The Greensboro Police Department recently released the annual report for its Professional Standards Division in a continued effort to provide transparency and accountability to the public.

A memo from Chief of Police Ken Miller to City Manager Jim Westmoreland on May 28 stated, “The Greensboro Police Department 2013 Professional Standards Annual Report is an in-depth look at the way in which the GPD polices itself. The report includes an analysis of key topics that can affect public trust including: citizen complaints, uses of force, in-custody deaths, forcible entries, vehicle pursuits, motor vehicle collisions, and employee injuries.”

The GPD has published a report for the division since 2011. The 2013 report is stuffed with data evaluating the performance of the department at every conceivable angle.

There were 48 complaints made by citizens in 2013. This number is a 45 percent decrease from the 87 complaints made in 2012. Of the 48 citizen complaints made, the department sustained 34. With over 297,000 calls for service made in 2013, the number of sustained complaints comprises 0.01 percent of police-citizen interactions last year.

The most common allegations made by citizens against the GPD in 2013 were in regard to courtesy, with 28 filed complaints. This number represents a decrease from the 41 courtesy complaints made by citizens in 2012. Complaints made by citizens in regard to laws and regulations, arrest searches and seizures, and use of force were also common. No complaints were made by citizens in regard to a perceived violation of an officer’s duty to report.

Of the allegations sustained by the GPD, eight were regarding compliance to laws and regulations, while six were sustained for courtesy and five for truthfulness. No citizen complaints were sustained in reference to driving, but three internal complaints were sustained.

GPD also examined the race and gender of complainants to look for possible trends that could indicate discriminatory treatment. With 20 complaints made by black males in 2013, the distinct population group represented the largest number of those to file complaints. Fourteen complaints were filed by black females followed by six by white females and five by white males. No complaints were filed by those who identified as Hispanic females, Asian males, or Asian females.

For complaints that were sustained, disciplinary action was determined by the Chain of Command based of guidance outlined in the Discipline Philosophy of the department.

According to the document, “The critical aspect in the application of discipline is consistency and fairness. For the Greensboro Police Department, consistency is defined as holding everyone equally accountable for unacceptable behavior and fairness is examining and understanding the circumstances that contributed to the behavior.”

Factors taken into account when determining disciplinary action include employee motivation, the degree of harm inflicted, employee experience and training, intentional/unintentional errors, and the employee’s past record.

The most common disciplinary actions taken by the GPD in 2013 were reprimands with 20 instances compared to nine instances of suspension without pay, three instances of termination, and one instance of demotion.

The report devoted five and a half pages to the use of force by the police department. Officers are authorized to use non-deadly force in situations where the officer determines it to be necessary. Deadly force can be used by officers when he or she perceives an imminent and deadly threat, or to prevent the escape of a person whom the officer reasonably believes is using a deadly weapon, or to prevent escape of a person who poses a serious threat to others. Police officers are required to report all use of force events and supervisors are required to investigate and document each event.

GPD defines deadly force as, “an action likely to cause death or serious bodily injury, including but not limited to the use of lethal weapons.” Types of non-deadly force used by the department include pepper spray, tasers, and the deployment of police canines.

In 2013, the GPD documented 289 uses of force with 14 of these events resulting in complaint allegations, two of which were sustained as instances excessive force.

The most common type of nondeadly force used by the department in 2013 was physical control. GPD defines physical control as, “the use of bodily contact, to include; touching, assisting, grabbing, joint manipulations, kicking or striking. Physical control includes “soft” and “hard” hand options. “Soft” hand techniques are those with a low probability of injury, such as joint locks and pressure points. “Hard” hand techniques are those with a higher risk of injury, and include strikes such as punches and kicks.” The GPD documented 233 instances of physical control as a form of non-deadly force in 2013, up from 201 instances in 2012.

Use of taser devices decreased from 172 instances in 2012 to 140 in 2013. Use of pepper sprays increased from 51 instances in 2012 to 58 instances in 2013 despite a long-term trend of their decline in use since 2006, when the GPD documented 201 uses of sprays. The GPD said that there are drawbacks to using chemical sprays as they “cannot be safely used in confined spaces and the chance of an officer or non-involved person being affected increases in windy conditions and closed environments.”

Use of deadly force involving a firearm was relatively rare. GPD documented only one occurrence in 2013 against a human, and 74 against animals.

Data collected on events precipitating uses of force indicate that assaults and events involving drug and narcot- ics were the most likely to result in use of force by an officer. !