Giving an annual report from the year before he arrived, Police Chief Mike Broadhead said he found the number of times the Statesboro Police Department used force in making arrests surprisingly low, a heartening statistic.
In 2016, the department noted that a firearm was discharged once in making an arrest and that officers used Tasers 13 times, hands or feet nine times and force described as “other” one time. So in total, 24 use-of-force incidents were reported in a year when officers made 2,145 arrests and issued 6,626 citations and 4,162 warnings during 50,829 calls for service and 10,788 traffic stops.
“Really I was shocked to find out how few times we’re using force to make arrests,” Broadhead told City Council on Tuesday.
He was hired as the Statesboro Police Department’s chief earlier this year and started in mid-April, so all of the 2016 statistics were from before he arrived. Broadhead noted that he worked with Deputy Chief Rob Bryan, who served as interim chief throughout 2016, to compile the report.
Their chart showing types of use of force also included the use of baton and oleoresin capsicum, or “OC,” pepper spray, but noted zero uses of either of these by SPD officers in 2016. Broadhead said he didn’t know specifically what the “other” was but that the officer probably used some item at-hand — he mentioned a rock as a possibility — as allowed under police policy as a last resort.
“I think when you’re talking about the number of arrests that our officers made, over 2,000 physical arrests, to have to use this level of force in such few cases I think is tremendous, and I think that as our training hours rise, you’ll see that number drop even more,” Broadhead said.
Effective July 1, he reduced the SPD Patrol Bureau’s time on a shift from 12 hours to 10. This came with an announced intent to make training, previously treated as overtime, a part of regular working hours for all officers.
The step of making every Tuesday a training day has yet to be implemented, but Broadhead predicted that it will boost future annual training above the 13,660 hours reported in 2016. That was already an increase from 9,626 hours in 2014, but high turnover last year had an effect as academy hours for new officers were counted.
Officers fired guns while on calls more than once during the year, but he said the other times were incidents involving animals. The only time an officer fired at a person during an effort to make an arrest, the officer’s shots did not hit the person, Broadhead said.
He did not link this to a specific incident. But Olajuwon James, 21, of Hinesville died Oct. 4 of a gunshot wound he received while police were attempting to arrest him and other suspects in a reported home invasion-style armed robbery at the Campus Evolution Villages apartment complex.
An SPD officer, Adam Paquette, fired two shots during the incident, but after a preliminary autopsy report, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced that neither of Paquette’s shots hit James and that he had instead died of a self-inflicted gunshot.
“Certainly the community that I came from, we worked really hard to try to reduce use of force, and we never got close to these kinds of numbers in a community that was much smaller,” Broadhead said in an interview after Tuesday’s meeting.
In his previous locale, there was “a different demographic” and perhaps a “rowdier group of citizens,” Broadhead said.
“But I was just heartened to see how little we’re having to use force, which means that our citizens generally are complying and working with us even when they’re in trouble,” he said.
He thinks this reflects a perception by people who are about to arrested feel that they can go through the system and be treated fairly, he added.
Broadhead came to Statesboro, which has about 31,000 residents, from Riverton, Wyoming, population about 11,000, where he served as police chief for seven years. This followed 21 years during which he rose through the ranks in the police department in Littleton, Colorado, a Denver suburb that now has about 46,000 people, according to U.S. Census estimates.
In Riverton, Broadhead worked to restore morale in an agency that had developed a negative reputation, and reduced use-of-force incidents by 37 percent between 2010 and 2017, he stated in his resume.
Part 1 crimes
The Statesboro Police Department’s almost 51,000 calls in 2016 included 1,284 Part 1 crimes. These eight offenses, tracked by the FBI nationally, are criminal homicide, robbery, aggravated assault, forcible rape, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft and arson.
“As you can see, that’s a pretty small proportion of what it is that we’re trying to get done,” Broadhead told the mayor and council.
To be specific, Part 1 crimes made up 2.5 percent of all calls.
Another 4,194 calls listed as “disturbances” included anything from noise complaints to a fight in the street, he said. Totals in other categories included 2,278 suspicious activity calls, 2,634 traffic crashes, 1,926 false alarms, 12,498 location checks and 26,015 “all other.” Location checks include police checking businesses when requested and making visits to a neighborhood for someone concerned about a restraining order, he said.
The report included graphs, showing trend lines for Part 1 crimes since the year 2000, information from which will be included in a later story. Broadhead also reported briefly on public relations activities and the handling of citizen complaints and internal investigations.
A slide on hiring and recruiting reflected a continuing challenge for the department. With a city-authorized strength of 74 officers as of 2016, the department hired 17 officers, but experienced further turnover and still has some vacancies.
During the year, SPD staff members represented the department at 14 recruiting events. Meanwhile, 186 employment applications were processed and 28 background investigations conducted, resulting in those 17 hires.
“So that’s a tremendous amount of time and effort put in just trying to find the right person,” Broadhead said.
At least in part, this reflects a nationwide shortage of qualified people seeking to serve as police officers, he and other SPD leaders have said. But acknowledging department-specific staffing issues that were occurring before his arrival, Broadhead suggested they had an upside.
“The opportunity that came from within those challenges was it really made us focus on what we’re trying to do,” he told the council. “We didn’t have any fluff within the department with all the transition and all the attrition, and so it really helped us to focus on our mission a little bit last year.”
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.