Atlanta Police Dept’s Sargent Brian Wilkes and Captain Antonio (Tony) Clay
Representing Atlanta Police Dept. were Sargent Brian Wilkes who has been on the force for 22 years and with Zone 6th since 2012, and Captain Antonio (Tony) Clay also came by to field questions.
Sgt. Wilkes talked about use of the body cameras. After an initial adjustment, most officers now see the value and are willingly using the cameras; the video record provides a checks and balances for both officers and the public. It is part of his job to review the video from every officer’s camera assigned to his shift each day, and to ensure that officers are using the cameras. Video is retained in the cloud indefinitely. On APD servers it is retained for approximately six months unless there is an actual arrest associated with the video. As evidence for the prosecution of that crime, the video will be kept forever.
He also explained what he does on a typical day. He supervises 15-16 officers and attends calls as needed to assist his team. Each officer takes an average of 18-20 calls per day. There is a significant amount of paperwork required in Sargent Wilkes’ role as well as review of the videos captured daily on each call.
We talked about the no (car) chase policy for the city of Atlanta. APD officers can only initiate a chase if they know that they are in pursuit of a suspect in a felony crime and that the crime has occurred shortly beforehand. Barring that, the potential threat of injury/bodily harm makes these pursuits too risky. The Sgt. is glad that we have this policy because he has seen too many people (including officers, suspects and innocent bystanders) seriously injured or killed as a result of high speed car chases. He did note that State Troopers do not fall under this policy and can end up chasing suspects into these city jurisdictions.
We talked with Captain Clay about the reasons that the APD headcount is so far below plan. We are authorized to have 2000 officers but currently are in the range of 1550 -1600. Causes include many years of noncompetitive pay and benefits, and the fact that young people are less interested in serving as a police officers to which he believes the negative view of police by the public is contributing.
Anna Avato, from the International Brotherhood of Police Officers (IBPO) Union
Anna Avato, from the International Brotherhood of Police Officers (IBPO) union, represents APD officers, 911 operators and dispatchers, as well as officers from some other jurisdictions such as East Point. She noted that since APD began using body cameras and, as a result, the number of false allegations against police is down.
The investigation occurs whether an injury resulted or not. If the officer discharges his/her weapon, it is investigated by the GBI and considered an officer involved shooting. Anna shared the procedures and processes conducted when she is called out to an officer involved shooting, crash, or other incident. She meets with the officer or officers involved to understand what happened from their point of view. She walks the scene with the GBI investigators, and she helps to record in writing and with pictures the number of bullets in the firearm after the incident to help verify how many shots were fired. The role of the IBPO is to support the involved officers (Lt. and below in rank) during an investigation; they can provide counselling services resources through the Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) and IBPO staff attorneys with handle any necessary defense.
Anna stressed repeatedly the challenges 911 call operators and dispatchers face on a daily basis. Currently they are paid about $15/hour, but a competitive salary is $18 – $20/hour. The IBPO is working with APD to improve conditions for these civilian employees to ensure their mental health and to reduce the extremely high turnover we see for this high stress job.
We talked about how to report non-emergency incidents and the suggestion is to use the APD online reporting system. http://www.atlantapd.
We discussed that the #1 crime in our neighborhood is car break-ins. Adair and Drewry both reported there have been multiple car break-ins recently. As such, why it is important that residents are aware and complying with the ‘Clean Car Campaign’ as well as why it is critical that residents are not leaving guns in their consoles or gloveboxes.
One Safety Captain inquired about options for addressing speeding issues. Kay Stephenson advised there were a variety of options that could be requested via 311:
- a traffic study
- request additional speed limit signs or trees to be trimmed so it is visible
- install speed humps
- install additional street lights
- Call our new commander and request extra speed limit enforcement on the street
VaHL’s has 75-80 captains which is a testament to how much residents care about the community and why we put such a high priority on safety. Kay Stephenson reviewed crime trends from 2014 to current and crime is trending down moderately year over year.
There are 6,000 households in the neighborhood and less than 300 Fight Back Against Crime (FBAC) members. With this minimum # of participants, we can only afford 1 5-hr shift a day (VaHL Security Patrol). Deborah Schwarz volunteered to put together an FBAC focused communication that Safety Captains can distribute to their individual blocks.