2016 Annual Report

Published on 15 August 2017 by in In The News

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Dear Stakeholders,

This year’s annual report for 2017 is worthy of Sunday dinner, water cooler, coffee house, sports halftime, and social media dialogues. Sharing this critical information with people in our circle of influence is the most proactive thing we can do to make sure more people know their rights. Will you pledge to do that?  Also, will you make an effort to attend one of our monthly meetings or community outreach sessions?  Also, I challenge you to visit our website at least once a quarter and share the link via your social media and email lists.

As an independent investigative agency empowered to receive, investigate, hear, make findings and recommend action on complaints against Atlanta Police officers and Atlanta Corrections officers, we value your concerns.  Formed in 2007, as a result of the tragic death of Ms. Kathryn Johnston in 2006, we realize that for many citizens, the ACRB may be the only way their complaints will be taken seriously.  During 2016, our board and staff have been busy with work that is designed to allow us to better serve you.  That work includes:

• Reviewing a record number of cases due to the expansion of a new Ordinance that became effective March 31, 2016.

• Having Mayor Reed make his first appearance before the ACRB

• Continuing to have a Board that reflects the demographics of our great city with the Mayor’s appointment of our first transgender member

• Having newly appointed Police Chief Erica Shields attend and address our monthly meeting during her first 60 days as Chief. She committed to work to improve the turnaround time with our correspondence and concerns.

• Ongoing efforts to close the enormous gap between the ACRB sustained complaints and the APD’s response to those sustained complaints

• Continuing to lead the push for APD to rollout Body Worn Cameras for all officers and dash cameras for all patrol cars

• Increasing community awareness and engagement as ACRB continues to educate the community on citizen interaction with police officers through workshops, at libraries, churches, community centers & other local venues

• Building a team of Ambassadors to help with workshops and other Know Your Rights awareness events.

I encourage you to read and share the information contained in this annual report.  Please feel free to share your questions and concerns.

The ACRB Board and staff are dedicated and fully committed to working with and serving all citizens of Atlanta.  And, on behalf of our tireless Board and staff, I want to thank you for your support.


Sherry B. Williams


Dear Stakeholder:

I would like to thank the Atlanta Citizen Review Board members and staff for their commitment and hard work for the ACRB and residents of the City of Atlanta during 2016.  The board and staff worked tirelessly to ensure that our work remained focused on how we could best serve the residents of Atlanta.

2016 was a great year for the ACRB and the citizens of Atlanta.  In the tenth year of the death of Ms. Kathryn Johnston, the Atlanta City Council approved sweeping changes to the ACRB ordinance that will position the agency to provide greater service to the residents of this great city.  The ordinance allows the agency to expand its service options to include a mediation program that will provide the rare opportunity for a citizen and officer to meet face-to-face to resolve a complaint based on mutual understanding and respect.

While we are pleased with many of the results of our hard work over the past year, we are eager to continue advancing the mission of the ACRB into 2017.  Our biggest challenge is to bring the ACRB and APD discipline rate on sustained complaints into closer alignment, which is a historic challenge for civilian oversight nationwide.  We intend to solve this challenge and make our agency the gold standard for the nation.  Our commitment to the residents, visitors, and officers of Atlanta is to ensure that the agency is responsive to the needs and concerns that each stakeholder has related to officer accountability, investigations, and meaningful results, based on integrity, timeliness, and fairness.

We understand that the work before us cannot be completed through just our efforts alone.  We are always interested in feedback, suggestions, and partnerships.  The citizens and officers of Atlanta are the keys to the agency achieving its mission.

Best Regards,

Samuel Lee Reid II


The Atlanta Citizen Review Board (ACRB) is proud to present its 2016 Annual Report. This report provides information and data related to the ACRB’s work during 2016.

In 2016, the Atlanta City Council made the most significant changes to the ACRB ordinance since its enactment in 2008. The changes have allowed the agency to increase its service level to the public. From expanding allegation jurisdiction to providing greater transparency from the police and corrections departments, the changes were important to increasing the ACRB’s ability to address citizen concerns.

However, the reality is that the ACRB cannot complete its work and mission without the cooperation of the Atlanta police and corrections departments. The ordinance change requiring the Chiefs of the Atlanta Police and Corrections Departments to provide greater detailed responses to their disciplinary decisions is a first step to addressing the citizen concerns about the city’s commitment to holding law enforcement officers accountable and understanding and improving the APD’s low discipline rate on ACRB sustained complaints. 

Throughout 2016, the ACRB worked diligently to meet its community outreach goals. With the gracious gift of time and talent, actress Jasmine Guy helped the ACRB build awareness of the agency’s authorization to receive anonymous complaints. Anonymous complaint filing and the establishment of a mediation program were a part of the March 2016 ordinance changes.

The agency received 184 complaints, containing 284 allegations. Of the 184 complaints, 40% were fully investigated. The majority of the allegations in those assigned complaints were excessive force, false arrest, false imprisonment, and appropriate action required. Zones 1, 4, and 5 received the majority of complaints. Most assigned complaints allegations stemmed from traffic stops.

One noticeable difference from previous years with regard to complaint filings is that the Atlanta Detention Center received more complaints than ever before, thanks in part to ACRB’s new video presence on detention center monitors.

The agency completed 50 investigations and reduced the average investigative timeline from 184 days to 137 days. The Board made decisions on 40 complaints, sustaining or partially sustaining 33%. At the end of the year, the Chief of the Atlanta Police Department had agreed with only 23% of the ACRB sustained complaints. Several complaints were still waiting for a Chief’s Response.

The agency’s Community Outreach Volunteer Ambassador Program (COVAP) grew stronger over the course of the year. Citizens with more than a passing interest in police accountability have been drawn to the program as a way of contributing to the ACRB and participating in sustained efforts to make a difference in citizen/police relationships. The leveraging of community resources will be a growing asset for the agency.

In 2016, the ACRB sought to make better use of social media accounts and its website. The agency is committed to providing the data and transparency to the community. The agency made several improvements to its website and made regular postings on its Facebook page. The agency also held its 2nd Art & Essay Contest.

Once you have read the report, please feel free to contact the office with any questions you have or to see how you can contribute your time and talents to the ACRB.


ACRB: Building Block by Block

The Atlanta Citizen Review Board (ACRB) is here to serve the citizens of Atlanta. Each day, we work hard to ensure that we provide the citizens of Atlanta the best public service possible, based on integrity, advocacy, and enthusiasm. Our pursuit of excellence is motivated by the belief that all people –  citizens and officers, the haves and the have nots, and the in-crowd and the out-crowd – deserve our total devotion to citizen access to the agency, transparency of the operation and data, engagement with the community and law enforcement, and fair and objective investigations.

Our progress is built step- by-step, relationship by relationship, and initiative by initiative. In 2016, the ACRB added a few more blocks to its foundation, making it stronger, to address citizens’ concerns about law enforcement officer accountability and move closer to the accomplishment of the ACRB mission.

In 2016, the Atlanta City Council amended the ACRB ordinance. The changes meant a major overhaul for the agency. One of the most notable changes involved the expansion of the ACRB’s allegation jurisdiction. This change was in response to citizens’ concerns about the number of complaints the agency dismissed due to a lack of jurisdiction. Another important change involved a provision that requires the Chiefs of Police and Corrections Departments to include greater detail rationale for their disciplinary decisions. This is a positive step toward closing the high rate of disagreement between the ACRB and Atlanta Police Department (APD) on sustained ACRB complaints.

With these provisions in place, the ACRB is put in a better position to address two of the most serious concerns that citizens have about the ACRB’s ability to address citizens’ complaints. Continued emphasis on community education and communication of ACRB data arms citizens with timely information that can be shared with other community members and used to support concerns that they may raise with the ACRB, city’s law enforcement departments, and elected officials.


Ordinance Changes

In March 2016, the Atlanta City Council authorized sweeping changes to the ACRB ordinance. These changes allowed the agency to begin to address citizen concerns related to the number of dismissals by expanding the allegation jurisdiction. This change had an immediate impact on the agency’s service level to the residents of Atlanta. Another important ordinance change that will have immediate impact on the ACRB’s service to the residents of Atlanta is the implementation of the ACRB Mediation Program, which will begin in the first quarter of 2017. A complete list of the 2016 ordinance changes is found in Appendix A.


In 2016, complaints received increased by 17%, from 158 in 2015 to 184 in 2016. This increase reflects the agency’s ability to serve the citizens better because of the change in the types of allegations that the ACRB could receive due to the ordinance changes.

Average Investigative Timeline

The agency increased the number of complaints completed from 32 to 50 in 2016. The investigators reduced the average of number of investigative days from 184 to 137, which represented a 26% reduction.


In 2016, excessive force, false arrest, false imprisonment, and appropriate action accounted for 67% of the investigated allegations. The majority of the excessive force allegations involved striking, shoving, pushing, kicking and slamming to the ground. Most allegations stemmed from incidents involving traffic stops. For more allegation information, see Appendix C.

Complaints by Zone

The percentages of complaints among the APD zones have slight variances, Zones 1, 4, and 5 accounted for 55% of the assigned complaints. Zone 6 had fewest number of complaints. In 2016, the Atlanta Detention Center (ADC) accounted for seven percent of the complaints assigned for investigation, which is a notable increase. In the past, the ACRB received on average one or two complaints a year from the ADC. For more information about complaints by zone, see Appendix D.

Board Decisions

The board adjudicated 40 complaints during 2016, nine more than in 2015. Due to the 2016 ordinance change to the ACRB’s allegation jurisdiction, the percentage of complaints dismissed was greatly reduced during 2016, compared to 2015. The most commonly sustained allegation was False Imprisonment and  Excessive Force, accounting for 61% of the sustained allegations.

2016 Chief’s Discipline

After collecting the data for the 2016 APD responses to ACRB sustained complaints, the result is a dismal 18% rate of agreement, up from 11% in 2015. As new decisions from the APD are received, at the end of each year, the rate of agreement changes to account for the newly received complaints. Over the past 5 years, the APD has agreed with 24% of ACRB sustained complaints, as shown in the chart  below representing the 5-year history of APD decisions. This percentage rate is disappointing to the agency and more importantly to the citizens of Atlanta. As one citizen stated during an outreach event, “It appears to me that getting redress for what an officer did to me is like rolling dice, you know the rules, the dice should be same, but you never know if you will be the lucky one, odds are, you won’t be.” This is an unfortunate view of reality that many citizens have expressed in different terms across the nation and Atlanta when it comes to seeking officer accountability.

The ACRB staff and board work tirelessly to provide the citizens and visitors of Atlanta an alternative independent process for filing complaints against law enforcement officers, external to the APD and Corrections internal affairs processes, with a service based on integrity and fairness for all. The board’s actions through thorough investigations and robust community outreach and education are all blunted by APD’s actions on ACRB sustained complaints. The APD responses to the board’s work is troublesome and a direct cause to citizens’ angst over the level of and the sincerity of the APD’s commitment to holding officers accountable for their actions. The APD responses to ACRB sustained complaints cause citizens to question where is the integrity and fairness. Words of commitment to holding officers accountable appear hollow when the statistical evidence reveals actions that are contradictory.

The responses to ACRB decisions is a grave concern to citizens. The responses do not only reduce the trust and faith in the APD’s ability to appropriately handle citizen complaints, but it has a direct impact on the ACRB and the leadership of the City. Citizens do not view the APD as a stand-alone entity when officers receive sustained ACRB complaints without receiving some measure of the correction or discipline. No, citizens’ perceptions of the City’s accountability mechanisms are that the systems enable officer misconduct, and they indict and hold accountable those outside of the agency as responsible parties who allow misconduct and lack of accountability to continue unchecked. Citizens are not concerned with the fact that the ACRB operates as a fact finder and not as a final determiner of officer discipline.

Citizens want to know what did the law enforcement departments do with the facts. And, it is that action that citizens use to measure the City’s effectiveness in reducing officer misconduct. This is evident during many Atlanta City Council meetings when citizens raise their concerns about officer conduct and the handling of the citizen complaint investigations. Moreover, it further supports community calls for stronger legislation for the ACRB and more prosecution of officers with the hope that the courts may address misconduct more fairly.

In the world of civilian oversight of law enforcement, excluding low funding levels, there are usually two avenues for reducing agency effectiveness and destroying an oversight agency:

1) the law enforcement department or police union make regular and vocal public displays of hostility for the civilian oversight agency and openly resist the agency’s efforts to conduct its work and

2) the slow and steady burn of the oversight agency through inaction on the civilian oversight’s efforts to hold officers accountable.

With a slow burn, it is not uncommon for there to be appearances of explicit cooperation and respect for the legitimacy of the civilian oversight agency on the one hand and a subtle, persistent resistance to the success of the civilian oversight operation on the other. In those cities, it is a perpetual cycle of highs and lows that continues for years, with the hope that citizens will lose faith in the oversight agency’s ability to be effective or that the elected officials will question the investment. However, we, in the City of Atlanta have an opportunity to reset the needle and start afresh with a new Chief.

The ACRB is committed and has been committed to working with the APD to address concerns that may be preventing the APD from appropriately handling ACRB sustained complaints. With the changes to the ACRB ordinance, requiring the Chiefs of police and corrections to provide detail explanations for discipline decisions, the ACRB is in a better position to pursue its mission of advancing the discussion of officer accountability to the public forum. The public will be in a better position to assess the rationale, consistency, and application of fair and appropriate consideration of citizen complaints.

In 2017, the ACRB plans to meet with the APD Office of Professional Standards to identify, discuss, and correct any issues with ACRB sustained complaints and the APD’s decisions on ACRB complaints. We look forward to working with the new chief and her staff to increase the rate of agreement on ACRB sustained complaints. We understand that there will not be 100% agreement on sustained complaints, absent an ordinance change; however, we know there can be and the citizens expect there to be a higher agreement than what has occurred.


Community Outreach

Thanks to an expanded comprehensive outreach/marketing program, following an expansion of the ACRB ordinance on March 31, 2016, the ACRB brand has become more widely known throughout the City of Atlanta and the region. The agency is attracting new supporters and interests in its work.  The new supporters have provided invaluable feedback and insight that is allowing the ACRB to consider additional ways to connect and partner with the community. The ACRB bench ads, located at or near MARTA bus stops citywide, played a key role in attracting more attention than any media other than its successful radio ad campaigns.

Focusing on a broad institutional outreach in 2016 not only resulted in a wider distribution of ACRB cards and brochures, but also grown into outreach scenarios that have partners marketing and cross-promoting a number of our outreach programs to the community as a part of their own calendar of events.

One of the most exciting initiatives of 2016 involved actress Jasmine Guy’s donation of her time and talents to assist the ACRB with its anonymous complaint filings announcement campaign. The ACRB is extremely grateful to Ms. Guy for her assistance in our effort to inform the public of anonymous complaint filings.

Art & Essay Contest Winners

The 2016 Atlanta Citizen Review Board Art & Essay Contest attracted students of all grades living in the City of Atlanta, and support partners Greenbriar Mall, Dick Blick Art Materials and the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System. Students from all grade levels picked up flyers and an entry form at the mall, their school or nearest public library branch and competed for gift and shopping cards, school gift bags and small monetary prizes. The contest featured Student Day At Greenbriar Mall For Kids Grades 1-12 who wished to show off their artwork or essays to the public. What they composed had to relate to the theme of the 2016 contest which was “Police in my neighborhood are…” Winners were honored by Atlanta City Council with a live televised ceremony, followed by a luncheon buffet for their families and supporters.

Board Member Strength

With the passage of the ACRB ordinance changes, the board size expanded from 11 to 13 members. The two new seats on the board went to the Urban League of Greater Atlanta and the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda. In 2016, the board also received three new board members. These members brought a wealth of life experience, new energy and enthusiasm.

Community Outreach Volunteer Ambassador Program (COVAP)

The 2016 Atlanta Citizen Review Board Art & Essay Contest attracted students of all grades living in the City of Atlanta, and support partners Greenbriar Mall, Dick Blick Art Materials and the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System. Students from all grade levels picked up flyers and an entry form at the mall, their school or nearest public library branch and competed for gift and shopping cards, school gift bags and small monetary prizes. The contest featured Student Day At Greenbriar Mall For Kids Grades 1-12 who wished to show off their artwork or essays to the public. What they composed had to relate to the theme of the 2016 contest which was “Police in my neighborhood are…” Winners were honored by Atlanta City Council with a live televised ceremony, followed by a luncheon buffet for their families and supporters.

Data Reporting

In 2016, the ACRB added more data to its website to provide greater access and ease for citizens to keep current on the ACRB data, to supplement the reporting on cases and monthly meeting minutes. This increased transparency will allow citizens to see monthly updated charts of ACRB data and quarterly updated geographical data. Access to this data will provide citizens with the information to challenge the City’s law enforcement departments’ handling of ACRB complaints, question changes in data as it relates to the areas of complaints and the types and number of allegations, and raise concerns with elected officials armed with data to support their concerns.

Know Your Rights Training (KYR)

In 2016, the ACRB continued to demonstrate its commitment to educating the community about proper interactions between citizens and officers. During the year, the ACRB conducted 15 KYR trainings. Through its partnership with the Atlanta-Fulton County Library, the agency has been able to connect with more individuals in their communities.


The ACRB is looking forward to challenging work ahead in 2017. The agency will be focusing on several campaigns to continue to press for increased discipline on ACRB sustained complaints. Through analysis of APD and ACD detailed responses to ACRB sustained complaints, the ACRB plans to work with the APD and ACD to reduce the rejection rate of ACRB sustained complaints.

The agency will also work diligently to implement, introduce, and explain the ACRB’s mediation program, which was a major addition that came with the 2016 ordinance overhaul to the services that the ACRB can offer to citizens. As the new chief, Erika Shields, settles in to the position the agency looks forward to working with her and the APD to reduce the low agreement rate with ACRB sustained complaints.

Over the next year, the ACRB plans to conduct more policy reviews, monitor and report on the officers’ use and compliance with body-worn cameras (BWCs) and work to increase the agreement rate on sustained complaints is also a major goal.


The ACRB had a very active year in 2016. With the overhaul of the ACRB ordinance, the agency was able to provide increased service to the public and reduce the number of complaints dismissed due to the limited allegation jurisdiction. Even as complaint numbers increased, the agency worked hard to reduce the average number of days to complete investigations. By keeping focused on community outreach, the agency strengthened many existing connections with the community and established new partnerships. In 2017, the ACRB will continue to add more blocks to its foundation to serve the needs of the residents of Atlanta, the city’s law enforcement departments and their officers.

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