2004 arrests using force disproportionate to black population

By Gus Bode

Carbondale Police Department releases findings in its Annual Use of Force Review

When the Carbondale Police Department released its Annual Use of Force Review this year, it found the number of arrests involving police force did not match the city’s demographics in regards to blacks.

The report, which was presented to the Carbondale Human Relations Commission last week, found that of the 2,512 people arrested in 2004, 62 arrests involved police force and force used against blacks accounted for 56 percent of that number.


“The large number of males as opposed to females is not alarming,” Carbondale Police Chief Steve Odum said. “We have a large population of males in the age group 18 to 24 because we’re a college town. It’s the number of black to white that’s really a cause for concern.”

In 2004, police force was used in 23 arrests involving white males, four involving white females, 29 involving black males and six involving black females.

Odum said although the number of blacks on which force was used last year is relatively proportionate to the number of whites on which force was used, it is disproportionate to Carbondale’s black population, which is 18 percent.

Police force is defined as force used to contain an individual and allow an officer to take control of the situation. Types of force used by the Carbondale Police Department include empty hand techniques, pepper spray and impact weapons, such as batons and firearms.

Department policy allows officers to respond to the level of force being exhibited by the person the officer is trying to arrest. Officers are then required to document any use of force, whether it be on people or animals, in their police reports or by memorandum when reports are not filed.

According to the report in 2004, empty hand techniques, or force without the use of a weapon or other device, accounted for 24 of the 62 arrests by force and pepper spray for 25 of the arrests.

None of the incidents in which police force was reported involved impact weapons or canine dogs. And the only incidents in which firearms were used were in the destruction of sick or injured animals.


Odum said these numbers indicate officers are finding other less forceful means by which to control situations.

“There are several incidents where the officers would be justified in using impact weapons or a higher level of force,” Odum said. “But they used a lesser level, and it’s still been effective.”

The Carbondale Police Department has been compiling the Annual Use of Force Review since the early ’90s.

Odum said the purpose of the report is to ensure officers adhere to the department’s police and are not using force excessively or inappropriately.

Tequia Hicks, HRC commissioner and outgoing Undergraduate Student Government president, said while the HRC is waiting for more information about the report, she thinks the results are something everyone should be questioning.

“I think it’s definitely something that students and the community should be taking a grave interest in and asking questions and following up on,” said Hicks, who was at the HRC meeting when the report was presented.

However, Odum said while the numbers may seem disturbing, they are not a trend in the police department and he does not foresee it becoming a problem.

“I would caution anybody not to read too far into these reports,” Odum said. “Yes, there is cause for concern, but does that mean it represents a continued trend? We don’t see that it does right now, but it’s something that we’re looking at and are going to take steps to see that it doesn’t.”

Reporter Ashley Richardson can be reached at [email protected]

“It’s not like we’re using force on every person we arrest,” Odum said.

Odum said although the department has been compiling the annual report since the early ’90s, this year is the second year the department has submitted the report to the Carbondale Human Relations Commission.

In 2002 the report found police force had been used in 50 arrests and 50 in 2003. This past year reported 49 incidents of police force.

Disciplinary action for an officer found to have used excessive force ranges from suspension, termination and possible criminal damages, depending on the level of violation.