At least once every year, we conduct a staff review of our use of force policies. We do this using a cloud-based network where all police department supervisors are invited to offer edits and feedback on suggestions by others. The process begins with a review of any recent legislation or court cases, and then we look at data from our own incidents involving use of force to see if there are any worrisome trends.
It hasn’t been a full year yet, but I thought now would be a good time to give the policies another look. This time, the staff review will also seek feedback from our community.
Specifically, we are looking at each of the suggestions published by the “8 can’t wait” campaign. Most of these are already incorporated into our existing policy in varying language, but we want to see if there are ways to make them more clear and understandable, both to the officers and to those we serve.
Some things to think about as we move forward with this project:
- What does it mean to require an officer to intervene? Does it mean to physically stop the conduct that is perceived to be inappropriate, or is a verbal suggestion sufficient?
- How do you define a “choke hold”? Is it any tactic that touches any part of the neck, or does it mean to actually compress the trachea with the intent of stopping airflow to the lungs? For example, officers are trained to use pressure points in the base of the jaw as a way to get compliance without injury. This can be a very effective and low-risk technique, but it can be easily perceived by others as a “choke hold.” Do we prohibit that?
- Is an outright ban on choke-holds reasonable? What if the circumstances truly warrant deadly force but the officer is, for example, pinned in such a way that he or she cannot access any weapons. Might it be reasonable under those circumstances?
- Is an outright ban on shooting at moving vehicles appropriate? What if the driver is trying to drive into a large crowd, as has happened quite frequently in recent times?
- Is it reasonable to require a verbal warning in every instance before using deadly force? Might there be circumstances where a warning could expose officers to danger or prompt an armed person to start shooting innocent people?
These are just a few of the questions that we will consider during this review, and my goal is to have policies that promote safety and professionalism without ambiguity. As I am committed to ensuring that what we do is a reflection of the values of our community, please feel free to share your thoughts.