Park City police prepare duty to intervene policy after death of George Floyd
The Park City Police Department adheres to most of the policies sought in the national law enforcement reform movement known as 8 Can’t Wait, and the agency is preparing to adopt one of the other steps the movement seeks as the country continues to debate policing in the months after the death of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis.
The 8 Can’t Wait campaign is attempting to bring reform to law enforcement agencies as a national discussion is underway about police tactics and use of force. The Police Department in Park City only occasionally must use force, and rarely employs force that can be lethal, but officials in the agency and the wider municipal government in recent weeks have addressed the issue internally. Mayor Andy Beerman and the Park City Council were briefed on Thursday.
One of the reforms sought in the 8 Can’t Wait campaign involves what is referred to as a “duty to intervene,” meaning that officers would be required to take action to halt excessive force by another officer as well as report an incident to a supervisor.
Police Chief Wade Carpenter said the agency adheres to the ideal underlying the duty to intervene reform sought by the movement and wants to tighten language in the internal policies regarding the topic.
Carpenter said the duty to intervene would apply to all officers regardless of rank and without repercussion for the officer who intervenes. A rookie officer would have the power to step in if a veteran officer was determined to be using excessive force. The policy would apply to the department’s administration as well.
The police chief said City Hall attorneys are reviewing the text of the proposed duty to intervene policy. He said the Park City Legal Department could approve the language by the end of August. The materials presented to the elected officials in anticipation of the meeting on Thursday included potential language reading: “An employee shall report/intervene with a supervisor without negative repercussions when questionable use of force is employed.”
The duty to intervene has especially been debated since the death of Floyd after video footage from the scene showed officers did not move to stop the one kneeling on Floyd’s neck.
Carpenter shortly after the death said in an interview there was not a legitimate reason for kneeling on the neck or head, saying at the time it was “not an acceptable practice” and there was “no excuse for it.” He also said at the time the other officers at the scene in Minneapolis should have intervened to stop the one who was kneeling on Floyd’s neck.
“We recognize the importance of what’s going on throughout the country. We want accountability and transparency,” Carpenter said.
The police chief, meanwhile, said the agency does not intend to adopt one of the reforms outlined in the 8 Can’t Wait campaign seeking a ban on police officers shooting at a vehicle while it is moving. Carpenter said such a policy would threaten the safety of officers.
In the materials presented to the elected officials, City Hall staffers said: “Shooting from vehicles is strongly discouraged but is not completely restricted. If an officer is receiving gunfire while behind the wheel of the vehicle, they may need to be able to provide suppressive fire to protect their lives or the life of another. Officers are highly trained and any discharge of a firearm is always reviewed by our Use of Force Board and Command Staff personnel.”
The materials presented to the elected officials also cover the other issues broached by the 8 Can’t Wait campaign. The 8 Can’t Wait issues and the City Hall statements regarding them include:
• requiring de-escalation. The materials say “we have always taught de-escalation techniques. We do extensive training in this area.” They also say officers completed training in first aid in cases involving mental health and most of the department’s officers are certified in crisis intervention training. The department is involved in training with the Utah Office of the Attorney General regarding de-escalation.
• the banning of chokeholds as well as strangleholds. The materials indicate “the ‘chokehold’ or carotid restraint is not allowed unless an officer can justify deadly force.”
• requiring a warning before an officer shoots at someone. The materials say officers “should issue a warning prior to shooting when reasonable.” They also say, though, “there are times an officer cannot safely warn a suspect without putting others’ lives in danger.”
• requiring an officer to exhaust all alternatives before firing a gun at someone. The materials say “part of de-escalation is exhausting all other reasonable means prior to discharging a weapon. Often this is determined by the violators action toward the officers or an innocent bystander, which forces an officer to take immediate action.” The materials also say the Police Department employs what are described as “less-lethal technologies” like a device that fires a cable that wraps around someone.
• requiring an agency to follow a use of force continuum, which outlines the increasing levels of force an officer uses. “In some situations where suspects use force it may be necessary for officers to go immediately to more deadly uses of force,” the materials say. They also say: “The issue is that officers often have to make immediate determinations as to what force is needed to safely take a violator into custody. Officers, at times may need to go from mere presence to deadly force if, for instance, a violator pulls out a firearm. Officers have a responsibility to focus on the safety of the community, violator and the officer.”
More information about the 8 Can’t Wait campaign is available at 8cantwait.org. More information about the Police Department, including the policy manual, is available at parkcity.org/departments/police.
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