The Chattanooga Police Department says it has reviewed its policies to meet the "#8CantWait" police reform campaign proposals, though its chief expects more changes may come as conversations continue amid ongoing protests.
Demonstrators have taken to the streets across the nation demanding action from their local governments and law enforcement agencies after George Floyd, a handcuffed black man, died while his neck was pinned under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer in May.
The #8CantWait campaign is a project from Campaign Zero, a national movement to end police violence born out of protests over the 2014 fatal shooting of Michael Brown, a black man, by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. #8CantWait calls for police departments to take eight steps to decrease police killings.
Those steps include banning choke holds, requiring de-escalation, requiring a warning before shooting, exhausting all alternatives before shooting, banning shooting at moving vehicles, requiring a use of force continuum, requiring comprehensive reporting and requiring officers to intervene if they see policy or law violation by a colleague.
Chattanooga Police Department's use of force policyView
Some of these policies have been in place at the Chattanooga Police Department for some time, while others, such as last week's addition of a "duty to intervene" clause in the department's code of conduct policy, have been added more recently.
The department reviews its policies annually to be in line with requirements by state and national law enforcement accreditation agencies.
"The Chattanooga Police Department policies address all points of the #8cantwait campaign," Chief David Roddy said in a statement. "Understanding that policies are constantly reviewed and updated, I fully anticipate future conversations both internally at [the department] and with members of the community to determine if stronger or more defined language would provide greater clarifications on not only our community's expectations, but also the department's expectations of its officers."
Choke holds or neck restraints can cut off a person's windpipe and cause suffocation, brain and spinal damage, other serious bodily injury or death.
Under Tennessee law, the use of choke holds or other respiratory restraining maneuvers is prohibited "unless other methods of restraint are ineffective."
In Chattanooga, the police department does not train its officers on choke holds, police spokeswoman Elisa Myzal said. And while the department's use of force policy doesn't outright ban choke holds, it categorizes the maneuver as deadly force, and deadly force "shall not be used unless an officer reasonably believes it is necessary to protect the officer or another person from imminent danger of death or serious physical injury," the policy states.
Essentially, that means that "if an officer is in a situation where he or she is in a fight for his or her life, literally, then a 'choke hold' or other means of protection would not necessarily be omitted or 'banned' if they are used as a means to save his or her own life," police spokesman Sgt. Jeremy Eames said.
Officers are expected to employ a progression of force — the "use of force continuum" — whenever possible, according to a 12-page use of force policy. Basically, that means that an officer's level of force used to gain control of a situation should match the level of resistance from the detainee.
But, according to the policy, it's not always possible for an officer to start at the beginning of the continuum. In those cases, officers may use any authorized level of force necessary, provided that only the minimal amount of force is used to secure officer safety or the safety of others, Myzal said.
In order to determine what level of force is necessary, officers must consider a number of factors, including the officer's and the suspect's relative age, strength, proximity to weapons, the officer's distance from the subject and any information the officer already knows about the suspect.
Officers will then have to articulate why the deviation from the continuum was necessary when reporting the use of force, which is required any time an officer uses force.
All use of force reports are to be forwarded through the officer's chain of command, and each reviewer watches all available body camera or in-car video. If reviewers determine an officer's actions appear to not be consistent with policy, the report is sent to the office of internal affairs, which is in charge of determining whether any officers violated policy.
In some cases, such as when an officer discharges a firearm, the officer's direct supervisor notifies the office of internal affairs and the chief of police right away.
Also, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke signed the My Brother's Keeper Alliance to review the police department's use of force policy and make any reforms that may be needed to protect community members and officers, Myzal said.
According to department policy, the use of deadly force is authorized only when all other methods of apprehension have been exhausted. The officer must reasonably believe deadly force is necessary in order to stop an imminent threat of serious injury or death, and the officer must identify him or herself as an officer and give "a warning that deadly force may be used unless resistance or flight ceases" when possible, something that had already been practiced for more than 20 years, Myzal has said.
With that being said, officers are not to unnecessarily put themselves in a position in which they could be exposed to a threat of serious injury or death. They should try to find cover or wait for backup.
Any time someone is injured, including as a result of a use of force, officers are required to render aid and call emergency medical assistance if necessary.
Duty to intervene
Earlier this month, the Chattanooga Police Department announced the addition of a requirement to its code of conduct policy for officers to intervene when excessive force is not used in its proper continuum.
Chattanooga Police Department's code of conductView
The clause is a step above an already-established requirement that officers report use-of-force instances and any violation of rules or orders by their colleagues.
It reads, "Each department member has the individual responsibility to intervene and stop any other member from committing an unlawful or improper act, including but not limited to acts of brutality, abuses of process, abuses of authority and any other criminal acts or major violations of department rules and procedures. Successful intervention does not negate a duty to report."
Firing at a moving vehicle that doesn't pose a threat to the life of the officer or another person has been prohibited for several years, according to policy, as has firing at a vehicle for the purpose of disabling it. Officers are also prohibited from firing from a moving vehicle.
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