We’ve received many inquiries from concerned citizens about our own policies and how we train our officers to mitigate a similar tragedy from occurring here. #8cantwait is a campaign that aims to bring immediate change to police departments, through the effective use of policies, in an effort to reduce the potential for harm and to save lives. While these eight (8) policies are by no means an exhaustive list, they establish a foundation to restore public trust in law enforcement. It’s my sincere hope that the Caln Township community takes comfort in knowing that our department enacted and has historically adhered to these policies long before public and political outcry and demand following the Minneapolis tragedy and other national incidents involving officer misconduct.
#1 Ban Chokeholds & Strangleholds
Our current policy specifically states that officers shall NOT employ any form of neck restraint, such as Lateral Vascular Neck Restraint (LVNR) or carotid control hold, except when an imminent threat of death or serious physical injury exists, and no other option is available. In situations involving the use of lesser levels of force, our policies address measures to avoid the potential for positional asphyxia. Our department conducts annual defensive tactics training with all sworn officers with an emphasis on de-escalation.
#2 Require De-escalation
Our training and policies require officers to take appropriate measures to avoid escalation and to de-escalate potential confrontational situations. Officers also receive crisis intervention training as part of a partnership with the community to promote officer safety and the safety of individuals in crisis, including, but not limited to, individuals suffering from drug addiction and mental disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury.
#3 Require Use of Force Continuum
Our current Use of Force, Use of Deadly Force, and Use of Force Prohibition policies require that whenever possible, the force used by officers should be progressive in nature. The use of force continuum is as follows:
Level 1 – Officer Presence
Level 2 – Verbal Direction
Level 3 – Soft Empty Hand Control (to control passive or defensive resistance)
Level 4 – Hard Empty Hand Control (defensive counter strike)
Level 5 – Intermediate Weapons (impact weapons, i.e., baton or electronic control device)
Level 6 – Deadly Force (last resort, e.g., use of firearm)
In determining the necessity for force and the appropriate level of force, officers shall evaluate each situation in light of the known circumstances, including, but not limited to, the seriousness of the crime, the level of threat or resistance presented by the subject, and the level of threat to public safety. The use of force must be objectively reasonable.
#4 Requires Exhausting All Alternatives Before Shooting
Our current policy specifically states that the use of deadly force, such as the use of firearms, should only be used as a last resort and when lower levels of force have been ineffective or would be inappropriate given the threat level confronting the officer. An officer may use deadly force when the officer reasonably believes such action is immediately necessary to protect the officer or another person from imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury.
#5 Require Warning Before Shooting
Our current Use of Deadly Force policy specifically states that whenever feasible, an officer should identify himself and state his intention to shoot before using a firearm. Even our Less Lethal Weapons policy states that whenever practical and feasible, officers should issue a verbal warning and their intent to use OC spray or an electronic control device (ECD) prior to discharge.
#6 Ban Shooting At Moving Vehicles
Our current policy prohibits the use of warning shots, firing a weapon to disable a moving vehicle, and discharging a firearm at or from a moving vehicle except as the ultimate measure of self-defense or the defense of another.
#7 Require Comprehensive Reporting
Our current Use of Force Report policy requires officers to complete a use of force report anytime an officer uses any type of force from Level 3 or above in the Use of Force Continuum with the exception of handcuffing, or is alleged to have used force upon another person, no matter how slight. The report is to be completed for both lethal and less lethal force. The use of force report must also be completed anytime an officer points a deadly weapon at anyone while on duty. All use of force reports are reviewed by the officer’s supervisor, the Deputy Chief of Police, and the Chief of Police to ensure policy and training standards were strictly adhered to.
#8 Duty to Intervene
Our current Code of Conduct mandates officers to protect life and property, preserve the peace, prevent crime, obey all Federal and Commonwealth laws, to respect the civil and constitutional rights of citizens, and to provide medical attention whenever necessary. Officers are obligated to take immediate action when any of those basic principles are violated or at risk, in an effort to correct the situation at hand and to prevent it from escalating and creating further damage or harm. They are also required to report misconduct to a superior officer. Failure to do so, or failure by a superior officer to take appropriate action would constitute neglect of duty and subject that officer to disciplinary action up to and including termination if warranted. Additionally, an officer cannot display cowardice in the line of duty or in any situation where the public may be subject to physical danger.
Nonetheless, as protests and demonstrations continue, these issues and concerns remain in the spotlight, particularly for communities of color. I chose the #8cantwait campaign because it captures the vast majority of questions that we’ve received during the past two weeks. In addition to our personnel and operational policies that comply with the strictest accreditation standards, we utilize a rigorous hiring process that includes physical, written and oral examinations, an extensive background investigation process that exceeds state certification requirements, and includes, but is not limited to, medical, polygraph and psychological testing, drug screening, criminal history, driving record, credit history, educational & employment history, and a check of the applicant’s social media usage. Successful applicants who are hired undergo a lengthy field training program and are subjected to a one year probationary period from the date of hire. Our policies prohibit bias based policing and we are committed to ongoing training and education, including cultural diversity and ethnic sensitivity. We employ strict accountability at all levels within the department and place a strong emphasis on our investment in the community. All of our patrol vehicles are equipped with in-car camera systems and we are in the process of evaluating the addition of body worn cameras in the near future.
I’m proud of the men and women of our department and assure you that we will continue to work with the community to earn the trust and respect of our residents and businesses. I will not allow the senseless, criminal acts in recent times that occurred outside our borders, and beyond our control, to disgrace our department and the vast majority of law enforcement professionals that are dedicated to the communities that they protect and serve without consideration of class, color, creed or condition. At the same time we cannot ignore systemic problems where they exist, and we have a duty and an obligation to make whatever changes are necessary to prevent another senseless attack on humanity and our civil liberties.
Chief Joseph G. Elias