Comparing TPD’s use of force policies to nationwide recommendations ahead of the Inspector General’s audit

Published: Oct. 16, 2020 at 7:31 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - At Wednesday’s Commission meeting, City Commissioners unanimously voted for a full audit of the Tallahassee Police Department’s use of force policies.

Mayor John Dailey had previously called for the audit after the grand jury decision on three 2020 officer-involved shootings was released last month.

The goal of the audit is to identify the best practices that can be used to evaluate TPD’s use of force and ensure the current policy is consistent with modern policing practices around the country.

Commissioners also decided to do a second audit, which will focus on officer training.

That was proposed by the City Auditor, who now also acts as the Inspector General.

“I think that’s important because in the heat of a moment, an officer may not have time to consider whether their actions are in accordance with the policy. And they’re going to fall back on their training. So we want to evaluate whether TPD’s training is adequate to give assurance that officers will act in accordance with the policy,” said Dennis Sutton.

Sutton says he hopes to have the first audit complete by the end of the year; he says the second audit on training may take a bit longer.

WCTV took a look at TPD’s current use of force policies and how they measure up to recommendations from outside agencies.

TPD banned chokeholds five years ago and banned the thigh lock restraint in June. The department also requires a warning when shooting if feasible, and that all alternatives are exhausted before shootings. Under TPD procedures, every use of force comes with a written report that goes to multiple levels and departments.

All of the above policies are included in recommendations by multiple groups.

In addition, the Florida Police Chiefs Association says officers should have a duty to intervene if another is using excessive force; although it was implied in previous TPD policy, the department has now explicitly outlined that procedure.

The Police Use of Force Project says de-escalation should always be used; Chief Revell has stated many times that de-escalation training is a major part of TPD.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights suggests departments have early warnings for potential personnel issues; TPD already has an early intervention program and is also working on a yearly officer report card.

During Wednesday’s Commission meeting, Mayor Pro-Tem Dianne Williams-Cox spoke about the purpose of the audit, responding directly to public commenters with concerns.

“I think it’s very important to note that the audit is independent. The auditor is not in cahoots with the Tallahassee Police Department,” said Commissioner Williams-Cox.

She also emphasized that the audit is not emotion-based.

“Either we are adhering to policy or we’re not. And if we’re not, there will be findings that will let us know what we need to do,” she said.

The audit will use multiple sources to compare TPD’s policies, including but not limited to:

  • New York University School of Law - Policing Project
  • U.S. Department of Justice – National Institute of Justice
  • U.S. Commission on Civil Rights – Police Use of Forces: An Examination of Modern Policing Practices
  • International Association of Chiefs of Police – Critical Issues: Use of Force
  • Police Use of Force Project
  • National Police Foundation – Best Practices in Early Intervention System Implementation and Use in Law Enforcement Agencies
  • Florida Police Chiefs Association – Report and Recommendations: Use of Force Policy and Related Issues

You can view TPD’s policies here.

Copyright 2020 WCTV. All rights reserved.

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