Citizens review board recommends changes to TPD baton policy

Tallahassee's Citizens Review Board recommended two changes to TPD's baton policy.
Tallahassee's Citizens Review Board recommended two changes to TPD's baton policy.(WCTV)
Published: Apr. 17, 2022 at 2:18 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Nearly a year after a DUI arrest involving Tallahassee Police officers sparked community concern about use of force policy, the city’s Citizens Police Review Board announced recommended changes for how officers use batons in the line of duty.

According to the CPRB Chair Edward Gaines, Jr., the police department accepted one change to the policy, but declined the other.

The first recommended change, which was accepted by the department, involved section F. 3. c of TPD policy, involving impact weapons and batons.

The original policy read “officers may use impact weapons/batons to thrust/jab a person in the hands, joints, abdomen, or muscular portions of the back to overcome aggressive resistance.”

The board recommended changing the policy to read, “officers may not use impact weapons/batons to thrust/jab a person in the hands, joints, abdomen, or muscular portions of the back, except in response to aggressive resistance.”

The board recommended a second amendment to the policy, adding additional language that addressed situations where multiple officers are involved in an arrest.

The proposed language read, “When there are multiple officers engaged in any response to resistance encounter, officers should only use impact weapons/batons to strike a person in response to aggravated aggressive resistance.”

The board clarified that “multiple officers means three or more engaged in any response to resistance encounter for each suspect.”

TPD declined to accept the additional language, arguing it could lead to more injuries to officers and members of the public.

Chief Lawrence Revell wrote, “the implication for this recommendation could cause an officer to be unable to utilize a baton unless there was an action that is likely to result in death or serious injury to any person. Additionally, the recommendation could increase the likelihood of serious injury to the subject or officer, by limiting its utilization at a lower level of resistance.”

Revell added that the department, “understands the concerns of community members following the incident that occurred on May 16, 2021, that involved the utilization of a baton. Without the proper context, an officer’s response to resistance may be uncomfortable to view and lacks the input of the engaged officers.”

TPD also pledged to “continue a high level of training” of officers.

In response, Chair Gaines indicated his disappointment but said he was grateful the agency would continue to tweak its training procedures.

In May 2021, officers arrested DUI suspect Jacquez Kirkland, hitting him three times with a baton while they were pinning him on the ground.

In the days that followed, some in the community, including two city commissioners, called for changes to the baton policy.

At the time, police maintained the officers’ actions were in line with department policy in dealing with someone who is resisting arrest.

The report including the proposed changes is dated February 2022, but the CPRB didn’t publicly reveal the changes until Sunday.

The Citizens Police Review Board meets the first Thursday of every month from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at the Smith-Williams Service Center. The public is welcome to attend.

The CPRB’s annual report from 2021 is below.

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