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Everett Police reviewing its rulebook for officers

EVERETT — Mayor Cassie Franklin and Police Chief Dan Templeman have committed to conducting a new review of the Police Department’s policies, including use of force, training, and standards as related to community expectations, in the wake of national and local calls for reforms to policing and the criminal justice system.
The fresh review began May 25, and the City Council’s public safety committee was updated on the process at a July 1 meeting.
“Community involvement and public trust are both foundational to police legitimacy,” which is necessary to effectively provide public safety services, Templeman said. He told the committee that this philosophy helps guide the department’s approach to policing and its leadership works to ingrain such a mindset within the organization’s culture. He said he wants every officer to represent the city, department and badge in a respectful way.
Templeman feels that community policing values and prioritizes the participation of residents and local stakeholders in order to build relationships, foster positive interactions and form partnerships. He said it’s important to have actions that match words. The chief pointed to publicly involved measures the department has established, such as its community advisory board, officers’ attendance at neighborhood meetings, mentoring youth at its outreach programs such as summer camps and involvement with the city’s diversity advisory board.
“I think about being a progressive agency, that’s innovative and professional,” Templeman told the safety committee. This means not being afraid to look at different ways of policing and trying new ideas. As evidence of innovation, he identified the department’s inclusion of embedded social workers with officers and its recent partnership with the Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office in the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program, which allows for discretion to divert offenders with low-level charges to social services or treatment for their underlying behavioral health or addiction issues rather than jail time.
Changes to the department’s policy manual were put in place last month after review of an arrest, during which a police sergeant, while handcuffing the suspect in a domestic violence call, knelt for 14 seconds on the back of a Black man, who exclaimed multiple times “I can’t breathe.” That incident in Everett happened May 24, the day before George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police, and was captured on body cameras worn by officers at the scene.
Templeman said the department later determined it was a reasonable use of force. “(The officer) performed as trained and reacted appropriately to the comments of having difficulty breathing,” the chief said in an interview with the Tribune.
“Within seconds (the officers) got him on his side and then stood him up,” Templeman said.
Since then, the police department has updated its procedure for use of force that obstructs a person’s breathing. The new policy requires officers to immediately reposition an individual in custody that complains of difficulties breathing, so that it is then easier for them to breathe. Officers must next assess the person and summon for medical aid.
Additionally, the department clarified its policy on the duty of officers to intervene in its use-of-force manual. Officers present who “see another officer that is using force that is clearly beyond what is objectively reasonable” must now intercede to stop the use of unreasonable force when it is safe to do so. They must report the incident to a supervisor, which is the same as previously required, Templeman said during an interview.
The national #8CantWait campaign has helped to serve as a set of guidelines to review and address changes in policing that emphasize public safety. Templeman said that many in the community have expressed an interest in the agency’s policies lining up with recommendations made by the campaign.
The campaign’s recommendations include banning chokeholds, strangleholds, and shooting at moving vehicles; while requiring de-escalation, the use of a force continuum-starting at a lower level and then only increasing as necessary, duty to intervene, exhausting all alternatives before shooting, warning before shooting, and comprehensive reporting.
He acknowledged they are still working on refinements, “but it’s my impression and belief that we comply pretty much with all of them.” Templeman said that while several changes had been made recently, many of the campaign’s recommendations already existed in the department’s policies.
Templeman said de-escalation is a recurring theme throughout the manual. The use of neck holds or shooting at moving vehicles are not allowed except in the most extreme circumstances. He believes transparency and accountability are important and reflected in the agency’s pilot program for officer-worn body cameras, its complaint and review processes, and by being the only law enforcement agency in the county to report its use of deadly force incidents to the FBI.
Police officers in Everett are required to complete more training compared to many other local law enforcement agencies. Templeman stressed how important those efforts are because of the power and ability police have to affect people’s lives. He said they are trained in areas relevant to modern policing principles that will make officers more effective in the community.
Since 2017, all staff members receive instruction to help them recognize implicit bias and mitigate its effects. Officers are also required to undergo 40 hours of training in crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques, which is the chief noted is five times the amount required by the state.
Templeman thinks these are useful for helping officers adjust and respond to having more frequent interactions with people who are in some sort of behavioral health or addiction crisis. “I think that de-escalation is an absolute critical skill that every law enforcement officer today has to be aware of and skilled in,” he said.
Safety committee members expressed a desire for further discussions regarding community policing, transparency and accountability with the full city council. Council President Judy Tuohy said it needs to happen soon. The idea of a town hall forum to hear public comments was also floated.
Tuohy said later by email that one of the most frequent public comments heard so far is, “People want to know more about Law Enforcement Citizen Oversight Committees and how that might help bridge gaps when people are not happy with the police.”
Templeman said in an interview he’s committed to the ongoing review, being proactive and building public trust. “Certainly, for us as a police department and the city government it’s time for us to listen and then take action that’s consistent with what the community wants and envisions their police department to be.”
The Everett Police Department’s use of force policies and entire policy manual are available to view on the city’s website, www.everettwa.gov, or at www.tinyurl.com/EverettPDforcemanual and www.tinyurl.com/EverettPDpolicymanual

 

  

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