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When Force is Used at EPD

Use of Force at EPD

As part of our policy to control the use of force, EPD performs an inspection that collects the data surrounding the circumstances, types and levels of force used by its officers. Captain Stephens read every report where force was used and watch the BWC video if clarification was needed. Presented here are the data collected from EPD’s use of force in 2016.

The data from Captain Stephen’s review shows:

  • EPD responds to about 51,000 calls for service each year.
  • Those calls for police service resulted in the custodial arrest of 4,165 individuals. There was an additional 279 mental health detentions.
  • Of the 4,444 times, police took people into custody, force was used in 253 arrests or 6% of all incidents.
  • Of the 253 uses of force by EPD, 60 people claimed injury. (23.7%) Two were hospitalized, one for a few hours of observation from a bean bag round, the other with a gunshot wound. (.8%)
  • Of the 60 reported injuries, 19 complained of pain.
  • 23 officers were injured by assaults from or fights with suspects. (9.1%)
  • The most common type of suspect injuries:
    • Abrasions 24
    • Lacerations 7
    • Arm/writs pain 7
    • Pain from Taser 2
  • The most common type of force used:
    • Pain compliance or control holds 100
    • Pushes/shove 59
    • Firearms displayed 58
    • K-9 deployed (no bites) 50
    • Baton/Nunchaku 30 (29 were holds, not strikes)
    • Hands/Feet strike 23
    • Taser Displayed 20
    • Taser used 9

Analyses EPD used some level of force in ½ half of 1% of all documented police contacts and in 6% of arrests. Of all the uses of force, two people received injuries reportable to the department of justice. EPD is faced with an enormous population of mentally ill and/or people in a state of drug induced psychosis, who behave violently. When the errant conduct goes beyond the capability of family, friends and bystanders, the police are tasked with bringing control to an often chaotic situation. EPD has been skillful in using a low level of force. As a result, only two people received significant injury. The reason may be that EPD has restricted its policy for the use of force beyond what is typical. Policy does matter. We believe this helps establish a standard for the frequency, type and level of force used. To expand our efforts to reduce the use of force, EPD does the following:

  1. EPD is close to full staffing. This allows more flexibility in deployment, training and getting officers at the scene to help one another. Adequate staffing can help reduce the level of force needed.
  2. Patrol division, under Captain Stephens, has moved to a 4/10 and 3/12.5 schedule with the cooperation of the EPOA. This allows officers and supervisors to train together and cover topics such as transitioning to less lethal munitions and the effective use of tools and techniques.
  3. EPD sends officers to Critical Incident Training (CIT), and in June will begin to train all officers and supervisors in state of the art tactical de-escalation techniques. This will be done in conjunction with the HCSO.
  4. EPD has acquired equipment for field operations that can protect officers during critical incidents. EPD is continuously researching, trying and seeking effective de-escalation tools.
  5. Significant uses of force are reviewed by the Chief’s Advisory Committee, an oversite group who looks at policy, training and personnel complaints. This ensures transparency and independent objectivity.

The use of force is ugly to see and worse to be part of. Suspects get hurt, good cops suffer career ending injuries and undergo a life time of pain. There are no simple and clean ways to take a person into custody who chooses not to comply. Some of our officers are 6’4″ and 300 pounds of muscle, and others are 5’2″ 110 pounds. Some are Brazilian Jujitsu masters, and others have little experience fighting. None are Chuck Norris, karate-ninja icons as seen in the movies. Regardless of our level of experience, each of us will be confronted with a violent person. The type and level of force used will depend on our knowledge, skills, and physical capabilities. More importantly not having to use force will depend on our ability to communicate effectively. Each EPD officer would much rather talk people into handcuffs, than fight with them. Fighting and getting injured gets old…really fast.

This post was originally published on April 11, 2017 on Eureka Police Department’s blog.

Andrew Mills
Chief of Police
Eureka Police Department, California