The de-escalation section of use of force policy 906 states:
“De-escalation techniques and tactics include, but are not limited to:
- Remaining calm and professional.
- Decreasing the exposure to the potential threat by using distance or physical barriers between an uncooperative subject and an officer.
- Engage in tactical communications including active listening. Communication with the subject should be limited to one officer at a time in order to ensure clear communication.
- Requesting and utilizing additional officers whenever necessary. If one officer is unable to build rapport with a subject, another officer may be given an opportunity to communicate with the subject whenever possible.
- Tactical positioning, repositioning and pause when necessary.
- Leveraging time by slowing down the situation:
When safe and feasible under the totality of circumstances, officers should attempt to slow down or stabilize the situation so more time, options and resources are available for incident resolution. When time and circumstances permit, officers should assess whether a person’s lack of compliance is a deliberate attempt to resist or an inability to comply based on factors including but not limited to:
- Medical conditions;
- Mental impairments;
- Developmental disability;
- Physical limitation;
- Language barrier;
- Drug interaction and/or intoxication;
- Behavior crisis; and
- Emotional response/fear.
An officer’s awareness of these possibilities shall be balanced against the facts of the incident when deciding which de-escalation and use of force options are the most appropriate to bring the situation to a safe resolution.”
In 2016, WPD began focusing on de-escalation techniques to resolve situations without the use of force by utilizing time, distance and communication. WPD has had significant success in using these techniques and diminishing, wherever possible, having to use force when dealing with those in crisis.
New officers, as well as veteran officers, are trained in de-escalation tactics. The training includes the use of active listening skills, commonly used by crisis negotiators, to de-escalate high-risk situations. WPD has ongoing training for the use of these communication techniques for all officers throughout the year.
Multiple steps have been taken over the past several years to emphasize de-escalation techniques:
- Since 2016, WPD has tripled the number of crisis negotiators with specialized training in communication and are able to assist with crises and highly volatile situations;
- Mental health training for officers is a priority. All WPD officers have received mental health training up to and including the comprehensive Crisis Intervention Team training;
- WPD has implemented de-escalation language into use-of-force policy 906.
Duty to Intervene
The duty to intervene section of use of force policy 906 states: “Any officer observing another officer using force that is clearly beyond that which is objectively reasonable under the circumstances, when in a position to do so must intercede to prevent the use of unreasonable force. An officer who observes another employee use force that exceeds the degree of force permitted by law should promptly report these observations to a supervisor.”
WPD has revised its use-of-force policy to include a specific direction on duty to intervene. Duty to intervene has also been incorporated into WPD training for both new and veteran officers for several years.
Ban Shooting at Vehicles
The section of policy 906 that prohibits shooting at moving vehicles states: “Firearms shall not be discharged at a moving vehicle unless deadly force is necessary and the following exigent circumstances exist:
- A person in the vehicle is immediately threatening the officer or another person with deadly force by means other than the vehicle.
- The vehicle is intentionally and deliberately being used as a 12 deadly weapon, and all other reasonable means of defense have been exhausted, or are not present or piratical.
- To prevent the threat of being struck by a vehicle, officers should make every effort to avoid putting themselves in the path of any moving vehicle and when such positioning is unavoidable, to move out of the vehicle’s path as soon as practical.”
Use of Force Continuum
The purpose section of policy 906 states: “The Wichita Police Department values and respects the sanctity of every life and identifies our role as a lifesaving organization. When officers are engaged in police activities there is an immense responsibility that comes with the authority to use reasonable force, including deadly force, in overcoming resistance and protecting the public. As such, we have policies, procedures, and training which encourage tactics and strategies to gain voluntary compliance. It is the Wichita Police Department’s expectation officers will make tactically sound and reasonable use of force decisions which demonstrate our value of every life.”
The “8cantwait” initiative defines the force continuum as restricting “the most severe types of force to the most extreme situations” and “creating clear policy restrictions on the use of each police weapon and tactic.”
We agree and WPD’s training is consistent with this. Deadly force is clearly restricted to extreme situations, and the use of specific tools/ techniques is specifically restricted in our use of force policy.
Additionally, WPD has specific language in policy 913 outlining when medical attention has to be sought.
The referral/transport for medical attention section of policy 913 states:
- “A member should monitor a suspect on which any use of force, with or without a weapon, was used to detect any obvious signs of medical problems or extreme reaction and summon medical assistance if, in the discretion of the member, there are doubts to the health of the person.
- In addition, if the suspect exhibits any of the conditions and/ or symptoms mentioned below, officers shall either summon medical assistance or transport the subject to a medical facility. The subject is unconscious even for a short period of time. Visible Seizure; Obvious significant injury from a fall or take-down; Subject states or appears that to have chest pain or trouble breathing; Subject displays persistent confusion or altered mental state; Subject requests emergency medical assistance; Type 2 or higher force is used against a subject who is pregnant; and Use of a CEW on juvenile (17 years of age or younger).
- A suspect shall be examined by a physician or qualified health care provider prior to interrogation when suffering from, or complaining of, injury or illness or when the individual: Is struck on the head with an impact weapon or other hard object; Is restrained about the neck or throat which resulted in the subject going unconscious; and 14 Is subject to a CEW application, in which a significant secondary injury to the head occurred.
- Medical care and physician release information shall be documented in the report of the officer having custody at the time of treatment. Suspect’s refusal of medical treatment shall be documented and verified by the officers in their report.”
Ban Choke Holds, Knee Holds and Strangle Holds
The use of force authorization and limitations section of use of force policy 906 states: “Officers are prohibited from impeding normal breathing or blood circulation by applying pressure to the throat or neck unless lethal force is justified.” and WPD regulation 4.114 states: “Members utilizing a baton should direct defensive bowls towards strategic areas of the body, avoiding the head and neck area. Utilization of a choke-hold using a police baton is prohibited as a containment or take down procedure. Such action shall be taken only as a defensive measure and only as a last resort to prevent death or great bodily harm to the member or another person. Members will utilize methods consistent with departmental training.”
The policy and regulation specifically prohibits WPD officers from impeding normal breathing or blood circulation by applying pressure to the throat or neck unless lethal force is justified, or utilizing a baton or similar object as a choke hold for a containment or take down procedure.