What changes have been made to the department’s use of force policy since the passing of Senate Bill 217?
Chief Douglas Stephens: Great question, Sam. That’s another one of those state-legislated changes. We did update our policy effective immediately upon passage that we had been working on it. In anticipation of some of the language changes that were required in there. We really didn’t have to change too much substantially because our policy was already fairly comprehensive and covered everything that was in the bill. There’s some languages, things in there that a little different. So we did update that language to be more reflective of the state legislation. The main change though, and it’s an interesting one, there’s a ban on choke holds. There’s a nuance differences between what is a choke hold and what is a carotid neck restraint or different things. But most people don’t understand it’s too complicated to get in here. We did previously allow for what we call the carotid neck restraint in Littleton, where it temporarily restricts the blood flow and causes a temporary unconsciousness.
We allowed that to, and we trained our officers in that technique. But we classified that as a deadly force technique. So it was the same on the deadly force scale as using a firearm against someone. I thought it was important, and I intended to keep that in our policy and keep training our officers on that because if our officers are fighting for their life or to protect the lives of someone else, and they have an option to shoot someone or to apply this technique to them, where the nine times out of 10, they will recover instantly and have no long-term damage, I would prefer that they would be able to do the carotid neck restraint. But I can see where people are concerned with that. There was no room for us to keep that in there, even though we had it as a deadly force option and no less than deadly force.
So that’s one situation where I think the legislation goes too far and that restricting tactics of police gets dangerous in my opinion because, in a situation like that, like the example that I gave the officer that would be trained in a proper application that a technique now has limited options that would when it comes to deadly force. So one example of the policy change that we have, we had to remove that from our policy because of the law. I supported that technique based on that restriction that it was deadly force. But other than that, just language changes. It’s pretty comprehensive. That will be posted soon on the internet for folks to see, and it’s a policy we’re very proud of.