Burke County’s two major law enforcement agencies have shared their use of force statistics with The herald of the news last week, while discussing the policies and training that help them achieve rates.
The Burke County Sheriff’s Office and Morganton Public Safety Department use force in less than a 10th percent of their calls, the data shows.
To break that down a bit more, from Jan. 1 through Thursday, sheriff’s office deputies used force in 11 of their approximately 21,185 calls, Sheriff Steve Whisenant said.
Nine of those calls saw officers using physical techniques to take a suspect into custody. One call saw a Taser deployed before a struggle ensued between the deputy and the suspect over the weapon, and on another call, a deputy shot a man who shot him , according to information from the sheriff.
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At MDPS, officers used force on seven of their approximately 18,105 calls this year, Lt. Josiah Brown said.
All but one of those calls saw officers use physical control techniques to gain compliance from a suspect, he said, while the other incident saw officers use a poof gun to pull a knife. from the hand of a suspect.
Both departments have only used force against whites so far this year, according to the data they provided.
Here’s a look at what each of the departments instills in its officers when it comes to use of force, from basic law enforcement training to being sworn in as an officer.
When a person enrolls in basic law enforcement training, they undergo extensive training in the use of force to apprehend a suspect.
This happens during a 40-hour block of BLET education called subject control arrest techniques, said MDPS Captain Jason Whisnant, who also teaches in Western Piedmont Community College’s BLET program.
“Recruits are introduced to the constitutional elements…of law enforcement and the public when it comes to seizing a person suspected of a crime and how to apply physical force when the person becomes non-compliant with arrest” , Whisnant said.
The use of force for police officers is a fluid situation, and the amount of force varies from incident to incident, Whisnant said.
There are no hard and fast rules on how much force an officer can and cannot use. Instead, the officer must use objectively reasonable force, Whisnant said.
It’s a standard the U.S. Supreme Court established in its 1989 decision in Graham v. Connor. It stems from the Fourth Amendment’s reasonableness standard, which ensures that citizens are safe from unreasonable foreclosures.
Objective reasonableness is not determined retrospectively, the Supreme Court ruled, but rather must be determined from the perspective of a reasonable officer at the scene.
“The calculation of reasonableness must take into account that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments – in tense, uncertain and rapidly changing circumstances – about the amount of force necessary in a particular situation,” the statement said. high court wrote in its decision.
Nor is there a requirement for officers to start at a lower level of force and progress to more serious interventions. It could be dangerous for the officer and the public if that requirement was in place, Whisnant said.
“It would produce hesitation in the officer and that delay could inherently endanger that officer’s life and the risk of others,” he said.
BLET courses help law enforcement trainees learn to apply this standard while in the field, but their training should not end once they graduate from the program.
“What a rookie gets in BLET is a basic training level,” Whisnant said. “The different departments are responsible for continuing development, adapting the agent to the expectations of the agency. This has been done through years of experience and hundreds of hours of additional training.
State Mandated Surveillance
North Carolina Senate Bill 300, which was signed into law last year, sets out several elements to ensure greater oversight of law enforcement officers and better access for the public.
The bill required law enforcement officers to report excessive use of force within 72 hours of an incident, requires defendants who are in custody to appear for the first time within 72 hours and outlines mandatory training for all law enforcement agencies.
These trainings include ethics, community policing, minority sensitivity, use of force, duty to intervene and report, and mental health for officers, as well as juvenile justice issues and cases. of domestic violence.
The law also required law enforcement to implement early warning systems that would list potential red flags such as firearm discharge, use of force, vehicle collisions and citizen complaints.
The act also made available a database through the North Carolina Criminal Justice and Training Standards Commission where the public can search for officers whose certification has been revoked or suspended. This database is located at www.ncdoj.gov/officer-search.
Another part of the bill requires officers to pass a psychological screening before being certified or before performing any action requiring certification.
Read the full bill at https://bit.ly/3Ovm6qz.
The sheriff said the trainings deputies take help aid in their use of force.
In addition to those outlined by state law, the sheriff’s office also required communication skills trainings for de-escalation, equality in policing, opioid awareness and response, active shooter trainings, suicide prevention education; and outreach and communication strategies when encountering people who are deaf or hard of hearing, according to information from Whisenant.
MPs could also enroll in optional trainings, which covered topics such as civil unrest planning and response, peer support training, impartial policing and basic hostage and crisis negotiations.
“In addition to the training we provide, I believe our Sheriff’s Office’s core values of professionalism and integrity foster an environment of public trust,” Whisenant said. “Our assistants cover a significant number of square kilometers working alone. Their ability to defuse situations while encouraging positive interaction with our citizens leads to productive results. »
At MDPS, officers receive additional verbal conflict training and crisis intervention training. Whisnant and Brown said the goal is to have all officers certified in emergency response.
“Our training budget reflects our commitment to ensuring our agents are highly trained and successful,” Whisnant said.
Whisnant and Brown said they consider incidents of departmental use of force to be low and wish they were non-existent, but that is not feasible.
“You have people who have in mind, either through impairing substances or what you have, that they just won’t be compliant,” Whisnant said. “When that moment happens, our officers perform exceptionally well.”
When force is used, a detailed report is written and submitted through a multi-level command review, Brown said.
If a person files a complaint against an officer, each complaint is taken seriously and goes through a similar review process. If the allegations against an officer were criminal, depending on the severity of the incident, the agency would seek outside assistance in the investigation.
Brown said the department works to ensure officers receive all the training they need to do their jobs professionally.
“We emphasize de-escalation with every call, with every engagement,” Whisnant said. “Getting hands on people is an integral part of their Fourth Amendment rights, and our goal is to defuse that person first and not be physical by default. When we exercise patience and communication skills with people, we are very successful at defusing, and our numbers will reflect that.
Chrissy Murphy is editor and can be reached at email@example.com or 828-432-8941. Follow @cmurphyMNH on Twitter.