Use of Force Policy, 8 Can't Wait - Letter from Chief Snyder
To the residents of West Manchester Township and our visitors,
Recently, I received an email from a concerned resident that inquired about our current use of force policy because they were concerned that our policy may not have certain criteria that a news article had listed as the 8 policies or components that reduce the number of police related force incidents and deaths. We review our major policies regularly to ensure that they meet modern standards and we are currently preparing for our agency to become accredited through the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police. Our use of force policy was reviewed this year and there were steps that were added to the policy that exceed the 8 suggested policies listed on this website. https://8cantwait.org/
After the inquiry was made by the citizen, I took the time to review the policy and checked to see if we, did in fact, meet this standard. I also responded to the inquiry with this information but the resident did not respond after our initial email. I also invited them to meet with me in person to discuss this but at the date of this posting, they have elected not to meet with me or respond by email. Either way, I wanted to thank them for their interest in our department and the policies that we have here. I am open to listening to any suggestions from residents on any issue, at any time.
- Ban on chokeholds and strangleholds- Our policy is 21 pages in length. On page 7 of our policy, it states “the use of carotid restraint or other choke holds is specifically and strictly prohibited for use by West Manchester Township Police Department personnel”.
- Require De-Escalation - Page 3, the policy lists three paragraphs describing de-escalation in detail and states, “officers shall use de-escalation techniques and other alternatives to higher levels of force consistent with their training whenever possible and appropriate before resorting to force, de-escalation techniques can often reduce level of the force that is required to accomplish the objective”. We have officers trained in Critical Incident Training, where they have received specialized training in dealing with people with mental deficiencies or problems. They are trained to utilize de-escalation, specifically, to lower the dangers with people that have emotional disorders.
- Require warning before shooting when possible- Our use of force policy expressly states that officers shall deploy de-escalation, prior to deploying force. We also directly deploy this technique whenever we qualify with our duty firearms by repeatedly saying the phrase “police, don’t move”. This technique has been present in firearm qualifications for decades. The officers qualify on their firearms twice a year and meet the standards for the Municipal Officer’s Police Training Commission. They also are tested on the use of force policy during their training sessions.
- Requires exhausting all alternatives before shooting- This concept is stressed and described throughout our policy. The policy expressly directs officers to deploy de-escalation and follow a force continuum. Deadly force is the last option in our force continuum.
- Duty to Intervene- Our use of force policy on page 7 covers this and states “officers have a duty to intervene to prevent or to stop the use of excessive force by another officer when it is safe and reasonable to do so”.
- Ban shooting at moving vehicles- This policy is covered specifically in our pursuit policy where it states “officers shall not discharge a firearm at or from a moving vehicle except as the ultimate measure of self-defense, or the defense of another, when the suspect is employing deadly force”.
- Require use of force continuum- Page 3 of our use of force policy covers a continuum, where our use of force lists the options of force that officers may deploy and the methods to which they may do so. The continuum explains how officers apply ascending or descending levels of force under a strict framework. The policy lists the factors to which the officers must consider and take into consideration when deploying force and that the force must be reasonable and necessary to accomplish lawful objectives and to overcome unlawful resistance.
- Require comprehensive reporting- All use of force incidents in our department are reported on a separate form and reviewed by the Chief of Police. Every use of force incident is reported the date of the incident. Officers complete the report and submit for review. The officers also photograph injuries of parties involved in the use of force. The photographs are not included in this list. Our use of force policy requires this in all incidents of force, whether there are injuries or not.
As the Chief of Police, I believe that it is important that the public is aware that our agency has a comprehensive use of force policy. We have always taken this topic seriously and progressively. I am very open to suggestions and recommendations that are productive. Police leaders need to listen to the community they serve. No organization is perfect and we have been working very hard at modernizing our policies and practices. My goal is to build credibility with our residents and earn your trust every day we are granted the honor of serving and protecting this great community.
Chief John Snyder