Law enforcement review policies as part of national discussion on police policy reform

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The Sioux Falls Police Department and Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Office say they are reviewing several policies in the wake of George Floyd’s death last month in Minneapolis.

This comes after Governor Kristi Noem sat down with members of the law enforcement community from across South Dakota. They addressed questions about the role of police in our communities.

Police Chief Matt Burns said his department reviewed its policies on areas such as de-escalation techniques, chokeholds, warning before shooting and intervening to stop another officer from using excessive force, among others.

“But our message today is, based upon our policy review and the national discussion of the things that have come out since the death of Mr. Floyd, we stand up very well in that and I’m proud and I want to be transparent about that to our citizens and to our community,” Burns said.

Noem says in the coming days she will also be talking with community leaders, stakeholders and South Dakotans of all backgrounds about the role of policing in the state.

Sioux Falls Police looked at some of the more popular policy reform topics and how they relate to existing policy in the department; information that follows is from SFPD:

De-Escalate situations, when possible, before using force

The Sioux Falls Police Department trains officers in various topics that include the use of de-escalation tactics, including: Crisis Intervention Techniques, Professional Communications, Dispute Resolution, Implicit Bias and Fair and Impartial Policing. Furthermore, de-escalation is built into Defensive Tactics, Firearms, and Taser training. The Response to Resistance policy clearly lists verbal commands as one of the first options for the officer. This training is particularly useful in mental health calls, domestic violence calls, and many other types of calls where the situation is emotionally charged. Nearly half of the uniformed officers are certified in specific Crisis Intervention Training which exceeds basic academy standards. This training will be continued with further certification classes planned in the future.

Chokeholds / Strangleholds

Chokeholds and Strangleholds are not trained by or part of the policy manual of the Sioux Falls Police Department. Choke and strangleholds are only allowed in a situation where an officer’s life is at risk and where lethal force is authorized. Officers receive training how to escape from a choke/strangle hold to avoid their own incapacitation. During training, officers are instructed to avoid impinging or putting pressure on areas around the circulatory system or airway.

Officers give warning before shooting

Current Sioux Falls police policy clearly states that, “Officers should warn the subject prior to using deadly force where feasible.” This is consistent with Federal case law and the spirit of this recommendation.

Exhaust all other reasonable alternatives before resorting to deadly force

Sioux Falls police policy clearly states, “When possible, officers of this Department shall exhaust every other reasonable means of apprehension, control, restraint, or force before resorting to the use of deadly force.”

Duty of officers to intervene to stop another officer from using excessive force

The duty to intervene in cases of excessive force has been established in the courts and already is the law of the land. 

Conditions of employment of the Sioux Falls Police Department state that officers are expected to conduct themselves lawfully and properly in order to bring honor and respect to the law officers are sworn and duty bound to uphold. Furthermore, it states that this standard demands more than a lack of tolerance for overt and indictable illegal conduct. All officers are trained in Ethics and taught to intervene when another officer is involved in any wrongdoing. In the last three months, officers have specifically trained in the duty to intervene as part of the Path of the Guardian training series for patrol officers. Internal ethics instructors will provide an additional training session for patrol officers on the duty to intervene.

Shooting at moving vehicles

Sioux Falls police policy clearly states that firearms will not be fired at a moving vehicle unless the officer has a reasonable belief that an occupant of a vehicle poses an imminent threat of death, or serious physical injury to the officer, or another person, or the officer has a reasonable belief that an occupant is using the vehicle in a manner that poses an imminent threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or another person and there is no avenue of escape.

Use of force continuum

A constitutional model is utilized rather than a force continuum. This model closely follows the law rather than attempting to explain it graphically. Sioux Falls Police policy states that officers have several force options in response to resistance that are dictated by the actions of the suspect upon the appearance of the police officer. An officer’s actions need not follow any sequential order when responding to the resistance being offered. The level of response used by the officer may be equal to or greater than the level or resistance being offered by the subject. Officers may be limited in their options due to the circumstances and actions of the subject. This response should be objectively reasonable in light of the circumstances. For example, an officer who immediately observes a subject with a firearm unjustifiably threatening another may immediately respond with deadly force without considering other force options.

Comprehensive reporting

Sioux Falls police policy dictates that all responses to resistance beyond pain compliance, including the pointing of a firearm or Taser will be reported to a supervisor. A report is also required any time a person is controlled and receives an injury or complains of an injury. 

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