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Police adopt new 'use of force' policy

Streetsboro, Aurora, Kent State University police forces adopt statewide standards

By BOB GAETJENS Staff Writer Published: November 27, 2016 4:00 AM

The Streetsboro and Aurora police departments, along with Kent State University, are among early adopters of a new set of "use of force" policies handed down by the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board.

The board was created by Gov. John Kasich on the recommendation of a task force aimed at creating better relations between police and communities statewide, following the 2014 shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland.

"The task force was comprised of police and members of the community and local business leaders," said Streetsboro Police Chief Darin Powers. "They went all over the place to find people to put on this task force."

Powers and Aurora Police Chief Brian Byard said both departments already comply with most of the new policies, which cover use of force, deadly use of force, hiring and recruiting and community engagement.

Powers, Byard and Aurora Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin said the policy changes won't be noticed by most residents.

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"I don't think it's very significant," said Womer Benjamin. "I think we have some pretty good policies in place. Chief Byard has been in the process of updating them, anyway."

One change for both departments will be continual training and review of the use of force policies, Byard said.

"Anytime an officer uses force, it's outlined in the policy they need to do a separate 'use of force' form," Byard said. "That form is reviewed by their supervisor, then it's reviewed by a lieutenant, then the final review is by the chief of police."

Officers also have to review and sign the use of force policies annually, Byard said.

Powers said the policy on use of deadly force is based on case law established in Tennessee vs. Garner and Graham vs. Conner.

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"Before Tennessee vs. Garner, (officers) could shoot a fleeing felon," he explained. "For use of deadly force now, we have to believe that person is going to hurt or kill somebody imminently."

Following Graham vs Conner, Powers said a standard of "objective reasonableness" was set for the review of cases in which deadly force was used.

"They can't Monday morning quarterback it," he explained. "They have to put themselves in the place of the officer at the time of the incident. You have to look at all the circumstances."

Byard said use of force covers a spectrum ranging from use of verbal commands, hands-on procedures, pepper spray, Taser and firearms.

"The officer's response is based on the circumstances of the subject, and there are other factors as well, such as age, size, and the number of subjects," he said. "We use the minimum amount of force necessary to get the desired result."

Both departments also have regular firearms training to help officers make the correct decisions around use of deadly force.

According to the policy, officers can use deadly force "to defend themselves from serious physical injury or death or to defend another person from serious injury or death."

The standard use of force policy states that officers "may only use the force which is reasonably necessary to effect lawful objectives including: effecting a lawful arrest or overcoming resistance to a lawful arrest, preventing the escape of an offender, or protecting or defending others or themselves from physical harm."

Powers said many larger departments and agencies (such as Kent State University) already comply the basic tenets of the new policies. However, he said many smaller departments may need to adopt policies on use of force.

The other new policies that are part of the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board's recommendations deal with hiring practices and community engagement.

According to the board's policies, "communities with diverse populations should strive to have a diverse work force that reflects the citizens served."

When posting open patrol positions, Powers said he casts a wide net, advertising for new officers on Indeed.com and muster.com, in the Record-Courier and other daily newspapers.

To ensure only the best are hired, Powers said the Streetsboro Police Department conducts background checks, polygraph tests and psychological testing to assess officer candidates.

 

Email: bgaetjens@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9440

Twitter: @bobgaetjens_rpc

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eureka Dec 1, 2016 6:49 PM

> Powers, Byard and Aurora Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin said the policy changes won't be noticed by most residents.

Duh. Unless the police are arresting you - then you might "notice".