WPD Policy Q & A's
We have received numerous inquiries from the Woodland community about our police department’s policies and how they may or may not meet some of the guidelines being advocated for by police reform organizations. We’ve re-examined our policies and feel that most, if not all, directly align with the spirit of what is being asked for in the recommendations, but there are nuances in verbiage. All of our Department’s current standards, policies, practices, operating procedures, and education and training materials are available to the public on our website at: http://www.cityofwoodland.org/1184/Senate-Bill-978.
The below information reflects the current policies that we operate under. The legislature, governor’s office and CA Peace Officer and Standards and Training are all working to assess and update the current laws and authorized trainings law enforcement agencies operate under. The Woodland Police Department has been having, and will continue to have, conversations about our current policies to ensure we reflect the values associated within our community.
For example, this is how our policies compare to the 8cantwait.org website’s recommendations:
- Ban choke- and strangleholds
On June 4, 2020 we suspended use of the carotid restraint. This decision was made after we received notification from the California Department of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) indicating that the carotid restraint hold would no longer be taught in police academies and agencies were directed to remove this technique from any further department POST trainings. We are working to update our policy manual and will publish an update as soon as it is available.
- Require de-escalation
In regards to non-violent de-escalating techniques our officers receive initial training at the police academy, then again in the new officer field training programs. Throughout the year we continue de-escalation training in our use of force scenarios, firearms and taser scenarios, vehicle pursuits and mental health training. Officers also attend Crisis Intervention Training and Tactical communication training in conjunction with de-escalation. While the ultimate objective of every law enforcement encounter is to avoid or minimize injury, it is also recognized that circumstances may arise in which officers reasonably believe it would be impractical or ineffective to use any of the tools, weapons, or methods provided by the department. In addition, if there were an imminent threat requiring instant action this requirement would not be feasible in every situation.
- Require verbal warning before shooting
While we do train our officers to provide verbal warnings, not every situation will allow this to be possible. The ultimate objective of every law enforcement encounter is to avoid or minimize injury, and it is also recognized that circumstances may arise in which officers reasonably believe it would be impractical or ineffective to use a verbal warning. In addition, if there were an imminent threat requiring instant action this requirement would not be feasible in every situation.
- Exhaust all other means before shooting
While the ultimate objective of every law enforcement encounter is to avoid or minimize injury, it is also recognized that circumstances may arise in which officers reasonably believe it would be impractical or ineffective to use any of the tools, weapons, or methods provided by the department. In addition, if there were an imminent threat requiring instant action this requirement would not be feasible in every situation.
- Duty to intervene
The Woodland Police Department officers have a duty to intercede (Policy 300.2.1): "Any officer present and observing another officer using force that is clearly beyond that which is objectively reasonable under the circumstances shall, when in a position to do so, intercede to prevent the use of unreasonable force. An officer who observes another employee use force that a reasonable officer would believe exceeds the degree of force permitted by law should promptly report these observations to a supervisor." If an officer fails to intervene then they would be subject to an Internal Affairs Investigation and disciplinary action.
- Ban shooting at moving vehicles
Shots fired at or from a moving vehicle are rarely effective. The Department policy states an officer should only discharge a firearm at a moving vehicle or its occupants when the officer reasonably believes there are no other reasonable means available to avert the threat of the vehicle or if deadly force, other than the vehicle, is directed at the officer or others. Officers should not shoot at a vehicle in attempt to disable it (Policy 300.4.1).
- Require use of force continuum
Law enforcement agencies vary whether they incorporate a use-of-force continuum. Continuums do not require officers start with one level of force before moving to another. Our policies require officers to use only that amount of force that reasonably appears necessary given the facts and totality of the circumstances. Here are some excerpts from our Use of Force policy (#300). Officers shall use only that amount of force that reasonably appears necessary given the facts and circumstances perceived by the officer at the time of the event to accomplish a legitimate law enforcement purpose. Given that no policy can realistically predict every possible situation an officer might encounter, officers are entrusted to use well-reasoned discretion in determining the appropriate use of force in each incident.
It is also recognized that circumstances may arise in which officers reasonably believe that it would be impractical or ineffective to use any of the tools, weapons or methods provided by the Department. Officers may find it more effective or reasonable to improvise their response to rapidly unfolding conditions that they are confronting. In such circumstances, the use of any improvised device or method must nonetheless be reasonable and utilized only to the degree that reasonably appears necessary to accomplish a legitimate law enforcement purpose.
While the ultimate objective of every law enforcement encounter is to avoid or minimize injury, nothing in this policy requires an officer to retreat or be exposed to possible physical injury before applying reasonable force.
- Require all use of force be reported
The Woodland Police Department requires a Use of Force report to be completed each time force is used. The report is then reviewed up the chain of command to the Chief of Police. It is reviewed for not only appropriateness, but also for potential areas of training needed. Additionally, at least once a year, the Deputy Chief prepares an analysis report on use of force incidents for the Chief of Police to review.
Excessive force is not permitted at the Woodland Police Department. Officers should only use the necessary force to affect an arrest taking into account a multitude of factors. The Woodland Police Department uses two interconnected software reporting programs: IA Pro and Blue Team (http://www.iapro.com/products/iapro/). Each Use of Force is entered and reviewed by the employee’s supervisor and then it is forwarded up the chain of command all the way to the Chief of Police for review. Once the Use of Force is reviewed by the Chief of Police, it is transferred from Blue Team to the IA Pro program. IA Pro has an Early Intervention (EI) module that will check for repeated use of forces and if an individual officer receives 6 or more within a rolling year, an Early Intervention alert is triggered. This alert, along with the supporting documentation, is sent to the Professional Standards Sergeant to review for potential additional training or other forms of intervention for the officer, if needed. There is no set number of complaints before an officer is reprimanded or terminated. Each complaint is investigated and is handled on a case by case basis. Based on the severity of the complaint an outside Law Enforcement Agency would be requested to conduct an independent investigation and the results of the investigation would be reviewed by the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office for recommendations or potential charges.
For these reasons, we feel our policies are already very close to the recommendations being asked for. As evidenced by SB 230 and AB 392 California has proven “Use of Force” legislation that has brought about a statewide policy and training standard that is the first of its kind in our nation. We are committed to continuing discussions about our policies and increasing transparency. As we are continuing to evaluate and have discussions we will be updating the information on our web site frequently. WoodlandPolice.org