In response to recent events, the Sartell Police Department is sharing some detailed information about how we train officers, specifically in the areas of racial bias and de-escalation. Specifically, we’ve received questions about how our Department handles the elements of “8 Can’t Wait.”
Below, we’ve outlined specific responses to the 8 elements as well as responses to questions we’ve received about how we ensure our Officers are protecting and serving with the greatest integrity and ethics in mind.
The Sartell Police Department has had policies in place for many years that cover many of the 8 elements outlined in the “8 Can’t Wait” movement.
The MN Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) also has some learning objectives that officers are required to take every 3 years for their licensure. https://dps.mn.gov/entity/post/model-policies-learning-objectives/Pages/default.aspx This link will show which are required under MN state statute.
Additionally, the Sartell Police Department covers many of these in our own, internal policies.
- Ban chokeholds and strangle holds
Strangle holds and other similar holds which restrict the ability to breathe are prohibited, except when the officer reasonably believes a threat of serious bodily injury or death to himself/herself or a third person exists if he/she does not do so.
- Require de-escalation
The minimum force necessary is used on a person without that person’s consent under specific circumstances or if we reasonably believe them to exist; effecting a lawful arrest, execution of a legal process, enforcing a court order or executing any other duty imposed upon him/her by law.
- Require warning before shooting
In our training, we train Officers to say, ‘police drop the weapon, knife, gun, etc,’ but it may not always be feasible to provide a warning before firing a shot.
- Exhaust all alternatives before shooting
We have a force continuum in place and a policy requiring officers to use the minimum force necessary.
- Duty to intervene
We have a policy that covers rules of conduct, unlawful orders, incorrect orders, and conflicting orders.
- Ban shooting at moving vehicles
We don’t ban on shooting at moving vehicles, but it would be done only to protect the officer or another officer or person from apparent death or great bodily harm as outlined in statute for deadly force.
- Establish use of force continuum
There is a continuum of force, although it may not be linear based on the threat presented – verbal skills, empty hand techniques, intermediate weapons, deadly force. This is where de-escalation and verbal skills become imperative to the success of our officers and the safety of the public. Our Officers are trained to slow things down, use verbal skills, and the minimum force necessary if needed.
- Require all force be reported
We have a policy that requires officers complete a report on use of force in place. The report is reviewed by a supervisor as soon as it’s completed.
Police officers are required to follow many different sets of rules as they navigate their way through a normal workday. We abide by federal laws, court rulings, and court case laws. We also have state laws, court rulings, and court case laws. We also have city ordinances, guidelines, and policies. We have the police department policies, procedures, and labor agreements. We are also subject to Minnesota POST Board licensing guidelines and regulations. And, to top it off, we are subject to civil torts and claims.
Below is a small snapshot of some of the guidelines we follow.
Department policy and procedures
Here is some language we have in our policy with regards to duty to intervene, rules of conduct, and unlawful orders.
Rules of Conduct:
Any breach of the peace, neglect of duty, misconduct or any conduct on the part of any member of the department, either within or without the City of Sartell, which tends to undermine the good order, the efficiency, or discipline of the department, or which reflects discredit upon the department or any member thereof, or which is prejudicial to the efficiency and discipline of the department, even though these offenses may not be specifically enumerated or laid down, shall be considered conduct unbecoming a member of the Sartell Police Department, and subject to disciplinary action by the Chief of Police.
Infractions of departmental rules and regulations resulting in punishment or reprimand shall be recorded as provided. This does not preclude further or additional action as provided by law.
No command or supervisory officer shall knowingly issue an order which is in violation of a law, ordinance, or police department rule or regulation.
Obedience to Unlawful Orders:
Obedience to an unlawful order is not considered a defense for an unlawful action. Therefore, no member is required to obey an order which is contrary to federal or state law, or city ordinance. Responsibility for refusal to obey rests with the member. The members will be strictly required to justify their action.
Obedience to Incorrect Orders:
Members who are given orders they feel to be contrary to rules and regulations as differentiated from “unlawful orders” described in Section E, supra, must first obey the order to the best of their ability (except when ordinary and prudent knowledge would indicate the order would be detrimental to the police department or city, or physical well-being of a member, or private citizen) and then may proceed to appeal as provided in the section entitled Reports and Appeals.
Upon receipt of an order conflicting with any previous order or instruction, the member or employee affected will advise the person issuing the second order or instruction of this fact. Responsibility for countermanding the original command then rests with the individual issuing the second command. If so directed, the latter command shall be obeyed first. (If an officer is unaware a conflict exists and/or the second order is not retracted and a member obeys it, the member may not be held responsible for disobedience of the first order.) Orders or instructions will be countermanded or conflicting orders or instructions will be issued only when reasonably necessary for the good of the department. The person issuing the original command shall be notified by the person issuing the second command of the action and the reason therefor.
Reports and Appeals:
A member or employee receiving an unlawful or improper order may at first opportunity, file a report to the Chief of Police. The report shall contain the facts of the incident and the action taken. Appeals for relief from such orders may be made at the same time. Departmental action regarding such an appeal shall be conducted by the Chief of Police. If the appeal indicates an unlawful or improper order was given, disciplinary action may be taken.
MN POST BOARD Licensing Regulations
Allegations of Misconduct
First, you should have an idea of what specific misconduct the POST Board can address. Minnesota Rule 6700.1600 defines “Violations of Standards Conduct.” Minnesota Rule 6700.2200 requires that all law enforcement agencies have a written policy to address citizen allegations of misconduct. The POST Board does not conduct internal investigations of police misconduct. Internal Investigations are done by the accused officer’s home agency. If the allegation is of a serious nature, the Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO) may request that an outside agency conduct the investigation.
The first step in pursuing an allegation of misconduct is to contact the law enforcement agency where the peace officer is employed. That agency will provide you with all the information you will need to make your complaint. Minnesota law requires that all law enforcement agencies have a policy that outlines the acceptance, investigation, and resolution of citizen complaints. You should be given a time frame in which you should expect a response to your complaint. Minnesota Statute requires that you are notified of a final disposition. The information provided to you will be dictated by the Minnesota Data Privacy Act. (Chapter 13)
You may file a complaint form with our office. Our staff will review the complaint, then bring it before our Complaint Investigation Committee to determine if it falls within the POST Board’s jurisdiction. You will be notified once that determination has been made, typically that takes between 15-45 days. If it’s deemed your complaint does not fall within our jurisdiction, we will forward your complaint to the home agency of the accused peace officer. It is their responsibility to follow their mandated policy on Allegations of Misconduct. (See paragraph above)
626.8457 Professional conduct of Peace Officers.
6700.1600 Violation of standards of conduct.
609.06 Authorized use of force.
609.065 Justifiable taking of life.
609.066 Authorized us of deadly force by peace officers.
Our Officers work under a labor agreement between the City of Sartell and the Union(s). Language would need to be followed by both sides in accordance to any discipline and grievances.
If a specific law, rule, policy, procedure, or labor contract language does not cover a specific topic, the City of Sartell has a personnel handbook and guidelines that would need to be followed. Topics include a code of conduct, work ethic, equal employment opportunity and affirmative action, harassment, and drug-free workplace to name a few.
If an SPD officer is accused of excessive force, racial discrimination, or any other type of complaint, one of the first steps would be to evaluate the level of accusation. Minor complaints would be handled by an internal investigation and would be assigned by the Chief of Police. If the complaint was potentially criminal in nature, or rose to an egregious act, the investigation would be completed by an outside agency or agencies.
If the accusation warranted a criminal charge, the officer would be required to follow the court procedures. There are many levels of potential discipline with any type of complaint. Criminal, civil, departmental, and our licensing board could impose a penalty. One accusation could warrant an investigation on all levels.
Criminal courts could find an officer guilty of a crime. Civil courts could find the officer and city liable for wrongdoing and impose sanctions. Departmental discipline could be an oral reprimand, written reprimand, suspension without pay, demotion, or discharge. The licensing board could suspend or revoke an officer’s license.
Due process in each one of these categories would need to play out to determine what action(s) would be taken against an officer in each case.
Question: What steps have been and will be taken by SPD and the City to regulate the use of force and deter excessive force?
Response: We currently have officers complete a separate “response to resistance” report to track and evaluate what force is being used by the officers. Supervisors review the report(s) to ensure policies and guidelines are being followed.
With regards to deterring excessive force, this is done in many ways. The four potential areas of discipline, criminal, civil, departmental, and licensing, are a deterrent. We also train officers continuously so they gain confidence in their tactics and techniques. Lastly, we establish and maintain a work culture that demands high standards and ethics in how we do our job and treat others. All of these efforts are ways we deter excessive force.
Question: What steps have been and will be taken by SPD and the City to ensure that officers are conscious of racial disparities in law enforcement?
Answer: The members of the Sartell Police Department have done and will continue to take steps needed to avoid disparities. We are not too naïve to understand that in parts of this country it does exist, but we are confident that the members of the Sartell Police Department are policing in the right, ethical way.
The Sartell Police Department will continue with this effort through training, education, community outreach, and as establishing and maintaining a work culture that demands high standards and ethics in how we do our job and treat others.
We understand this is only a snapshot of such a larger topic and will be working to continue this conversation in our department and community.