CSPD releases use of force report

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With little fanfare, the Colorado Springs Police Department released a 17-page report Thursday about the CSPD's use of force, but there were few startling findings in the wake of publicity over an officer slamming a teen onto the floor and breaking a tooth — caught on video. The case was among several featured by the Independent in its "Full force" series, which began on July 15, 2015.

Police Chief Pete Carey told the media he would adopt all 11 recommendations, which ranged from providing guidance on when to investigate a use-of-force policy violation to improvements in documentation by officers and supervisors.

The mostly internal committee (there was one El Paso County Sheriff's official involved) was formed at the behest of Mayor John Suthers about a year ago to look at how police investigate complaints of excessive use of force. The benchmark, Suthers said during a mayor-City Council meeting Thursday at which the report was unveiled, is whether the officer acted as a reasonable police officer would act under the circumstances.

"This is a tough time for law enforcement in America," Suthers said. "We have a highly accredited department. I think we are attracting good quality officers."

The committee reviewed 119 cases randomly selected from 2011 through May 2015 and concluded, Carey told reporters, that only two cases involved an excessive use of force.

Read the entire report at this link.

One finding that might be of interest to the ACLU of Colorado states, "CSPD should consider additional training based on current best practices in use of force as well as traffic or pedestrian stops."

The ACLU last year pointed out a case involving Ryan and Benjamin Brown, who were pulled from their vehicle after being stopped for no apparent reason. From the report: "This is a proactive suggestion for continuous improvement in an area that has high liability for the department and is consistent with national dialogue on improved policing training."

Here's the CSPD's news release about the report:
The Colorado Springs Police Department today released findings and 11 recommendations from the “Use of Force Review,” which started in December 2015 and concluded in March 2016. During this time, a 10-member committee (eight voting members) examined 119 cases involving “use of force” by CSPD officers. Mayor Suthers and Chief Carey sat down with Springs TV to discuss the report and process in depth.

The purpose of the project was three-fold.
1. To review CSPD complaints involving use of force to determine whether the disposition was accurate.
2. To determine whether any changes or improvements in training, process and / or policy are warranted.
3. To review sustained use of force complaints for reasonableness of discipline and make recommendations for changes or improvements in training, process, and/or policy related to discipline for inappropriate use of force.

Task 1 Findings:
In reviewing 119 cases, the committee agreed with the vast majority of the original dispositions. In cases where the committee disagreed with the disposition, most of the issues found would be remedied by clearer definitions of technical terminology. There was one case of the 119 in which the committee thought the disposition should have been sustained at the lowest level of discipline, instead of “no use of force found.”

Task 2-3 Findings:
In fulfilling tasks 2 and 3, the committee submitted 11 recommendations for implementation by CSPD. Those recommendations are as follows:

1. CSPD needs to give clearer guidance on when to identify and investigate a potential use of force policy violation.

2. CSPD needs to give clearer guidance in the difference between “Unfounded” and “Exonerated”

3. CSPD needs to re-examine investigative guidance and the evidence that is necessary to arrive at a disposition.

4. CSPD needs to consider consolidation of Use of Force policies.

5. CSPD needs to find ways to improve officers’ documentation and supervisors’ documentation.

6. CSPD should consider additional training based on current best practices in use of force as well as traffic or pedestrian stops.

7. CSPD should develop a plan to publicly release this report.

8. CSPD needs more thorough investigations, particularly when the allegation is a use of excessive or inappropriate force.

9. Assaulted officers should not be involved in further interaction with the suspect (e.g. prisoner processing) once the immediate danger has passed.

10. De-escalation technique training should continue.

11. CSPD should discuss the level one and level two distinctions in internal investigations

The report and findings were shared with Mayor John Suthers via email on May 2, 2016 and were presented to the Colorado Springs City Council today at the Mayor-Council retreat. Police Chief Peter Carey gave the presentation.

“This review has confirmed that CSPD has a solid internal investigative process for complaints that will be further strengthened by the committee’s recommendations,” Carey said. “I also want to thank the committee members, both CSPD staff and our representative from the El Paso County Sheriff’s department for their time commitment, thoughtfulness and perspectives on reviewing this important topic.”

“I’m appreciative of CSPD’s efforts to take a hard look at a very difficult topic, and for its willingness to provide honest feedback and thoughtful recommendations in an effort to improve our service to the citizens of Colorado Springs,” said Mayor Suthers. “I have a great deal of faith in the men and women of the Colorado Springs Police Department, its training programs and its leadership, so it wasn’t surprising to find that in the majority of cases, the committee came to a positive conclusion as to the department’s use of force policies. I look forward to the improvements recommended and commend everyone involved for their commitment.”

In an effort to engage citizens in discussion around this report, the City of Colorado Springs and CSPD have published an online discussion board on the topic. The board can be found at www.coloradosprings.gov/speakup. The report may be viewed at cspd.coloradosprings.gov/
 

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