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During two landmark cases (Graham v. Connor and Tennessee v. Garner), the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) set the standard for use of force by police. SCOTUS ruled that police use of force constitutes a "seizure" of a person and is, therefore, subject to analysis under the "objective reasonableness standard" of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. This means that an officer's decision to use force must be weighed against the "totality of the facts of the circumstances" known to the officer at the time force was used (not with the advantage of 20/20 hindsight bias), and it must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer confronted with similar facts and circumstances.
For more information on these cases and other important SCOTUS decisions impacting policing, please see the following article: Five Supreme Court cases the police and the public should know.
ACCPD Directive 6.01.05 (K) prohibits the use of neck restraints and choke holds unless deadly force is justified. The Department does not teach or train officers to apply pressure to someone’s neck. This level of force would be considered deadly force and would not be permitted in situations unless the use of deadly force can be articulated and justified. This level of force is not used in situations to gain compliance or control over an individual.
Yes, ACCPD officers are required to de-escalate interactions and situations when possible. One of the most important tools officers have at their disposal is their ability to communicate. Providing clear commands and explaining the actions that are being taken can aid in defusing a situation. Ensuring officers can properly communicate and articulate actions is reinforced through ongoing training. ACCPD officers are trained in de-escalation, Crisis Intervention (CIT), and Integrating Communications Assessment and Tactics (ICAT). ACCPD also incorporates a 40-hour CIT class into its New Officer Basic Course to meet recommendations of The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. New officers must complete the 40-hour CIT class prior to being released from training.
Directive 6.01.05 (C) requires warning but only when time and circumstance allows. Shooting a firearm is considered a deadly force situation and must be properly articulated and justified. Per policy, where feasible, a verbal warning will be given prior to the use of deadly force. The Department does recognize that there are some situations where a warning is not feasible and is therefore not required. The circumstances surrounding that decision must be articulated.
The Department implements and trains our officers on using force through a model developed in conjunction with the Police Executive Research Forum entitled, "ICAT: Integrating Communications Assessment and Tactics. The Department incorporates this use of force model and not a use of force "continuum", as a continuum implies a progression of force similar to a line. Our current model is circular with no beginning or end. Rather, it calls on the officer to continuously assess the situation at hand and gather information to determine the type of individual the officer is encountering (cooperative, resistant, or assaultive), as well as, the appropriate level of force, if any, to use to defuse the situation. Officers have many tools they can use and knowing when and how to use them is a critical component to the training. The ICAT model also shows how time and distance can be advantageous to de-escalating an incident by gathering information to aid in assessing the proper action.
Yes, ACCPD officers have sworn an oath to protect human life and uphold the Constitution. This applies to not only our own individual actions, but also the actions of our peers. Pursuant to Directive 6.01.03 (F), it is the duty of every officer to intervene if they observe excessive force and report the incident to their supervisor. Additionally, ACCPD Directive 1.04.03 (C) requires every employee who knows of other employees violating laws, ordinances, department rules, or disobeying orders to immediately report it to a supervisor who will take appropriate action.
Directive 6.01.04 (C) prohibits ACCPD officers from shooting at or from a moving vehicle except as a last resort to avoid immediate and clearly foreseeable danger of death or serious injury to the officer or citizens. The substantial risks generated by using gunfire against moving vehicles, in combination with the likelihood that such gunfire may fail to achieve its goal, demand that officer’s resort to firing only in the most extreme and exceptional circumstances. The use of deadly force in these encounters must be articulated and justified.
Yes, Directive 6.01.08 requires officers to submit a report to their supervisors for every time they use force against a citizen. This includes anytime an officer shows force through presentation of a taser or firearm. Officers must thoroughly document and properly articulate in their report the reason for using force and the level of force used. All uses of force by department members are thoroughly investigated and further documented by a supervisor regardless of the circumstances or type of force. As part of the investigation, the supervisor will seek to speak to all parties involved and any witnesses to the encounter and review any available evidence. Each investigative report is reviewed through the appropriate chain of command to determine if the officer’s actions were or were not within department policy. Any policy violations concerning excessive force require the supervisor to initiate a formal complaint against the officer that is submitted to the Office of Professional Standards. Upon completion of the investigation and review process, the Office of Professional Standards conducts a review of the supervisor’s investigation to ensure that it was thorough and properly conducted, as well as a secondary review of the use of force itself to confirm the policy findings. For more information about Departmental use of force, please view our Annual Compliance Reports Page.
Yes, ACCPD Directive 6.01.04 requires officers evaluate the use of other reasonably effective alternatives before resorting to the use deadly force. However, it is also recognized that each and every case is unique and requires careful attention to the particular facts and circumstances known to the officer at the time deadly force is used, as opposed to the benefits of 20/20 hindsight bias. ACCPD policy only permits the use of deadly force when the officer reasonably believes that the action is in defense of human life or there is imminent threat of serious physical injury to the officer or another person.
Yes. Pursuant to Directive 6.01.11, ACCPD produces annual reports and compiles annual data concerning use-of-force. The reports and data are available on our Transparency in Policing page. Even though each use-of-force incident is individually investigated and reviewed through a standard process, the annual review process is a secondary means of oversight and accountability. It allows us an opportunity to assess departmental use-of-force activities from a broader perspective and publish this information to the public.
Often times individual cases involving force are within policy and justified. However, we recognize that by taking a broader look at our activities we may identify trends, patterns, or areas of concern related to force. Through this process we learn from our collective experiences and real data to continually improve our policies and practices. In doing so, our hope is that we can implement changes, when appropriate, to decrease how often officers need to use force and reduce the levels of force used when force is necessary.
Yes. ACCPD uses an Early Intervention Program (Directive 2.20) as a proactive, non-disciplinary way to identify and positively influence officers’ conduct and performance before it becomes problematic. This includes use-of-force activities. If an officer is involved in a certain number of use-of-force incidents within a specified timeframe, an automatic Early Alert is generated and sent to the Office of Professional Standards. The Office of Professional Standards forwards the alert to the appropriate supervisory personnel for review. As part of the review process, the supervisor looks at the individual force incidents giving rise to the alert as well as any other relevant performance or behavioral issues concerning the officer. The supervisor may refer the case to the Chief of Police, and the Chief of Police will determine whether or not to recommend the officer for the Early Intervention Program. If recommended to the Early Intervention Program, the officer receives an individualized remedial action plan in order to correct potentially problematic behavior and positively address other issues that may be negatively impacting the officer’s performance.
Anytime an officer uses deadly force there are generally two separate, parallel investigations that occur. First, there is a criminal investigation. Pursuant to our policy (Directive 6.01 and Directive 6.07), ACCPD requests an independent, objective investigation from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for all incidents involving the use of deadly force. The GBI investigates these incidents and submits its investigative case file to the Office of the District Attorney for criminal review. It is the purview of the District Attorney to determine if the use of deadly force was legally justified and whether or not to pursue criminal charges.
Additionally, our Office of Professional Standards conducts an administrative investigation for all incidents involving the use of deadly force. The administrative investigation determines whether or not the actions of the officer(s) during the use of force were within the policy limits of the department.