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Response to #8CANTWAIT Social Media Campaign

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Some of you have contacted our department with a series of questions coming from the #8cantwait social media campaign. This campaign encourages citizens to contact their respective police agencies and inquire about 8 key policies pertaining to use of force. 

We have responded to questions concerning these policies and wish to share our responses with all. We are very fortunate to serve such a diverse, supportive community in the City of Mesa. The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis is a tragic and unnecessary loss of life, our prayers are with his family. The actions observed in the video are contrary to our training and we do not condone it. At the Mesa Police Department, we realize that when something like this happens, wherever it happens, it impacts our community and our relationships. Please know the mission of the Mesa Police Department is to partner with our community to prevent and reduce crime and to ensure procedural justice by building trust, showing respect, and preserving human rights. The Mesa Police Department takes a proactive approach directly involving our community in reviewing our policies and procedures regarding use of force or other related policies. We look forward to our continued work with you to build on our strong relationship, which was built over years of incredible work by the community, City of Mesa, and the Mesa Police Department. We will be an even better police department and a stronger community by working together, with purpose, compassion, empathy, and respect.  

Here are answers to the questions submitted:

1- Are the police officers in the Mesa Police Department being trained to de-escalate altercations by using peaceful conflict resolution strategies?

Yes, The Mesa Police Department has been training its patrol officers in de-escalation techniques for many years. We have specifically provided de-escalation training in 2016, 2017, and 2018. Police recruits have received this training while in the police academy and it is provided to current patrol officers through our continuing officer education training programs. In 2018, we provided additional risk management training for our supervisors and contracted with a national company to provide de-escalation training to the entire department. The name of the training was ICAT, which stands for Integrating Communications, Assessment, and Tactics. If you are interested, additional information can be found at https://www.policeforum.org/icat-training-guide. De-escalation training is currently scheduled to be provided every two years in our training schedule.

2- Are the police officers in the Mesa Police Department forbidden from using carotid restraints (chokeholds, strangleholds, etc.) and hog-tying methods? Furthermore, are they forbidden from transporting civilians in uncomfortable positions, such as face down in a vehicle?

The use of the carotid control technique is in our Use of Force policy and only available in situations where deadly force is authorized. We do not train for or authorize the use of choke or strangleholds. Positional asphyxia is always a consideration when transporting combative prisoners. Our policy does not allow officers to transport subjects in a prone position. If additional restraints beyond handcuffs are used, two officers are required to transport allowing one officer to constantly monitor the restrained subject. 

3- Are the police officers in the Mesa Police Department required to intervene if they witness another officer using excessive force? Will officers be reprimanded if they fail to intervene?

This is specifically embedded in our Code of Conduct. Any police officer is required to report any member of the Department who engages in violations of any rule, regulation, or order. Police recruits are trained at the academy if they neglect to intervene and notify the department of any misconduct, they are subject to discipline. This is taught at the police academy through scenario-based training with clear expectations for our officers.

4- Are the police officers in the Mesa Police Department forbidden from shooting at moving vehicles? Is there a clear and enforced use-of-force continuum that details what weapons and force are acceptable in a wide variety of civilian-police interactions?

The Mesa Police Department prohibits shooting at/or from a moving vehicle. The only exceptions to this policy are: An apparent act of terrorism when the vehicle is used as a weapon of mass destruction or when someone inside the vehicle is using or threatening to use deadly physical force. We have a very robust Use of Force policy and training program with internal reviews of all use of force incidents.  

5- Are the officers in the Mesa Police Department required to exhaust every other possible option before using excessive force?

The policy of the MPD is to value and preserve human life in all situations. An officer's responsibility for protecting life must include his or her own and those of his or her fellow officers and the general public. Our use of force policy provides specific guidelines for the appropriate and acceptable use of force, high degree of officer safety protocols, reporting guidelines for all uses of force, and for the treatment of any injury or complaint of injury arising from the use of force. Officers must consider the totality of circumstances in evaluating whether force is necessary and what level of force would be reasonable before using a particular force option.

6- Are the officers in the Mesa Police Department required to give a verbal warning to civilians before drawing their weapon or using excessive force?

Mesa Police Department officers make every attempt to utilize verbal commands prior to using force to effect an arrest. However, in certain circumstances because of an imminent threat to officers or the general public, verbal warnings may not precede the threat or use of force. The Mesa Police Department does not authorize members to use “excessive force”.  

7- Are the officers in the Mesa Police Department required to report each time they threaten to or use force on civilians?

The Mesa Police Department requires officers to report all reportable use of force applications which include any use of force outside of verbal commands and handcuffing. If a member threatens to use deadly force by pointing his firearm at a person, they are required to document this action in their written report. Every reportable use of force goes through a multi-layer internal review process to ensure the force used was within policy. If that force is determined to be outside of training protocols and our use of force policy, the disciplinary process is initiated.

8- Are the officers in the Mesa Police Department thoroughly vetted to ensure that they do not have a history with abuse, racism, xenophobia, homophobia/transphobia, or discrimination?

Our hiring process is extremely in-depth and each of our prospective police recruits are thoroughly vetted to ensure they do not have a history of abuse, racism, xenophobia, homophobia/transphobia, or discrimination. This type of behavior is not tolerated and would exclude any prospective applicant for any job within the Mesa Police Department. Each police officer recruit also must successfully complete psychological and polygraph examinations. The Mesa Police Department is a diverse and inclusive organization and welcomes men and women of all backgrounds. We believe in partnering with our community to prevent and reduce crime and to ensure procedural justice by building trust, showing respect, and preserving human rights.

9- Are the officers in the Mesa Police Department trained to perform and seek necessary medical action after using excessive force?

The Mesa Police Department requires officers to ensure medical treatment is provided for any injury or complaint of injury arising from the use of force. Prior to booking or releasing, medical assistance is required for any person who has sustained visible injury or expressed a complaint of injury or continuing pain or has been rendered unconscious.      

10- Is there an early intervention system enforced to correct officers who use excessive force? Additionally, how many complaints does an officer have to receive before they are reprimanded? Before they are terminated? More than three complaints are unacceptable.

The Mesa Police Department does utilize an early warning system which triggers an audit of any officer involved in a pre-determined number of use of force incidents over a prescribed time frame. However, each use of force incident is also reviewed directly after the incident for any possible policy violations which would lead to an internal investigation. Every complaint is thoroughly investigated and if the allegation of misconduct is sustained, then appropriate disciplinary action is taken based on the findings of the investigation. Our disciplinary corrective actions for sustained complaints are as follows: Written reprimand, disciplinary probation, disciplinary suspension without pay, demotion, and termination. We are also bound by the Arizona Peace Officer Bill of Rights which is found in Arizona Revised Statutes, Title 38, Chapter 8, Article 1 & 2.  

11- Statistics have indicated that by enforcing these policies, there is a significant decrease in civilian complaints and injury due to excessive force. If any of the policies are not currently in place, then what is being done to ensure that they are going to be enforced in the near future? What can I do, as a concerned citizen, to set these policies in motion?

All of the above questions are covered within our department policies and we invite you to learn more by visiting the Mesa Police Policy page. You will have unrestricted access to review all our department policies. Reaching out to us as a concerned citizen is a great way to ensure we are meeting your expectations. 

12- I also want to increase the level of trust between the police department and the community. To establish trust, there has to be transparency. I would like to see the Mesa Police Department collect and report data on civilian deaths that occurred in custody and as a result of an officer’s use of excessive force. The data should be broken down by demographics and should showcase the race, gender, sexuality, and religion of the civilians. Allowing the public access to this information will show us where we, as a community, fall short.

The Mesa Police Department believes in being transparent with our community and being compliant with Arizona public records laws. All in-custody deaths and officer involved shootings are thoroughly investigated and turned over to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office for their independent review. We track and report all data related to these investigations and report that data to the FBI as we are a participating agency in the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). However, in many cases an individual’s sexuality or religion is not known. The Mesa Police Department provides public access to multiple reports and data through the City of Mesa Data Portal which can be located here: https://data.mesaaz.gov/

Thank you for taking the time to read these answers and for being an actively engaged citizen.