In the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, several neighbors have reached out to the Gainesville City Commission and the Gainesville Police Department (GPD) asking questions and demanding actions to ensure that similar incidents never happen in Gainesville. As a result of these inquires, GPD has assembled this overview of where we are as an agency and where we are headed in the future.
GPD endeavors to be transparent with its operational policies and procedures. Comprehensive practices around use of force, body worn cameras, intentional discharging of a firearm, claims of injury, allegations of misconduct and disciplinary protocols are publicly accessible on the GPD website. Particular orders of interest are listed below.
Ban Chokeholds & Strangleholds
Carotid restraints (chokeholds and strangleholds) are prohibited except for deadly force encounters. Once an individual is restrained in handcuffs, GPD officers are taught to roll a person onto their side or sit them up so they can breathe easily. If an individual continues to resist, other methods can be employed but officers are instructed to monitor the person’s breathing and consciousness and make adjustments as appropriate to ensure the person’s well-being. The department does not train its officers to restrain a person by placing their knee on the head or neck area.
On the horizon: GPD is in the process of expressly stating in its policy that if any member of GPD uses these tactics, it is considered excessive force, unless justified in a deadly force encounter.
GPD officers are highly trained in de-escalation techniques, methods for proper restraint, crisis intervention, combat first aid, procedural justice and implicit bias. GPD instituted de-escalation training for all employees in 2015. This training was incorporated into GPD’s annual in-service training that every officer is required to attend. Training methods are constantly reviewed to ensure we are providing our officers with the most up-to-date and innovative methods available.
On the horizon: GPD is working on adding expressed language regarding de-escalation into its Use of Force General Order.
Require Warning Before Shooting
GPD officers are trained and instructed to give loud verbal commands and warnings before employing force on any individual. In any situation in which an officer is implored to draw their firearm, they are instructed to give loud verbal warning. Use of firearms is regulated in GPD’s Use of Force Policy and Weapons Policy. Officers are trained to draw their firearms and hold at the ready whenever dealing with a situation in which a person could be armed.
All individuals are provided an opportunity to submit to arrest before force is used. Force may be used only when verbal commands and other techniques that do not require the use-of-force are ineffective or would present danger to the officer or others.
Exhaust all alternatives before shooting
All members of the Gainesville Police Department are committed to their duty of saving and preserving life, even in the face of extraordinary stress and danger. Only when there is a belief of immediate death or injury should deadly force be used. An officer is required to use lower levels of force when it is reasonably safe and feasible to do so without endangering the life of the officer or others.
Shooting at moving vehicles
GPD General Order 1.6 states that “The discharge of a firearm when taking police action is always considered to be deadly force; therefore, sworn members shall only discharge a firearm (except as indicated in subsection 2) if the action is in defense of human life or in defense of any person in immediate danger of serious bodily injury. Sworn members shall not discharge their weapons at or from a moving vehicle unless it is absolutely necessary to do so:
1) In order to protect a law enforcement officer or other persons from death or great bodily harm
2) the use of deadly force is justified
3) The action is consistent with ‘due care’ considerations for the innocent public.”
Duty to intervene
Use of force encounters are consistently reviewed and if issues of misconduct are uncovered the matter is promptly referred to our training unit or our internal affairs unit for appropriate corrective action. Every member of the Gainesville Police Department has the duty to report misconduct. Members are expected to report any violation of orders, manuals, directives, neglect of duty, or illegal conduct to their supervisors or the Internal Affairs Unit. Recently, GPD relocated Internal Affairs from its headquarters to an outside building so that it could be more confidentially accessed by our neighbors and officers. Our disciplinary policy is explicit in its expectation for how our officers are to report, process, investigate and record any occurrence of misconduct.
On the horizon: Even though it has always been an expectation, GPD is working to expressly state in its policy that our officers have a duty to intervene whenever they observe misconduct.
Comprehensive Reporting – Body Worn Cameras and Response to Resistance Reporting
All use of force instances are recorded and officers are required to notify a supervisor and document any incident in which they discharge a firearm, apply force through the use of a weapon, strike an intentional blow, or otherwise employ force that causes or is alleged to have caused an injury or death. An officer must seek medical attention for all force applications in which an injury is a result. Use of force encounters are reviewed by a supervisor and entered into a tracking software. When an officer has (5) or more instances of force in a 12-month period, a review is conducted by that officer’s Bureau Commander.
GPD also employs a model policy for body worn cameras which requires the assigned officer to activate the record function whenever they anticipate contact with a neighbor. Technology has been deployed that automatically initiates body worn camera recording whenever an officer turns on their emergency vehicle lights, activates a taser or if a police vehicle is involved in a crash. If a supervisor learns that an officer is not following the policy, that officer shall be given the proper corrective action or discipline, depending on the degree of violation. These corrective actions and disciplinary measures are also recorded into tracking software.
GPD Use of Force
GPD has always employed a use of force continuum as part of its officer training protocol. The current continuum is the same one used by the State of Florida’s Defensive Tactics Curriculum approved by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission.
Escalating the level of force may be necessary given resistance levels and circumstances. Factors in this decision include, but are not limited to:
- Subject vs. officer - relative age, size, physical condition, skill level;
- Drugs and alcohol;
- Weapons - type, proximity;
- Seriousness of offense; and
- Number of potential assailants vs. number of police on the scene.
An initial investment of $128,000 to develop a new diversion and deflection program will help us address the underlying social issues that keep vulnerable residents in the perpetual clutches of the criminal justice system. The program seeks to provide “second chances” for first-time, non-violent offenders— providing opportunities instead of arrests. The deflection program, also known as pre-arrest diversion, aims to avoid the costs and potential harm to individuals from arrest, booking and a criminal record.
Mental Health Partnership
The Gainesville Police Department has established a mental health co-responder team in partnership with Meridian Behavioral Healthcare, LSF Health Systems LLC and the State of Florida’s Department of Children and Families. This effort aims to enhance the community’s holistic response to mental health crisis. The program pairs a mental health clinician with a GPD officer to respond to calls for service involving persons with mental illness, mental healthcare crisis and calls involving emotionally charged situations. Since its launch in 2018, the program has shown promising results, reducing the number of persons and/or the number of times a person is subject to arrest by diverting these instances to mental health outpatient treatment or voluntarily submitting to inpatient treatment.
Invest in youth and education
Commission increments for FY20 provided an additional $80,000 in funding for youth internships, evening activities for teens and after-school programs. Expanding existing city-funded programs including the Youth Summit, Heatwave, BOLD and the Reichert House Youth Academy will help the city provide much-needed resources for at-risk youth
“As an agency, the Gainesville Police Department has been working on improving our culture and cultivating partnerships with our neighbors for quite some time. We have worked with the Mayor’s Task Force and the Police Advisory Council to implement many of the recommendations of President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, including procedural justice training, youth programming, and increased neighbor dialogue and community control.” -Chief of Police Tony Jones
Chief Jones and members of the Gainesville Police Department are open to discussion regarding these and other topics. We welcome our neighbors to engage us in conversation about these and other subjects of concern.
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