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Use of force amendment approved for police

Federal funds dependent on department’s adoption of clearer chokehold policy

By Ally Lanasa, Staff Writer

(Jan. 14, 2021) The Berlin Mayor and Council approved amendments to the Use of Force General Order for the Berlin Police Department on Monday.

“It’s adding of two statements that the presidential Executive Order on Safe Policing for Safe Communities advises that has to be included by all law enforcement agencies,” said Police Chief Arnold Downing.

The first statement is that all federal, state and local laws will be followed.

Police Chief Arnold Downing

The second statement prohibits the use of chokeholds, except for when following the established guidelines, because the policy considers the use of chokeholds deadly force.

Downing said if the statements had not been added to the policy by Jan. 31, the police department would have lost federal funds.

“We will be looking at the actual use of force policy with our insurance carrier, which is [Local Government Insurance Trust] LGIT, and law enforcement representatives there with staff to go ahead and enhance that right after the state delegates go ahead and put in their mandates,” he added.

Councilmember Jay Knerr asked Downing how officers select between pepper spray (Oleoresin Capsicum), also known as mace, and tasers for non-lethal use of force.

“First of all, they have to go ahead and have it,” Downing replied. “Not all officers have both of those tools, and they actually fall exactly in the same line, so again, it’s not a difference in those two.”

He added that mace is often used more for crowds rather than individuals.

“It has to be tools that people are trained with,” Downing said.

Furthermore, it depends on what is available to the officers and what they choose to carry.

“If you tried to put on everything that is available to you, you’ll be walking around with 102 pounds worth of equipment,” he said in response to Councilmember Shaneka Nichols. “Most of our officers do not carry mace on a regular basis now. Taser is the tool of choice, and again not everyone here has been trained in taser.”

Downing also explained to the councilmembers that a taser is now referred to as an electronic control device (ECD).