Anne Arundel County Police explain current use-of-force, training policies
In light of the killing of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis the Anne Arundel County Police Department put out a FAQ (frequently Asked Questions) statement online detailing it’s current training policies and use-of-force protocols. Below are some of the highlights of these policies. You can find the full FAQ AACPD overview of policy here. Anne Arundel County Chief of Police Timothy Altomare is also planning to be present at the public “Policing Anne Arundel County” livestream event scheduled to be held June 16 at 6 p.m. Regarding the AACPD’s Frequently Asked Questions document the department described the impact of Floyd’s killing this way: “George Floyd’s death is nothing short of an unconscionable murder. Police/community relations have been set back decades due to the actions of those former officers. It is up to us to continue to earn the trust of those we serve and to rebuild bridges with all of our community members. We are hopeful that this information will be a good step forward in transparency and open communication.” Regarding the AAC police department, the department has computer software that is designed to flag an officer “if either four complaints are filed against him/her within a 12 month period, or an officer has six or more uses of force within a 12 month period,” according to the statement. Consequences for the flagging including a review of the incidents, further education, policy review, testing, and training, the statement reads. “In the event of a deadly force encounter there is an additional Deadly Force Review board in which a member of the County’s Equal Employment Opportunity Office serves as the non-agency civilian voice of the review,” the statement says. Handling Calls The department said it continually trains its officers on “a variety of methods to use conflict resolution and de-escalation methods when dealing with tense situations.” One of the models for doing that is called the Communication Assessment and Tactics (ICAT) for conflict resolution, and the critical decision making model. The critical thinking model, the documents states, delves into an officer’s critical thinking process when responding to incidents. It is designed to train the responding officer in using logical thought to both assess situations and respond with the safety of all in mind. Officers are taught to evaluate and avoid using excessive force or cause injury. “The bottom line is,” the statement reads, “De-escalation is a part of our everyday mindset and we use it routinely. It is a part of who we are.” The departments states it does not incorporate training for any type of neck restraint. “Force to the head and neck is considered deadly force by the AACoPD,” the statement reads. But the department does not currently advocate that neck restraint is never appropriate. It does state that “There IS a possibility in which a deadly force encounter may occur and that position is all the officer has to save a human life.” But, currently, under all other circumstances, the statement reads, neck restraint is prohibited by AACPD officers. The department has a requirement for other officers to prevent and report incidents “that become extreme or are out of policy” of fellow officers. “We hold EVERY HUMAN LIFE AS SACROSANCT,” the statement reads. It goes on to say that “Failing to do so will subject the involved parties to administrative sanctions and possibly criminal charges.” The statement noted in 70 to 80 percent of the complaints of this type that were found to be substantiated, the complaints originated from other AACPD members. The AACPD does not use a use-of-force “continuum” to guide an officer’s response to a tense situation. “We want our officers to use a myriad of de-escalation techniques with the latitude to make split second decisions in dynamic situations,” the statement reads. “One constant that remains, however, is that officers are only allowed to use that force necessary to stay safe and overcome resistance, and are held accountable to that standard.” It goes on to say that every incident of use-of-force is reviewed by every level in the department’s chain of command. Regarding an officer’s warning of the public of an impending use of deadly force, before it is executed, the department requires this warning “whenever feasible,” the statement reads. It states that the department routinely trains it officers to use such warnings before such an encounter, but also recognizes that it may be challenging for an officer to remember to apply a warning in a struggle that brings out a natural “fight-or-flight” response in those involved. Police training seeks to instill such warnings as a “Pavlovian response,” the statement reads, “With repetition as ‘muscle memory,’ is built. Officers are also repetitively trained to give strong verbal commands to ‘stop resisting’ or ‘get on the ground’ when using any force technique to overcome resistance.” The statement says use of excessive force is not tolerated by the department and consequences for it include “fines and suspensions up to termination.” Racism The department said that prospective candidates who want to be police officers go through a thorough background check before hiring which includes “interviews with associates, co-workers, former supervisors, family, etc. and a review of the applicant’s social media activity. Evidence of racism in an applicant’s background is cause for removal from the process and we have excluded individuals for it many times,” the statement reads. An implicit bias reduction training course is required for all new officers and all current officers go though an annual retraining “on cultural competency and serving people who have been historically marginalized,” the statement reads. It was unclear from the statement what the length and the substance of the course and training were. All AACPD officers are also also trained on mental health first aid too, the statement says, “We constantly update training modules on these topics to stay current with social policies and professional best practices and offer to staff through continuing education (in-service) sessions,” it reads. Use of Force Use of force by Anne Arundel County Police which results in injury of a person also includes requirements for the responding officers. “The officers are trained to stabilize a situation and immediately request advanced help from the Fire Department/EMS,” the statement reads. “The officer then must notify a supervisor of the occurrence.” Regarding general police training Anne Arundel County Police Officers receive over 1,000 hours of training, both in the classroom and practical exercises, which the statement says, is approximately 250 hours above the Maryland Police Training Commission requirements. Diversity The state says the department is making an ongoing effort to increase the minority makeup of it’s force. The number of African American police officers on the department has increased from 7 percent to 14 percent since 2014 it states. Both of its full-time recruitment officers are also African American, and they often attend minority-oriented job fairs. “These job fairs included many Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), all female universities, ESOL classes, military installations, religious institutions, and more. Additionally, we utilize other recruitment methods including numerous Anne Arundel County open houses, social media campaigns, billboard campaigns, radio campaigns, and smaller community events where recruiters interact directly with our communities,” the statement reads. The Anne Arundel County Police Department regarded the FAQ as opportunity to continue to be transparent and build bonds with the community. “We hope to become a closer, more unified Anne Arundel County,” the statement read.