Chandler police increase oversight on use of force The Chandler Arizonan

Chandler police increase oversight on use of force

November 3rd, 2020 Chandler Arizona Staff
Chandler police increase oversight on use of force
City News
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By Kevin Reagan
Arizonan Staff Writer

Chandler Police Chief Sean Duggan has added some extra layers of accountability for incidents involving officers using force against civilians.

In the wake of calls for police reforms across the nation following the recent deaths of several Black citizens in various states, his department is refining some rules and procedures for Chandler officers.

Duggan, who has led the department since 2014, said Chandler Police spent the last few months reviewing protocols, studying the policies of other agencies and making adjustments that will hopefully maintain the community’s trust in its police department.

“Each day we are looking and we are learning from our neighbors,” Duggan told City Council earlier this month. “We’re learning from their successes and we’re learning from their mistakes.”

In the months following the officer-involved killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, protests erupted across the country – including some in Chandler, Gilbert, Phoenix and Mesa – as activists cried for radical reforms that in some cases included defunding police departments.

Floyd died on May 25 after a Minneapolis officer allegedly pinned him to the ground and knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Duggan at the time condemned the incident, calling it “disgusting” and claiming it went against the philosophy his officers are taught.

“In my 30 years of policing, that tactic that was utilized was not something I had ever seen condoned or trained in,” Duggan said in June.

Duggan has since gone one step further by revising his agency’s policies to include language intended to prevent an incident that resulted in Floyd’s death.

When faced with situations where citizens have to be forcefully brought down to the ground, the chief said officers are must always bring the citizen back to a “recovery position” so they can breathe.

This type of instruction is not exactly new, Duggan said, but the department decided it was time to formally add it to its official protocols.

“It’s something we’ve trained for years and years but now it’s explicitly written in policy,” Duggan told Council.

The department also has revised how reports of use of force are reviewed within the agency’s chain of command. Duggan said all use-of-force incidents will now be reviewed by his office rather than solely by a lieutenant, sergeant or commander.

The city already has a panel of 15 civilians that reviews review Chandler Police’s use-of-force incidents on a quarterly basis.

The panelists get to ask officers questions about officers’ conduct during encounters with members of the public.    

Duggan said adding his office to the review process will create another layer of oversight for any type of incident involving force against a civilian.

Duggan’s office will also begin reviewing all requests for any “no-knock warrants” his agency may attempt to obtain during an investigation.

Although judges have the legal authority to sign off on search warrants that give officers the freedom to enter a home without announcing their presence, the use of these warrants have come under greater scrutiny in recent months following the death of Breonna Taylor in March.

The 26-year-old Black woman was shot and killed by Louisville Metro Police officers after they raided an apartment she shared with her boyfriend. Though investigators had obtained a no-knock warrant from a judge, they claim they still announced their presence before forcibly entering Taylor’s apartment.

The incident has sparked a nationwide debate about the necessity of no-knock warrants and some cities have recently have prohibited their use.

Data obtained by the New York Times show at least 81 civilians and 13 police officers were killed between 2010 and 2016 during the execution of a no-knock warrant. Half the civilian deaths were members of racial or ethnic minorities.

Duggan said these types of warrants are seldom used in Chandler, but that he still wants his office to be part of the review process to make sure these warrants are not being obtained when not needed.   

“We have added a whole different layer of accountability and oversight to that to ensure all other options are explored before a no-knock warrant is sought,” he said.

Another adjustment Chandler Police have made involves how the agency responds to officer-involved shootings.

Duggan said one of his training sergeants will be dispatched immediately to the scene of a shooting and begin assessing the officer’s actions.

The agency already has a team of investigators who probe each officer-involved shooting and submit their findings to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office for prosecutorial review.

But involving a training sergeant during the immediate aftermath of a shooting helps the agency make recommendations that could be impactful to other officers, Duggan said.

“That gives us a lot more mobility and we’re able to effectively make changes right away based on that incident,” the chief said.

The agency has further attempted to boost its transparency by inviting a civilian to sit on an existing committee tasked with examining how Chandler’s officers are trained.

Duggan said adding an outsider’s perspective to the committee will hopefully add some insight to how civilians perceive and interact with law enforcement.

“It just gives us another opportunity to learn and grow,” he said.

Reform is nothing new to the agency, Duggan said, as Chandler Police frequently evaluate new evidence-based practices and update the department’s policies.

When the White House issued an executive order on safe policing practices over this past summer, Duggan said his agency quickly began reviewing it and determining whether its recommendations can be applied to Chandler Police.

“We are not standing still,” Duggan added. “We are certainly paying attention and we are committed to being a leader in our profession.”

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