Saint Paul Police Department announces updates to use of force policy

After months of reviewing policies from across the country, working with Mayor Melvin Carter, examining its own practices and listening to feedback at three public forums and more than a dozen community meetings, the Saint Paul Police Department has published an updated version of its use of force policy.

The new policy, which is now called “Response to Resistance and Aggression,” can be viewed on the department’s website, stpaul.gov/police.

According to Chief Todd Axtell, the updated policy better aligns with the way officers are currently being trained and doing their jobs. It also better reflects the values shared by the community and its police department.

“We are grateful to everyone who joined us as we worked to update the policy to ensure that it meets the needs of the people we serve, our officers and the department,” he said. “The new version puts greater emphasis on protecting the sanctity of human life, de-escalation and guidelines to help officers determine the appropriate response to a person’s resistance or aggression.

“The updated policy will allow us to continue to hold ourselves accountable to the highest standards in all aspects of use of force and moves us closer to our goal of becoming a national model of excellence for 21st century policing.”  

The department received more than 100 submissions from community members, all of which were individually reviewed by Axtell—and many of which were incorporated into the updated policy.

Examples include:

De-escalation—The policy now states that “officers are directed to de-escalate when they can, intervene when they should, and serve all individuals with respect.”

Medical services—The policy now requires officers to request medical assistance any time an electronic control device is used.

Training—The policy now clarifies that officers may only use techniques and tools that are currently trained or authorized by the department’s Training Unit.

Duty to intervene—The policy now states that supervisors are required to respond and document incidents where officers have exercised their duty to intervene.

Overall, the Response to Resistance and Aggression Policy now:

  • better reflects the department’s values and current training practices,
     
  • emphasizes de-escalation by putting a focus on using time, distance and teamwork to maximize the safety of everyone involved in an incident,
     
  • distinguishes between passive and aggressive resistance,
     
  • more clearly defines an officer’s duty to intervene,
     
  • increases the instances when medics must be called to a scene,
     
  • increases supervisor oversight,
     
  • uses a new model to replace an outdated use-of-force continuum,
     
  • promotes practical decision making, and
     
  • better aligns with the shared values of the community and the department.  

The policy (with changes made as a result of community feedback) is available here