In 2016, Saint Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell committed to reviewing the department’s use-of-force policy to ensure that it provided officers with clear guidance and aligned with the community’s shared values.
After months of researching law enforcement best practices and reviewing the best policy models from agencies across the country, the Chief and Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter recently reviewed the entire policy, which was updated to include the mayor’s input. Now, the Saint Paul Police Department is ready to share its draft policy with the public—and ask for feedback.
“A lot of thought and work has gone into updating this policy—by our training staff, use-of-force experts and Mayor Carter,” said Axtell. “But at the end of the day, the policy belongs to our community,” Axtell said. “It needs to work for the people we serve, our officers and the department. That’s why it’s important for people to read it, understand it and share their feedback with us.”
The draft policy, “Officer Response to Resistance and Aggression,” has been posted on the police department’s website along with a form that allows members of the community to share their feedback. The department is also in the process of planning community meetings where the public can learn more about the updates, ask questions and share their feedback.
According to Axtell, the policy has been updated to reflect the recommendations outlined in the “The Final Report of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing,” which are currently employed by officers every day.
“The policy emphasizes the sanctity of life, the use of de-escalation to avoid and reduce the need to use force, and the importance of time, distance, teamwork and communication to increase the likelihood of peaceful resolutions,” he said. “These are things our officers already do, so it’s important that the policy reflect them and that we hold ourselves to these standards.”
Notable updates to the policy include:
- Replaces outdated use-of-force continuum by describing five levels of behavior, ranging from compliance to passive resistance to aggravated aggression, and clearly articulates acceptable response options to each.
- Emphasizes officers’ duty to deescalate when practical, and more clearly defines an officer’s duty to intervene.
- Provides clearer guidance to officers on interacting with individuals experiencing crisis.
- Increases and types of encounters where medical professionals must be called, and articulates that medical help must be summoned as soon safely possible.
- Formally recognizes that every use of force is reviewed with increased reporting and supervisor oversight.
- Provides clear rules for electronic control devices (Tasers).
Once members of the community have shared their feedback, the draft policy with any subsequent updates will be reviewed by the chief and his staff. After that it will be finalized and officer training will begin.
The draft policy and feedback form are available at https://www.stpaul.gov/departments/police/administration-office-chief/saint-paul-police-department-manual.