The recent murder of George Floyd has sent shockwaves through our nation. Protestors flood the streets and remind us all that the fight for racial justice in America is still ongoing. Just last month, hundreds of our community members marched from City Hall to the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center. They chanted, shouted, and carried signs, demonstrating their hunger for lasting societal change.
But these recent events have done more than force many of us to consider our own unconscious biases; they have served as a stark reminder of the violence inflicted on black, indigenous, and people of color.
Now more than ever, it is imperative that all law-enforcement agencies carefully examine their policies and procedures. To that end, I called on the leaders of all our Douglas County law-enforcement agencies last Friday to consider adopting the policies detailed at 8cantwait.org. This Monday, these leaders and I met to discuss how to update or revise their policies to embrace the goals detailed at that website. When used together, polices like these have been proven to decrease police violence. The polices I urged them to adopt include:
- Requiring that officers use de-escalation techniques as an alternative to force in situations where doing so does not pose a safety risk to themselves or another;
- Establishing a use-of-force continuum or similar policy that restricts the use of deadly force to severe situations where it is required to save the life of the officer or someone else;
- Requiring that officers exhaust all reasonable alternatives before resorting to deadly force whenever they are safely able to;
- Avoiding the use of choke- and strangleholds;
- Implementing a policy of verbally warning a suspect before using deadly force when possible;
- Imposing a duty on officers to intervene and stop a fellow officer from using excessive force;
- Banning officers from shooting into a moving vehicle except in limited circumstances (such as when firing on the vehicle is required to protect the life of the officer or another person); and
- Establishing a comprehensive reporting system for uses of force by officers.
During this meeting, I was pleased to learn that many of these policies are already in place within our Douglas County law-enforcement agencies. I encouraged the leaders of these agencies to share these policies, and how they have changed their agency’s relationship with the use of force, with their communities. In the few cases where policies have not been adopted, I encouraged those agencies to design, implement, and share new procedures that embrace the above policies and clearly delineate any exceptions.
The public’s trust in our law-enforcement agencies depends on transparency—and, more than that, a willingness to adapt and grow. By examining, updating, and sharing their policies, our local law-enforcement agencies are demonstrating their commitment to the safety and well-being of every Douglas County resident, no matter their skin color or background. I will be continuing to meet with these agencies about their policies, and I look forward to seeing the positive impact these changes make on our community.