Denver police rolling out new use-of-force policy, training officers on new guidelines

DENVER — The Denver Police Department is rolling out its new use-of-force policy this week. The final draft was shown to a community advisory panel Monday. The police department will now start training officers on the new guidelines, beginning with officers in downtown Denver.

It took the police department more than a year and a half to get to this point because of the pushback the first draft of the policy received from a police union and community activists.

Under the new use-of-force policy, officers are encouraged to use non-force alternatives and de-escalation tactics first before resorting to force.

“When needed, officers must use only the amount of force reasonable and necessary under the totality of the circumstances to safely accomplish a lawful purpose,” the manual reads.

The manual goes on to say the totality of circumstances officers must consider includes the seriousness of the threat, severity of the crime, risk of injury to others, etc.

It goes on to list the reasons someone might not follow police commands and requires officers to consider these reasons before resorting to force. That list includes the person having a medical or mental condition, an emotional crisis, physical limitation or developmental disability. It also tells officers there might be a language barrier or that drugs and alcohol are affecting the person’s behavior.

The manual tells the officer their conduct can influence the amount of force necessary and it spells out when that force should and should not be used.

Force shouldn’t be used as a means of retaliation or punishment, for instance.

Beyond that, the policy requires officers to intervene if they feel one of their counterparts is using too much force and to report a case where an officer went too far to their supervisor.

When it comes to lethal force, the new guidelines say officers may not use lethal force:

  • Solely to effect an arrest
  • To prevent a suspect from escaping
  • On a person who only poses a danger to themselves

Officers also may not fire their weapons:

  • As a warning
  • Solely to protect property
  • At a moving vehicle generally
  • Where there is a risk of injuring others

The new operations manual goes on to talk about what the officer’s responsibilities are after using force, including providing medical attention to the person.

They also must file a report and notify the Major Crimes Division, the Internal Affairs Division and other departments if the person dies or is injured and when death is likely.

For less-than-lethal force, the policy describes the different tools officers can use from their hands to batons to pepper balls. It also talks about how each item should and should not be used.

The goal of the new manual is to better train officers on how to make a decision on DPD’s use of force policies to prevent an overreaction.

Police Chief Paul Pazen hopes to have all 1,525 DPD officers trained on it by this upcoming January.

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