Saturday - May 26, 2018

Q&A: Asheville Police body-worn camera, use of force policies


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The City of Asheville, including the Asheville Police Department, is committed to being as transparent as possible within the law. The following questions are questions City Council and staff have heard throughout the community.

Staff will continue to collect common questions through the comments shared on the Community Engagement Hotline, 828-259-5900, and comments to be shared at the next Citizen/Police Advisory Committee meeting on March 7, 2018.

 

Question:  What policies are in place to address excessive use of force by a police officer?

Answer:  The following is an excerpt from the Police Department’s Use of Force Policy.

 

Link: Asheville Police Department Policy 402 – Use of Force

 

402.6 REPORTING REQUIREMENTS
A. Any department member involved in a use of force or injured prisoner incident must notify a supervisor as soon as practical.

  1. A department * Blue Team report must be completed for the following:
    1. Whenever a department member’s actions results in, or is alleged to have resulted
    in, the injury or death of another person. [4.2.1 b]
    2. Whenever a department member applies force through the use of a lethal or less
    lethal weapon. [4.2.1 c]
    3. Whenever a department member applies physical force as defined in this policy.
    [4.2.1 d]
    4. Whenever an officer discharges a firearm (on-duty, off-duty, or engaged in
    secondary employment) other than for authorized training or recreational
    purposes. [4.2.1 a]
  2. Officers may be required to submit a Blue Team report at the direction of a supervisor.
  3. A supervisor will respond to the scene of all reportable incidents involving a use of force
    to conduct a preliminary investigation and collect supplemental documentation to be
    attached to the associated Blue Team report. This includes, but may not be limited to:
    1. Obtaining or attempting to obtain a statement from the subject of the force or
    injury and all witnesses at the scene; and
    2. When applicable, photographing all areas of contact located on the subject to
    document the injuries or lack of injuries.
  4. Notification, reporting, and review procedures for Blue Team reports are specifically
    addressed in SOP 3002 – Blue Team Reports. All reported use of force incidents will be
    reviewed by the employee’s designated chain of command and the Professional
    Standards Section. [4.2.2]
  5. Annually, the Professional Standards Section will conduct an analysis of all Blue Team
    reports related to uses of force to ensure department practices are non-discriminatory and
    reveal any necessary training or policy modifications. [4.2.4]

 

Q: Are there any other current excessive APD use of force complaints or investigations?

A: No.

 

Q: Why was City Council not informed of the August 2017 excessive use of force incident?

A: There’s no existing policy regarding when Council is informed about allegations of employee misconduct. The Council has been informed by the legal department of pending and threatened lawsuits.

 

Q: Who can view body worn camera footage without a court order?

A: North Carolina General Statute 132-1.4 governs the maintenance and disclosure of footage captured by law enforcement body-worn cameras within the state.

 

Link: Policy 509: Body-Worn Cameras

 

Digital recordings may be reviewed by supervisors in an officer’s chain of command, the Chief of Police, members of the Professional Standards Section, the City Attorney’s Office, or any other person designated by the Chief of Police as allowed by law.

 

Externally, the department may only disclose recordings to a person whose voice or image is  captured on the video or:
1. A personal representative of an adult person whose image or voice is in the
recording, if the adult person has consented to the disclosure;
2. A personal representative of a minor or of an adult person under lawful
guardianship whose image or voice is in the recording;
3. A personal representative of a deceased person whose image or voice is in the
recording; or
4. A personal representative of an adult person who is incapacitated and unable to
provide consent to disclosure.

 

Q: Do officers receive training around the use of force? 

A: De-escalation is one of the primary focuses of the revised Use of Force policy. In 2017 all officers were required to participate in Integrating Communication, Assessment and Tactics (ICAT) training. ICAT takes the essential building blocks of critical thinking, crisis intervention, communications and tactics, and helps officers to assess situations and make safe and effective decisions.

 

The goal of ICAT is to enhance safety for both the officer and all involved parties by providing officers with the tools, skills and option for handling different types of critical incidents, especially those that involve subjects who are acting erratically because of mental illness or behavioral crisis and who are unarmed or armed with a weapon other than a firearm. It’s an additional tool in an officer’s tool belt.

 

Q: What steps are involved in a termination?

A: The City of Asheville employs the process of progressive discipline when dealing with performance issues. Prior to an employee being involuntarily terminated, a review of the employee personnel history is conducted to ascertain what if any previous disciplinary action has been taken involving that employee.  While there are policy violations so egregious that termination is warranted without progressive action, most performance issues can be corrected through progressive discipline.

Decisions to terminate an employee are fact specific.  When previous coaching and counseling, verbal warnings, written warnings and/or suspensions have failed to correct performance problems, or in other situations such as inappropriate personal conduct where termination of employment is deemed warranted, an employee shall be terminated.

In the case of dismissal, the Department Director should ensure that any progressive disciplinary action has been documented or, in the case of inappropriate personal conduct, the Department Director must ensure that there is sufficient documentation of the incident leading to dismissal.

In some cases, an investigation would ensue to gather facts surrounding the allegation of policy violation. This investigation will inform proper disciplinary action to be taken up to and including termination.  During that time, the employee may be reassigned or in some cases removed from the workplace with paid leave while the investigation is conducted.

 

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