Use-of-force policy reviewed

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, July 1, 2020

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Farmville Police Chief Andy Ellington provided Farmville’s Town Council with a review of the police department’s use-of-force procedures at the beginning of the council’s retreat Thursday, June 25.

Ellington affirmed that his presentation was not based on any specific expectation that the violence occurring in different parts of the country will be coming to Farmville.

“The mayor (Mayor David Whitus) just asked that I might pop in and just go over our use-of-force policy with them to assure them that we have a sound policy in place and that our guys are trained as they should be,” he said.

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The chief noted the policy in place is governed by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS). The Farmville Police Department (FPD) is accredited through the DCJS, and among the requirements to maintain that accredited status are the FPD proving it has properly trained its officers and the FPD keeping records throughout the year on its use of force.

There are several steps a police officer is trained to go through before resorting to deadly force, and Ellington shared them with the council and went over them again in a Monday, June 29, interview.

He said the first step is just an officer’s mere presence on the scene of a call.

“Depending on the situation, if things start to escalate, you think you’re going to have to make an arrest, then you start with your verbal commands,” he said. “And if you have to apply physical control, your verbal commands become stronger when necessary. You’re trying to gain compliance with an individual.

“If that’s not working and they are resisting from you, then of course, you go to less-than-lethal — that’s your (pepper) spray, again using verbal commands when feasible,” he continued.

He noted pepper spray does not affect some people.

“Some people can take it, and (it does) not phase them a bit,” he said. “If they’re on methamphetamine or some kind of strong drug, it doesn’t bother them a bit, and that’s when you may have to go to your asp, again using verbal commands.”

He said the asp takes the place of a baton. He described the asp as a compact unit, a metal stick that, with the flick of an officer’s wrist, expands out to approximately three feet in length.

“And we’re trained in using the asp, the different distraction areas to use — not the throat — in order to try to use that to gain compliance,” he said.

If use of the asp fails to gain compliance, he said officers would go to the taser, if they are issued one, accompanied with verbal commands. He noted all of his officers are issued a taser.

“If a taser doesn’t work, (if) you didn’t get a good strike with the taser when you discharged it and the subject is violent, coming after you and you feel like your life is in danger, then of course, the last resort is deadly force,” he said.

Ellington did not reference a chokehold because he said the chokehold has not been instructed in years.

“The only time that you ever consider to use a chokehold is if you’re in a life-or-death situation — you’re down on the ground, the suspect’s got you, your weapon is not available, and you’re basically to the last resort, and you grab whatever you can, whether it’s a stick laying beside you or what have you to protect yourself,” he said. “And of course, if you could reach up and choke someone out or choke them out to get them off of you, that’s fine,” he added. “But as far as a defensive tactic mechanism, it is not taught in the academies anymore.”