The Blue Perspective: Use of Force |

The Blue Perspective: Use of Force

Jaclyn Harold
Updated: December 22, 2020 10:37 PM
Created: December 22, 2020 10:08 PM

(ABC 6 News)-- Use of force is one of the most criticized tactics in police agencies around the world. 

Following the death of George Floyd, the officer-involved shooting of Jacob Blake, and many other instances, the conversation behind when to use force and how much, is changing.

"Officers across the country are becoming, because of what's going on, reluctant, when they should possibly use force. Not just to use force because they can but use force because they should," said Sergeant Paul Gronholz, the training officer for new recruits in Rochester.

Sgt. Paul said the Rochester Police Department teaches the use of force is determined by a person's behavior, and that alone. However, as difficult as the conversation is to address, the techniques are necessary at times for safety.

"Use of force has always been a key part of law enforcement. Officers don't necessarily want to use force, but they need to be prepared to use it when they need to," he said.

Officials said with cameras and social media, viewers only see small pieces to a big story a lot of times. Several officers with RPD shared with me personally that they don't like being grouped together as bad officers just because they also wear a badge. I was also told that by only seeing certain parts of an encounter, we miss out on all the things that led up to the moments we do see.

Previously, use of force training was taught for a day and a half.  That has since been expanded to three days. During the first day of training, we broke down in a classroom what it means to use necessary force when it becomes excessive and how crucial it is to try avoiding deadly force when you can.

The first technique an officer should use, however, is de-escalation.

"Deescalation is not; it's not something that is a choice for them to use. We expect them, they will try and de-escalate when they're able to," said Sgt. Gronholz.

After first trying to deescalate a situation, if a person starts to resist, that is when some form of force would become necessary.  We learned how to properly and safely handcuff a person and different takedowns for a single officer and an officer with a partner. Both of those techniques would be considered necessary when a person starts to resist.

During that takedown, if the person becomes compliant, an officer continuing to you force at that time would be using "excessive" force. 

This is a key concept in Rochester. On the training walls, there's a sign that reads, "When resistance ends, excessive force begins."

"When bad things happen in law enforcement, and excessive force is used, it's because an officer got upset, lost control, and did something that they after it's over probably wish they wouldn't have done," said Sgt. Gronholz.

He said to avoid situations like that, an officer dealing with a person they've had to fight with should remove themselves from the situation as soon as other officers arrive and take over.

Then there is deadly force. Due to the way the world watched George Floyd and his death while in Minneapolis Police custody, RPD has changed its policies regarding chokeholds.

Officials said the chokehold was a technique that had not been used by RPd officers way before Floyd's death. Instead, we learned by placing your knee on someone's hip, you actually have way more control of their body, and it won't cost a life.

Sgt. Paul said officers don't want to have to use deadly force, and if it is used, it should be the last resort. 

RPD has implemented nearly 80 new policies. Gronholz said he knows that there is still work to be done and that RPD is dedicated to training and preparing its officers to make the best yet safest decisions for themselves and this community.

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