In the interest of transparency, the Gardner Police Department recently released a statement comparing their use of force policy to Campaign Zero’s 8 Can’t Wait campaign.
“I have had several citizens ask about it, so we thought it would be a great idea to be transparent about how we operate,” said Jay Belcher, GPD chief.
Interest in police use of force policy has grown since the death of George Floyd, a black man in Minnesota, who’s death while in police custody has led to nationwide protests, including a peaceful march in Gardner earlier this month.
Floyd died face down after an officer held his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes while Floyd repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe. The officers involved have been charged with murder.
Belcher said GPD has done some review of policies and are always looking for ways to improve how things are done.
The chokehold and stranglehold, are banned in Gardner. “We have suspended the use of the LVNR (Lateral Vascular Neck Restraint) to do some further research on other options,” Belcher said.
—Officers undergo de-escalation tactics in basic law enforcement, and it is reviewed yearly during training.
—All use of force incidents involving officers must be reported, and the reports are reviewed at multiple levels of staffing.
—any officer who sees another officer using excessive force is required to intervene and report the incident immediately
—Shooting is allowed only after all other methods are exhausted; a warning is required unless the subject suddenly produces a gun that would endanger an officer or bystanders; officers should only discharge guns at moving vehicles when the officer believes it is the only way to avert a threat; any officer involved shooting is investigated by the Johnson County Officer Involved Shooting Investigative Team.
For the past five years all GPD uniformed officers wear body cameras.
The GPD has an advisory council that includes minority representatives, Belcher said. The meeting dates are posted on the city website and are open to the public.
About 10 percent of the GPD staff are minority. “Of our 39 total staff, that includes civilian employees, we have one Hispanic sergeant, one Hispanic civilian, one African-American female officer and one African-American male officer, or about 10 percent,” Belcher said.
The GPD wants to continue their community outreach next year. “We are going to be making a push in the next year to improve our community outreach,” Belcher said. “We want to build relationships with our community partners, stakeholders, citizens of all groups, and especially our youth.”
For those with complaints, Belcher said there are forms available in the Justice Center. “Those forms are currently still available at the station, but anyone can file a complaint. It can be an anonymous complaint, in person, email, or telephone,” Belcher said. “The more information we have about the complaint, the better we can investigate it. If a citizen has a complaint, they can file it with any member of the department, but we would prefer it be with a supervisor.”
To date this year, the GPD has had five complaints.
A complete comparison of local policy to the 8 Can’t Wait campaign is available on GPD social media page.