police use of force

Logan Police Chief Gary Jensen speaks to the city council about policies that the department has regarding use of force on Tuesday evening.

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Of the 36,000 calls the Logan City Police Department responded to from July 1, 2019 until June 30, Chief of Police Gary Jensen said 0.025% required a use of force, and Jensen only recalls one instance of deadly force being used in Logan in the last 10 years.

However, members of the Logan Municipal Council, Mayor Holly Daines and Jensen each received several letters asking for review of the department’s use-of-force policy, which lead the chief to publicly review the department’s current policy at Tuesday’s council meeting.

According to Jensen, the letters referred to the “8 Can’t Wait” campaign, or a set of eight parameters that advocates of police reform Campaign Zero have promoted in the wake of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.

While Jensen said he was against the “absolutism” of the campaign, for Abraham Verdoes — one of the letter-writers — the start of the conversation is a good sign.

“I think it was very thoughtful of the chief and City Council members to schedule something that reviews our use of force, but I think the next step is to really do an in-depth look to make sure that they’re the best possible policies, and to also make sure that there aren’t incidences of bias occurring,” Verdoes said. “I think that the police department does an admirable job here, but it’s not flawless.”

Of the eight goals of the campaign — banning chokeholds and strangleholds, requiring de-escalation trainings and procedures, requiring warnings before shooting at a target, requiring officers to exhaust all alternatives before shooting, imposing a “duty to intervene,” banning shooting at moving vehicles, establishing a use of force continuum, and requiring comprehensive reporting — Jensen said Logan’s current policies are nearly all “in line” with as they are “common practice in law enforcement.”

The first goal, eliminating chokeholds and strangulations, is something the police department already practices, according to Jensen, though he argued against banning the practice entirely.

“We don’t endorse that movement now, nor do we train for it, nor is it part of what we allow our officers to use,” he said.

However, if it was the last option an officer could use to attempt to save a life — whether their own or that of another — Jensen said he wouldn’t support a policy prohibiting the method.

“You can’t say that because you don’t know the circumstance that that police officer might find himself or herself in,” he said. “There is that percentage out there, that very small percentage out there, where it just simply isn’t practical.”

Similarly, Jensen said shooting at moving vehicles is impractical, and the department’s current policy says shots at or from a moving vehicle should only be attempted if “there are no other reasonable means to avert the threat.” But Jensen argued against an explicit ban.

“Basically, you’re pitting your policy against well-intended officers that might run into a situation where they simply cannot (exhaust every other option),” he said, citing a recent incident where an officer was hit and trapped under a vehicle in Springfield, Missouri, and is now paraplegic.

“Should he not have the option to potentially try to intercede in somebody’s trying to take his life if possible?”

Jensen added that body cam footage is a “leveler,” providing protection to citizens and officers, as being recorded “helps these guys and gals recognize they have to take that higher road.”

“I want people to trust that we have their best interest at heart, that our practices and our policies are something that they can believe in and get behind,” Jensen said. “There will potentially be error, and, nationally, with a million of us, criminality at some point, so remember we have a justice system, as well.”

Verdoes said he hopes the conversation continues, rather than citizens being placated.

“Logan has a lot of privileges, including the fact that we have a great police force and good community relations between the police and the community, the police and the press,” he said. “There’s a lot of opportunity, I think, to set an example for other communities about how to be the best police force possible.”

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