SMPD debriefs council on use of force policies
Interim Police Chief Bob Klett gave the San Marcos City Council a presentation Tuesday on the San Marcos Police Department’s use of force policies.
Klett’s presentation shared SMPD’s stance on the 8 Can’t Wait initiative, an initiative meant to restrict use of force policies and reduce killings by police.
Ultimately, staff recommended creating an adhoc committee composed of community members, nominated by city council focused reviewing use of force policies.
Klett emphasized that SMPD takes their training and policies very seriously saying, “One of the most critical things we can do is take someone’s life.”
The interim police chief — on choke and strangle holds — said SMPD officers have been trained for years on the dangers of “positional asphyxia and holds that are designed to restrict breathing are strictly prohibited.”
Klett said members of the police department are consistently trained in de-escalation principles throughout their career.
“Additionally, de-escalation training is part of the state mandated training for all new police officers,” he said. “Our training focuses on active listening first, something we first developed here, and then other de-escalation principles so that lawful force is hopefully not needed”
On requiring warning before shooting, Klett said officers identify themselves as law enforcement officers and state their intuition to shoot when practicable.
“SMPD officers are prohibited from using excessive force at all times,” Klett said. “Requiring a verbal warning in all instances before force is applied is not a reasonable expectation. Deadly force encounters often involve split-second decisions in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving.”
Klett, on exhausting all other means before shooting,said “Deadly force, however it is used, requires any lesser options to be considered or used if reasonable, under the myriad of circumstances and nuances an officer is facing, therefore making it a last resort option.”
The interim police chief said that SMPD employees who observe other employees using excessive force against any person “shall immediately intervene.”
“Intervention includes any action that is reasonable, given the circumstances intended to stop the excessive force,” Klett said.” The observing employee will notify a supervisor immediately … Additionally, our officers have created an accountability standard that gives permission to “relieve” a fellow officer who may be losing composure to step away while another officer steps in and takes over, allowing a cool down period.”
Klett also stated that SMPD officers don’t shoot at moving vehicles unless there is a present imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury to any person.
“Officers shall not voluntarily or recklessly place themselves in front of an oncoming vehicle where the need for deadly force is a likely outcome,” he said. “Officers threatened by an oncoming vehicle shall make a reasonable effort to attempt to move out of its path, if possible, before resorting to discharging a firearm at it or any of its occupants.”
Additionally, Klett said SMPD follows “one of the most restrictive” use of force model protocols.
“Officers must only use the force that is reasonable and necessary to effectively bring an incident under control while effectively protecting the lives of the officer and others,” Klett said. “We moved to this standard several years ago, which is actually more restrictive in that an officer must articulate why they applied the force they did instead of just pointing to a continuum and using force just because it was allowed.”
On comprehensive use of force reporting, Klett said, “In all cases using force, including the Taser, or reports of an assault on an officer, or resisting arrest, the on-duty supervisor shall conduct a review of available body or vehicle camera footage to determine if officers followed protocol and used reasonably necessary force. All use of force is also reviewed a second time by a member of administration.”
Klett said SMPD has moved away from the use of no-knock warrants or entries, however, in some circumstances a police officer may enter a premises to be searched without announcing their presence and purpose before entering.
“The judicial authority issuing the warrant may add a no-knock entry provision to the warrant,” Klett said. “If not, the decision to make a no-knock entry may be made by the on-scene supervisor based on facts that would lead them to believe that an announcement would result in bodily harm either to the officer or to someone with in the premises. If circumstances require a no-knock or exigent entry, the first officer to cross the threshold into the premises shall announce that law-enforcement officers are executing a warrant."
Councilmember Maxfield Baker said, “I think the 8 Cant Wait is a great place for us to start. We are considering the nuances of our definitions. All of that is part of the greater Campaign Zero.”