As the nation continues to cope with the tragic death of George Floyd, public discourse has turned to the desire to modify the policy of public safety entities. My goal in writing this letter is to inform our community on the current policies and procedures of the Anaheim Police Department, including the mechanisms for transparency we currently practice. These policies and programs, coupled with the finest personnel available are responsible for making Anaheim the fourth safest metropolitan city in the United States. I will also address how we meet current policy suggestions circulating online and, in some instances, exceed the spirit of the proposed policy language. Addressing these concerns without first highlighting our existing structure of review and accountability would leave our community members without a fair sense of all of the progress made by the Anaheim Police Department.
As the Chief of Police, I understand effective policing requires the trust and partnership of the community we serve, and transparency plays a critical role in maintaining that relationship. Few departments are as self-critical or invite as much community dialogue as the APD. These are a few of the policy sections and programs in which we rely for internal review:
In the interest of transparency and external review, the Anaheim Police Department partners with the Office of Independent Review or OIR. The OIR is a non-governmental entity comprised of police oversight and policy experts. The records contained in the FAS system, as well as our MIRT reviews, are shared with OIR. OIR personnel are granted unfettered access to our Department’s response to significant incidents including officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths. The OIR gathers information from our FAS system, Major Incident Reviews, and Internal Affairs investigations, and they produce regular reports on APD operations including issuing policy and procedural recommendations. The OIR group also works closely with the City of Anaheim Police Review Board or PRB. The PRB is the Department’s civilian oversight board, the only one of its kind in Orange County. The PRB serves as an additional oversight component. It provides a forum for communication with community members and a process for community concerns and complaints to be brought onto a public platform whereby greater awareness and understanding between the Department and community can be achieved.
In 2018, in preparation for the implementation of State Senate Bill 1421 and State Assembly Bill 748, the APD created its Data Release Detail, which identifies and prepares investigations that fall within the scope of 1421. To comply with 748, we created Community Incident Debrief videos, which are released online and give insight and context to major police incidents such as officer-involved shootings.
Our strong community connection is another area in which APD takes pride. The following programs exists as direct links between the Department and the community we serve:
Our personnel also regularly participates in community engagement events including "Coffee with a Cop." We also have staff dedicated to Community Policing Team details who address specific community needs that are unique to different areas within the city.
The Anaheim Police Department is at the forefront of de-escalation practices, partnering with Orange County Mental Health Clinicians and Psychiatric Emergency Response Team (PERT) members who ride with our officers in the field to provide services to those in crisis. Additionally, all Anaheim Patrol Officers attend 16-hour Crisis Intervention Training and all Field Training Officers are required to attend an additional 8-hour Mental Health Crisis training class.
Regarding an ongoing social media campaign proposing a shift in policing policy, as the Chief of Police, I agree with six of the eight policy recommendations. In some cases, the policy recommendations that have been suggested for us to adopt have already been in place at APD for nearly a decade.
Regarding the banning of chokeholds and strangleholds, the Anaheim Police Department has never approved a choke or stranglehold as an appropriate technique. APD previously allowed for the application of a carotid control hold only. However, effective June 8, 2020, APD suspended the use of the carotid control hold as an approved technique except during lethal force encounters to be deployed in defense of an officer’s life or the life of another.
As previously stated, the APD currently has a robust de-escalation training program coupled with invaluable partnerships. Our internal department training also emphasizes the use of de-escalation. Our training philosophy on de-escalation is reinforced by our recent investment in a state of the art use of force simulator where an officer’s performance is met with real-time feedback in an environment that accurately recreates situations faced by officers.
Providing a warning before shooting is already addressed by State law (California Penal Code section 835a(B) and APD policy (APD policy section 300.4(b). Both state law and our policy reflect that a warning before the deployment of lethal force should be given, when feasible. It should be noted that this policy was adopted by the APD in 2011, and the training principal is regularly reinforced through range training days and department force on force training days.
The requirement to exhaust all alternatives before shooting is not a theory considered to be a public safety best practice; the delay created would subject officers and the public at large to a higher risk of harm in force encounters. Instead, I view the use of force as a reasonableness issue, and our current policy addresses the reasonableness of the force used. Our policy is based on established legal doctrine that applies to law enforcement officers and citizens alike. It reads:
Officers shall use only that amount of force that reasonably appears necessary given the facts and circumstances perceived by the officer at the time of the event to accomplish a legitimate law enforcement purpose (APD policy section 300.3).
The requested policy shift often cited as the duty to intervene is already address by APD’s Duty to Intercede policy that commands any officer witnessing unreasonable force to stop that force and report the incident immediately to a supervisor (APD policy section 300.2.1).
Banning an officer from shooting at a moving vehicle is another issue of reasonableness. APD policy forbids officers from shooting at vehicles in an attempt to disable a vehicle and generally discourages shooting at occupants of a vehicle unless there are no other ways to stop a threat faced by the officers or others (APD policy section 300.4.1). Recently, our officers received training backed by an internal study on ballistics which provided them a better understanding of the limitations of firing at vehicles.
I believe the benefits derived from our contemporary current policy, a force options model, out-weigh the benefits of instituting a use of force continuum. Our policy is based on the reasonableness of the force used by officers during the circumstances they faced at the time and based on the information they knew at the time of the incident. Our current force options model reflects the objective reasonableness standard. I believe it is the best policy to address the need for officers to respond to tense, rapidly evolving situations.
APD currently practices a comprehensive reporting requirement mandating officers to document a variety of circumstances including anytime an officer points a gun at anyone (APD policy section 324.2.2(a)). APD Officers are also required to document anytime handcuffs are applied to a person regardless of whether they are ultimately arrested or released (APD policy section 303.8).
The Anaheim Police Department Policy Manual sections listed can be located anytime online at www.anaheimpd.org/policy
Few departments invite public collaboration with the level of transparency as the Anaheim Police Department. We strive to keep Anaheim a safe community to live, work, and play. We remain self-critical while encouraging community dialogue and input to ensure we meet that goal while remaining at the forefront of law enforcement and public safety best practices.
JORGE CISNEROSCHIEF OF POLICE