Saturday, July 4, 2020


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    GCSO: 5 of 8 proposals not currently satisfied

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    Carter Pape
    Carter Pape
    Reporter Carter Pape covers news out of the Grand County Council Chambers, including housing, tourism, crime, and more.
    File photo by Carter Pape

    In response to the following analysis by The Times-Independent assessing how the Grand County Sheriff’s Office policies align with those outlined by the #8CANTWAIT project, Grand County Attorney Christina Sloan said June 17 that she would respond with her own analysis of how the two compare, adding that she disagreed with some of the newspaper’s analysis.

    Sloan said that, although the review was a “priority” for her office, she also faces “workforce reductions and huge workloads,” and that the analysis would take time to complete.

    What follows is The Times-Independent’s analysis of how the sheriff’s office policies align with the proposed reforms in the national #8CANTWAIT campaign.

    Does the Grand County Sheriff’s Office:

    Ban chokeholds and strangleholds?

    No.  Grand County Sheriff’s Office Policy 300.3.4 allows officers to use carotid control holds “when circumstances perceived by the deputy at the time indicate that such application reasonably appears necessary to control a person,” and only after the officer has completed department-approved training. Carotid control holds are neck holds designed to cut off blood flow rather than to cut off air flow.

    Does GCSO require de-escalation?

    No.  Sheriff’s deputies, when possible, work first in corrections (i.e. the Grand County Jail) when recruited. Grand County Sheriff Steve White and Grand County Jail Commander Shan Hackwell said during Tuesday’s discussion that this work trains officers on de-escalation and communications with subjects. The Grand County Sheriff’s Office does not, however, have a specific policy requiring that officers de-escalate situations.

    Does GCSO require warning before use of deadly force in all situations?

    No.  The sheriff’s office policies recommend but do not require warning before using deadly force, such as discharging a gun. The policies also do not require warning before using less deadly weapons such as batons and tear gas, using “should” instead of “shall” in the policies.

    • Policy 300.4 (b): “… a verbal warning should precede the use of deadly force, where feasible.”
    • Policy 308.3: “When reasonable, a verbal warning and opportunity to comply should precede the use of these devices (i.e. batons, tear gas, pepper spray and guns).”
    • Policy 308.9.2: “A verbal warning of the intended use of the kinetic energy projectile (i.e. rubber bullets and related weapons) should precede its application, unless it would otherwise endanger the safety of deputies or when it is not practicable due to the circumstances.”

    Does GCSO require officers to exhaust all alternatives before using deadly force?

    No.  The sheriff’s office policies list situations in which use of force is justified, and the policy requires that the amount of force used is only that which “reasonably appears necessary.” However, the policies do not set a requirement that officers use other alternatives before using deadly force.

    • Policy 300.3: “Deputies shall use only that amount of force that reasonably appears necessary given the facts and circumstances perceived by the deputy at the time of the event to accomplish a legitimate law enforcement purpose.”

    Does GCSO ban shooting at moving vehicles?

    No.  The sheriff’s office policies advise officers not to shoot at moving vehicles. The policies outline exceptions and do not set requirements.

    • Policy 300.4.1: “A deputy should only discharge a firearm at a moving vehicle or its occupants when the deputy reasonably believes there are no other reasonable means available to avert the threat of the vehicle, or if deadly force other than the vehicle is directed at the deputy or others.”

    Does GCSO have a use-of-force continuum or matrix?

    Not quite.  The Grand County Sheriff’s Office does not implement any formal use-of-force continuum model. The policies do not outline a progression of subject classifications in which varying levels of force are appropriate. For example, the policies do not formally differentiate between subjects who are passively compliant, passively resistant, actively resistant or actively aggressive.

    The policies do list factors that determine the reasonableness of use of force and differentiate, for example, between pain compliance techniques, carotid control holds, and deadly force.

    Does GCSO require officers to intervene and report when other officers use excessive force?

    Partially.  Deputies are required to intervene when a fellow officer uses excessive force, when they are able to intervene, but officers are not required to report instances of fellow officers using excessive force.

    • Policy 300.2.1: “Any deputy present and observing another deputy using force that is clearly beyond that which is objectively reasonable under the circumstances shall, when in a position to do so, intercede to prevent the use of unreasonable force. A deputy who observes another employee use force that exceeds the degree of force permitted by law should promptly report these observations to a supervisor.”

    Does GCSO require officers to report each time they use or threaten force against civilians?

    Almost. Deputies are required to report all instances of use of force, but the policies do not require deputies to report instances of threatened force. Additionally, supervisory notice is required in nine specific circumstances, including in circumstances where use of force caused visible injury, an individual complained of pain, a weapon is used, an individual is struck or when restraints such as handcuffs are used.

    • Policy 300.5: “Any use of force by a member of this department shall be documented promptly, completely and accurately in an appropriate report, depending on the nature of the incident.”

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