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8 Can’t Wait: How local police departments stack up

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Police use pepper spray on protesters on State Street after windows of several businesses were smashed.

MADISON (WKOW) -- Police are under scrutiny.

Many Americans feel their law enforcement needs to change.

Demonstrations for police reform have organized in many U.S. cities, including Madison. Local protests have shut down the Beltline and John Nolen Drive. Even smaller communities like Stoughton and Janesville have seen their own crowds calling for justice.

Several Madison-area police chiefs have felt compelled to respond to one set of reforms in particular: 8 Can't Wait. The movement, organized by Campaign Zero, aims to enact policies that it says lead to measurable decreases of law enforcement violence.

"Police departments with four or more of these restrictive use of force policies had the fewest killings per population and per arrest," the organization says on a website for its Police Use of Force Project. "After taking into account other factors, each additional use of force policy was associated with a 15% reduction in killings by police."

Cheifs in Madison, Middleton, Beloit and Fitchburg have all addressed how they feel their departments meet the eight policies outlined by the campaign.

8 Can't Wait

Ban chokeholds and strangleholds: The project calls for an end to all chokeholds and neck restraints in all cases.

Require de-escalation: This tenet would ensure officers use communication, distance and other tactics to minimize the need to apply force.

Require a warning before shooting: Officers should, according to the campaign, have to give verbal warnings in all cases before using deadly force.

Require exhausting all alternatives before shooting: Before turning to deadly force, police should first attempt to make use of all the other tools available to them to peacefully resolve a conflict.

Duty to intervene: This policy would obligate an officer to step in and stop another member of law enforcement from using excessive force.

Ban shooting at moving vehicles: Calling it "a particularly dangerous and ineffective tactic," the 8 Can't Wait campaign wants to see a ban on shooting at moving vehicles.

Require use of force continuum: This protocol would limit uses of deadly force to extreme scenarios and establish clear polices for all other weapons and tactics.

Require comprehensive reporting: Not only would officers need to report each time they would use force under this rule, but they would also have to document each time they point a gun or threaten to use force.

27 News reviewed the use of force policies implemented by the departments serving the ten largest municipalities in the Madison area. Here is how they stacked up.

Madison

Madison's use of force policy is the only policy in this list to have been evaluated by the 8 Can't Wait Campaign. The movement found it lacking in on one criteria: ban shooting at moving vehicles.

Ban chokeholds and strangleholds: A spelled-out ban on restricting blood flow to the head exists in the department's non-deadly force policy. However, officers can use such a tactic when "deadly force is justified."

Require de-escalation: “Whenever safe and feasible, officers” must first try to de-escalate before using force. The Madison Police Department has another policy available on its website dedicated to de-escalation.

Require a warning before shooting: Madison police need to identify themselves and first order a stop to “unlawful activity” before using deadly force “if reasonably possible.”

Require exhausting all alternatives before shooting: The deadly force policy begins with a "Purpose" section that calls killing "a measure of last resort, only to be employed when an officer reasonably believes all other options have been exhausted or would be ineffective."

Duty to intervene: All Madison police who see another officer using excessive force, violating the law or the department's code of conduct have an "obligation to intercede and report."

Ban shooting at moving vehicles: Policy bans officers from shooting at moving vehicles except when either the vehicle or a person inside is considered a threat.

Require use of force continuum: Use of deadly force is restricted to protecting officers and citizens as well as ending animal suffering. The non-deadly force policy regulates the use of other weapons.

Require comprehensive reporting: The policies require an officer report using force and pointing a firearm at someone but they do not address threats of force.

(Madison Police Department's full deadly use of force policy is available here).

(Madison Police Department's full non-deadly use of force policy is available here).

Janesville

Ban chokeholds and strangleholds: The policies provided by the Janesville Police Department did not make mention of chokeholds.

Require de-escalation: De-escalation is not specifically addressed in the policies. The closest the Janesville Police Department gets is a “preclusion” requirement for using deadly force. That rule makes attempts to kill "a last resort" employable "only if no other reasonable alternative is available."

Require a warning before shooting: An officer is required to issue a warning before using deadly force “if possible.”

Require exhausting all alternatives before shooting: A “preclusion” requirement included in the deadly force policy calls deadly force “a last resort.”

Duty to intervene: The non-deadly force policy requires police stop fellow officers from using excessive force and report such abuses.

Ban shooting at moving vehicles: Officers are not allowed to fire at moving vehicles “unless a person in the vehicle is an imminent threat.”

Require use of force continuum: The deadly force policy restricts the use of force to protecting officers, civilians and preventing deadly crimes. The non-deadly force policy covers the use of other department-issued weapons.

Require comprehensive reporting: Officers must report whenever they use force. None of the policies provided spell out when an officer can point a gun at someone. There is no reporting requirement for threatening to use force.

(Janesville Police Department's full use of deadly force policy is available here).

(Janesville Police Department's full use of non-deadly force policy is available here).

(Janesville Police Department's full investigations of deadly force policy is available here).

Beloit

While many departments base their policies at least, in part, on the Wisconsin Department of Justice's Defense and Arrest Tactics (DAAT) manual, Beloit goes a step further by deputizing it as a supplement to its own use of force procedures. The state uses DAAT to educate all new officers.

Ban chokeholds and strangleholds: BPD bans chokeholds in instances of preventing someone from swallowing evidence, but none of the policies or DAAT manual address chokeholds in other circumstances.

Require de-escalation: There is no explicit de-escalation requirement in the department’s use of force policy. The DAAT manual teaches what de-escalation means, but does not spell out how to employ it.

Require a warning before shooting: Beloit officers need to issue a warning “where feasible” before shooting a fleeing person who poses a risk to the community. The policy does not cover warnings in other situations.

Require exhausting all alternatives before shooting: The DAAT manual says that before shooting, officers “must reasonably believe that all other options have been exhausted or would be ineffective.”

Duty to intervene: The department spells out a “Duty to Intercede” designed “to prevent the use of unreasonable force” by other officers.

Ban shooting at moving vehicles: Officers are banned from shooting at moving vehicles except in situations where the people in the vehicle are using deadly force or to “avert the threat of the vehicle.”

Require use of force continuum: Shooting is restricted to the most extreme situations. The DAAT manual instructs in the proper use of other weapons like pepper spray and tasers but does not say when officers should use them.

Require comprehensive reporting: Police have to make reports for uses of force, which the policy describes as “the application of physical techniques or tactics, chemical agents or weapons to another person.” There is no reference made to threats of force or pointing a gun.

(Beloit Police Department's set of force-related policies, as well as a copy of the DAAT manual, are available here).

Sun Prairie

Ban chokeholds and strangleholds: The policy bans chokeholds unless an officer believes a risk of “serious bodily injury or death” exists if they don’t use the technique.

Require de-escalation: The document tells Sun Prairie police that they should use de-escalation “when safe and feasible.”

Require a warning before shooting: Officers are required to state their intent to use deadly force “where feasible.”

Require exhausting all alternatives before shooting: The document outlines when officers can shoot but does not use any “as a last resort” type of language found in policies belonging to other departments.

Duty to intervene: SPPD policy instructs its police to intervene and stop excessive force, without exception. Many other communities require their officers to step in only when doing so does not increase the danger to the public.

Ban shooting at moving vehicles: The department bans shooting at moving vehicles except if a person in the vehicle is capable of killing someone with means other than a vehicle (e.g. they have a gun) or if the driver is using the vehicle itself as a weapon and it is impossible to get out of the way.

Require use of force continuum: There are a set of detailed policies for each weapon but they do not specify when officers should use some of them, like tasers. Deadly force is limited to extreme situations.

Require comprehensive reporting: Reporting requirements line up with 8 Can’t Wait guidelines, but it is unclear if threats of force are covered. A “show of force” with any weapon needs to be reported but the policy does not specify what that constitutes.

(Sun Prairie Police Department's full use of force policy is available here).

Fitchburg

Ban chokeholds and strangleholds: Fitchburg bans “Strangle holds” unless the officer believes that not using a hold will result in “great bodily harm or death.”

Require de-escalation: Officers are required to try to use words even when escalating force. Officers should deescalate as the person they are attempting to control complies.

Require a warning before shooting: Fitchburg police need to issue warnings before shooting “where feasible.”

Require exhausting all alternatives before shooting: The policy limits shooting to a few scenarios. However, only one, making arrests of potential killers, requires "ruling out all other reasonable means" before using deadly force.

Duty to intervene: The policy does not address a duty to intervene if an officer sees another using excessive force.

Ban shooting at moving vehicles: Fitchburg's procedures do not address shooting at moving vehicles.

Require use of force continuum: The policy limits deadly force to extreme situations and lays out when officers can use lesser degrees of force.

Require comprehensive reporting: Fitchburg police must report the use of all weapons. However, pointing a firearm at someone or threatening to use force does not require a report.

(Fitchburg Police Department's full use of force policy is available here).

Watertown

Ban chokeholds and strangleholds: The Watertown policy says “neck restraints” are not allowed except as a deadly use of force.

Require de-escalation: The policy never specifies that the department requires de-escalation.

Require a warning before shooting: An officer does not have to give a warning if there is immediate threat, but the policy does require a warning in other scenarios.

Require exhausting all alternatives before shooting: An officer is allowed to use deadly force if he or she “reasonably believes that a lesser degree of force would be insufficient.” However, the policy also refers to using deadly force as a defense of "last resort."

Duty to intervene: The Watertown policy does not include a duty for officers to intervene when witnessing excessive force.

Ban shooting at moving vehicles: The document does not address shooting at moving vehicles.

Require use of force continuum: The policy limits use of deadly force to certain situations as a “last resort” and governs other weapons. The procedures do not cover pepper spray.

Require comprehensive reporting: The department requires reports for most use of force, pointing a gun and pointing a taser. Notably excluded is anything about pepper spray. The policy does not say a report is required for threatening force.

(Watertown Police Department's full use of force policy is available here).

Middleton

Ban chokeholds and strangleholds: Officers are banned from using strangleholds, “except when the officer reasonably believes there exists a threat of serious bodily injury or death to the officer or a third person.”

Require de-escalation: Police are required to use de-escalation techniques “whenever possible.”

Require a warning before shooting: The policy requires Middleton officers to warn before using deadly force “where feasible.”

Require exhausting all alternatives before shooting: Deadly force is restricted to extreme scenarios and other approaches are encouraged, but there is no requirement to begin handling a situation at a lower level of force. “Officers are not required to begin a confrontation at the verbal command level and escalate step-by-step until control is gained.” The officer gets to decide how they respond to each situation.

Duty to intervene: When safe to do so, officers must intervene and report excessive force to a supervisor.

Ban shooting at moving vehicles: Police cannot shoot at a moving car “unless ‘Use of Deadly Force’ applies.”

Require use of force continuum: Use of deadly force is restricted to extreme situations. Most other weapons are regulated and when they can be used is specified. Less lethal impact projectiles have rules governing their use but the policy does not say under what circumstances officers should deploy them.

Require comprehensive reporting: Reports are required for all uses of force. Pointing a gun or taser at someone leads to a report. General threats to use force and pointing a less lethal impact projectile weapon are not mentioned in the policy.

(Middleton Police Department's full use of force policy is available here).

Beaver Dam

The Beaver Dam Police Department's policies are divided into two sections: use of force and deadly force. The latter begins with an introduction that makes clear it is designed to guard officers. "This Policy & Procedure is intended to protect the officer from possible criminal or civil charges stemming from misinterpretation of the law covering extreme deadly force."

Ban chokeholds and strangleholds: The department bans restricting blood flow to the head, as well as blows to the throat, except in cases where the policy authorizes deadly force.

Require de-escalation: There is no specific requirement that BDPD officers de-escalate. The use of force policy lays out different levels of response but no mandate to try and ease tensions.

Require a warning before shooting: Before using deadly force, Beaver Dam police need to issue warnings “if reasonably possible.”

Require exhausting all alternatives before shooting: The policy emphasizes deadly force as a last resort. "This policy requires only that an officer use reasonable alternatives, if such alternatives are available."

Duty to intervene: The policy does not address if officers have a duty to stop their fellow law enforcement from using excessive force.

Ban shooting at moving vehicles: The policy bans shooting at moving vehicles “unless the officer reasonably believes” the person inside is about to use deadly force.

Require use of force continuum: While the use of force policy covers many areas, including when officers can use deadly force, it notably omits rules for tasers.

Require comprehensive reporting: Officers must report after firing their weapon but there is no other reference to reporting for any other use of force.

(Beaver Dam Police Department's full deadly force policy is available here).

(Beaver Dam Police Department's full use of use of force policy is available here).

Stoughton

The Stoughton Police Department divides its policies covering use of force into five parts. Each ends with the same language: “This Policy & Procedure cancels and supersedes any and all written directives relative to the subject matter contained herein.” Given that the policies frequently overlap with slightly different rulesets, the reader can be confused about which applies.

The document governing deadly force also begins with an introduction that the policy exisits for the benefit of Stoughton police while making no mention of the broader public. The policy “is intended to protect the officer from possible criminal or civil charges stemming from misinterpretation of the law covering the use of extreme deadly force.”

Ban chokeholds and strangleholds: The policy does not address chokeholds or strangleholds.

Require de-escalation: Officers need to use the minimum amount of force necessary when reacting to another person’s behavior, but the policy lists no requirement to try and de-escalate a situation in the moment. Police do have to de-escalate their own tactics once they have the person under control.

Require a warning before shooting: “Whenever safety permits and time allows” officers must give a warning before shooting. This requirement is contained in the use of force policy. The deadly force policy contains no such rule and it is not clear which takes precedence.

Require exhausting all alternatives before shooting: The policies explicitly refer to deadly force as a “last resort.” This sentiment is echoed at several points.

Duty to intervene: Officers need to report excessive force to a superior but the policy does not mandate they attempt to stop it.

Ban shooting at moving vehicles: Stoughton police may shoot at moving vehicles only to protect human life.

Require use of force continuum: The policies limit deadly force to extreme situations. However, a pair of the rulesets list when an officer can use deadly force. It is not clear which takes precedence. The policies cover other department-issued weapons in detail including their use cases.

Require comprehensive reporting: The rules require reports for the use of all department-issued weapons, including guns and physical force. Excluded from this list are threats of force. Officers may only threaten to use a weapon or tactic if they are already justified given the situation.

(Stoughton Police Department's quintet of use of force policies are available here).

Fort Atkinson

Ban chokeholds and strangleholds: The policy does not address chokeholds or strangleholds.

Require de-escalation: The rules do not allow officers to apply “force beyond that which is objectively reasonable” to maintain control of another person once they have stopped resisting. But the policy does not directly address de-escalation during a confrontation.

Require a warning before shooting: “Whenever feasible” police need to warn before using deadly force.

Require exhausting all alternatives before shooting: The Fort Atkinson policy never directly refers to deadly force as a last resort, but does restrict killing to three extreme use cases.

Duty to intervene: The policy does not address if officers have a duty to stop their fellow law enforcement from using excessive force.

Ban shooting at moving vehicles: The policy bans Fort Atkinson police from shooting at moving vehicles without exception.

Require use of force continuum: The policy limits deadly force to only three scenarios and regulates the other department-issued weapons. The policy does not define when officers can employ pepper spray.

Require comprehensive reporting: The rules require reports for all uses of force with department-issued weapons. Pointing a gun at someone leads to a report as does an accidental discharge. Officers can threaten to use force only when its use is justified but there is no requirement that it be reported.

(Fort Atkinson Police Department's full use of force policy is available here).

JT Cestkowski

Social Media Content Producer/Desk Editor

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