The Menlo Park Police Department protects the city with the community’s safety in mind. Our policies and standard operating procedures demonstrated this core belief well before Campaign Zero's project - "8 Can’t Wait" campaign. The ideals expressed in “8 Can’t Wait” are thoroughly covered by the requirements in Senate Bill 230 (SB 230), which was approved by California Governor Newsom in September 2019. It mandates important use of force policies and training, including an emphasis on de-escalation and the sanctity of life. We’ve developed a series of use of force principles to improve community relations while balancing the safety of our officers and the people they serve. In regard to “8 Can’t Wait,” please review the policies below.
Ban chokeholds & strangleholds
SB 230 requires that “an officer may only use a level of force that they reasonably believe is proportional to the seriousness of the suspected offense.” Any excessive force beyond this requirement is unreasonable.
The Menlo Park Police Department specifically prohibits the carotid restraint hold (Menlo Park Police Department Policy 300.3.4) and “choke” or “strangle” holds (Menlo Park Police Department Policy 300.3.7); which stops or decreases the ability to breath. Currently there is federal and state legislation pending that will prohibit “choke/strangle” holds along with the carotid restraint which is authorized. The department is currently waiting for the language of any new law passed so the specific policy can be changed.
“…responding members should be aware of the following considerations and should generally:
Evaluate safety conditions.
Introduce themselves and attempt to obtain the person’s name
Be patient, polite, calm, courteous and avoid overreacting
Speak and move slowly and in a non-threatening manner
Moderate the level of direct eye contact
Remove distractions or disruptive people from the area
Demonstrate active listening skills (e.g., summarize the person’s verbal communication)
Provide for sufficient avenues of retreat or escape should the situation become volatile
Responding officers generally should not:
Use stances or tactics that can be interpreted as aggressive
Allow others to interrupt or engage the person
Corner a person who is not believed to be armed, violent or suicidal
SB 230 requires that “officers utilize de-escalation techniques, crisis intervention tactics, and other alternatives to force when feasible.” SB 230 also mandates each policy require officers to conduct all duties in a manner that is fair and unbiased. Additionally, SB 230 requires all officers be trained in alternatives to deadly force and de-escalation techniques
AB 392 states: “where feasible, a peace officer shall, prior to the use of force, make reasonable efforts to identify themselves as a peace officer and to warn that deadly force may be used, unless the officer has objectively reasonable grounds to believe the person is aware of those facts.” This requirement is consistent with federal case law.
“Any officer present and observing another officer 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. An officer who observes another employee use force that exceeds the degree of force permitted by law should promptly report these observations to a supervisor.” (Menlo Park Police Department Policy 300.2.1 – Duty to Intercede)
SB 230 sets forth a “requirement that an officer intercede when present and observing another officer using force that is clearly beyond that which is necessary, as determined by an objectively reasonable officer under the circumstances.” This provision is consistent with federal law as well.
“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. The officer should articulate the factors perceived and why he/she believed the use of force was reasonable under the circumstances. “ (Menlo Park Police Department Policy 300.5 – Reporting the Use of Force)
SB 230 already requires “comprehensive and detailed requirements for prompt internal reporting and notification regarding a use of force incident.” Additionally, legislation from 2015 (Assembly Bill 71) requires statewide detailed reporting requirements on serious use of force incidents. SB 230 also requires officers to report excessive force they witness.