The Denver Police Department will begin re-training officers this fall using a new use-of-force policy requiring law enforcement use the minimum amount of force necessary to control a situation. The new policy, which took over a year to draft, was designed with the hopes of increasing public trust and fostering better relations between police and the community.

The final draft was released earlier this month to a community advisory panel which had been working with the department to re-write old policy. After months of infighting between the panel, the department and the police union, the Denver Post reports all stakeholders appear to be on the same page.

Much of the debate was semantic in nature, according to the Post. Arguments mostly centered around the definitions of words like “amount,” “type,” “appropriate,” and “reasonable” as they related to officers’ differing levels of response; however, Police Chief Paul Pazen and members of the advisory committee believe they’ve reached a consensus.

“I’m positive about it, and I think the chief has a good attitude about it,” Denise Maes, public policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Colorado, told the Post. “The proof will be in the pudding.”

Specifically, the new guidelines state force shouldn’t be used as a means of retaliation or punishment, and that officers should intervene if they believe an officer is using inappropriate amounts of force, according to the Denver Channel.

The use of lethal force has also been clearly outlined, according to the Denver Channel. Under the new policy, officers may not use lethal force solely to effect an arrest, to prevent a suspect from escaping or on a person who only poses a danger to themselves. Officers also may not fire their weapons as a warning, to protect property, at a moving vehicle or if there is a risk of injuring bystanders.

“When needed, officers must use only the amount of force reasonable and necessary under the totality of the circumstances to safely accomplish a lawful purpose,” the manual reads.

Downtown officers will be trained on the new policy first, and it will eventually be rolled out in the surrounding districts Each officer will be required to attend eight hours of training this year, and higher ranking officers will require more, the Denver Post reports. It’s hoped all officers will be working under the new model by Jan. 1, 2019.

Retraining officers will be a difficult task, but it’s a worthy one, according to the department. “This is going to be a monumental task, but we’re not going to shortchange it,” Pazen told the Post.


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