Reporting Use of Force in NOPD

I am going to start this off by saying that I am making some assumptions based on the DOJ report issued on March 16, 2011 and what may be in a Consent Decree which may be implemented in the future.

The first 25 pages of the March, 2011 DOJ report on the New Orleans Police Department are about Use of Force.  In summary, the Department of Justice is of the opinion that the New Orleans Police Department, its management, its supervisors, and all of its employees are derelict in their Constitutional obligations with regard to the use of force by police officers.

We find reasonable cause to believe that NOPD engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional force.

DOJ Report, P. 1.  The DOJ report goes on and on about use of force policies, use of force training, use of force reporting, use of force investigation, use of force review, and use of force tracking and analysis.

My intention here is not to legitimize what I believe is a document that contains as much creative writing as it does factual information (aorta of corruption, my ass).  However, I think that the men and women of the New Orleans Police Department can expect to see additional changes in reporting Use of Force instances.  In fact, we have already seen an increase in the number of DI-1 investigations centered around the reporting of a use of force.  In addition, the New Orleans Police Department is currently re-writing its Operations Manual and I am confident (read “hopeful”) that there will be some changes to the current policies with regard to use of force and its reporting.  One way or another, there will be an increased emphasis on reporting use of force incidents because that is the only way for the NOPD to prove that it is not engaged in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional force (much like FIC’s are the easiest way to prove that the NOPD is not engaged in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional stops).

You can rest assured that any DI-1 investigation which contains even a whisper of a use of force will lead the investigators to look for a Resisting Arrest Report.  You can also rest assured that additional accused officers will be added to the DI-1 investigation if there is no Resisting Arrest Report whether the force used was appropriate or not.

For line officers and supervisors:

  1. Familiarize yourselves with Operations Manual Chapters 1.2 and 1.3.
  2. If you have to put hands on any individual other than the common application of handcuffs, you should notify your supervisor immediately.  If in doubt, notify a supervisor.
  3. Call EMS.
  4. Remember:  The camera can be your best friend.  Make sure the camera in your car and on your TASER is functional and use it as efficiently as possible.  Using your TASER for its camera is probably a use of force (notify your supervisor).
  5. Generate a report associated with the incident and document who you notified and when.

For supervisors who have been notified of a use of force by a subordinate:

  1. Make the scene;
  2. Interview all parties and witnesses;
  3. When speaking with officers and witnesses, make sure you are comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges.  In other words, if an officer says he used an arm bar, make sure that your understanding of an arm bar matches the officer’s understanding of an arm bar.
  4. Remember that it will be necessary to write a Resisting Arrest Report for any incident which results in injury or complaint of injury by the officer or a member of the public as a result of any police action.
  5. If in doubt, write the Resisting Arrest Report.
  6. Don’t forget to write a First Report of Injury for the officer if the officer is injured, complains of injury or might reasonably have been injured in the incident.

As usual, if you are the accused officer or a witness in any DI-1 investigation, you should call one of the FOP attorneys and obtain representation.  FOP members are entitled to legal representation as a benefit of membership in Crescent City Lodge #2.  If you are a member of another FOP Lodge, and you are a member of the FOP Legal Defense Plan, you can click here for a list of approved attorneys.