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Marin County Sheriff's Office response to Attorney General Becerra's use of force recommendations

On Monday, Attorney General Becerra urged law enforcement agencies statewide to develop and implement policies, as appropriate, to adopt use-of-force reform. Below is the recommendations AG Becerra made and the Marin County Sheriff’s Office response.

Intervention: All agencies should have a policy requiring officers to intervene to stop another officer from using excessive or unnecessary force.
Marin County Sheriff’s Office Response: This is included on our updated version of our Use of Force policy.  Section 300.2.1 of the policy reads, “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. Any employee who observes another employee use force that exceeds the degree of force permitted by law shall promptly report these observations to a supervisor.”
 
Ban Chokeholds and Carotid Restraints: All agencies should have a policy prohibiting the use of chokeholds, strangleholds, carotid restraints or other restraints, or body positioning that is designed to, or which may foreseeably result in, the cutting off of blood or oxygen to the person.
Marin County Sheriff’s Office Response: This was suspended effective June 10, 2020, by a directive from Undersheriff Scardina.
 
De-Escalation: All agencies should require officers to de-escalate situations, when possible, before using force.
Marin County Sheriff’s Office Response: De-Escalation is trained in our Defensive Tactics courses and reaffirmed through our Use of Force Option Simulator training scenarios.  Additional training is provided to staff including Crisis Intervention Training to help recognize persons having crisis or mental health episodes.
 
Proportionality: All agencies should provide express guidance on proportionality to ensure officers understand the relationship that should exist between the force they use and the threat presented in a particular situation. The guidance may include adopting a spectrum, chart, or matrix, which can take the form of a graphical representation.
Marin County Sheriff’s Office Response: Currently, our Defensive Tactics staff is relying on the following reasonableness standard to determine what force options are proportionately reasonable:
 
300.3.1            USE OF FORCE TO EFFECT AN ARREST
Any peace officer may use objectively reasonable force to effect an arrest, to prevent escape,  or to overcome resistance. A peace officer who makes or attempts to make an arrest need not retreat or desist from his/her efforts by reason of resistance or threatened resistance on the part of the person being arrested; nor shall a deputy be deemed the aggressor or lose his/her right to self-defense by the use of reasonable force to effect the arrest, prevent escape, or to overcome resistance. Retreat does not mean tactical repositioning or other de-escalation techniques (Penal Code § 835a).
 
300.3.2            FACTORS USED TO DETERMINE THE REASONABLENESS OF FORCE
When determining whether to apply force and evaluating whether a deputy has used reasonable force, a number of factors should be taken into consideration, as time and circumstances permit. These factors include but are not limited to:
 
The apparent immediacy and severity of the threat to deputies or others (Penal Code
§ 835a).
The conduct of the individual being confronted, as reasonably perceived by the deputy at the time.
Deputy/subject factors (age, size, relative strength, skill level, injuries sustained, level of exhaustion or fatigue, the number of deputies available vs. subjects).
The conduct of the involved deputy (Penal Code § 835a).
The effects of drugs or alcohol.
The individual's apparent mental state or capacity (Penal Code § 835a).
The individual’s apparent ability to understand and comply with deputy commands (Penal Code § 835a).
Proximity of weapons or dangerous improvised devices.
The degree to which the subject has been effectively restrained and his/her ability to resist despite being restrained.
The availability of other reasonable and feasible options and their possible effectiveness (Penal Code § 835a).
Seriousness of the suspected offense or reason for contact with the individual.
Training and experience of the deputy.
Potential for injury to deputies, suspects, and others.
Whether the person appears to be resisting, attempting to evade arrest by flight, or is attacking the deputy.
The risk and reasonably foreseeable consequences of escape.
The apparent need for immediate control of the subject or a prompt resolution of the situation.
Whether the conduct of the individual being confronted no longer reasonably appears to pose an imminent threat to the deputy or others.
Prior contacts with the subject or awareness of any propensity for violence.
Any other exigent circumstances.
 
Verbal Warnings: All agencies should require officers to give verbal warning, when feasible, before using force, whether lethal or less-lethal.
Marin County Sheriff’s Office Response: We do require a verbal warning be given if feasible prior to deploying a less lethal round from a shotgun or before utilizing an electronic control device (ECD). 
 
Moving Vehicles: All agencies should prohibit officers from discharging a firearm at the operator or occupant of a moving vehicle unless the operator or occupant poses an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to the public or an officer. All agencies should also prohibit officers from discharging a firearm from their moving vehicle, providing only for exceptions that require such actions to end an imminent threat to human life.
Marin County Sheriff’s Office Response: Our Use of Force Policy reads:
300.4.1 SHOOTING AT OR FROM MOVING VEHICLES
Shots fired at or from a moving vehicle are rarely effective. Deputies should move out of the path of an approaching vehicle instead of discharging their firearm at the vehicle or any of its occupants. 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. Deputies should not shoot at any part of a vehicle in an attempt to disable the vehicle.
 
Deadly Force As Last Resort: Consistent with the core concepts of de-escalation, necessity, and proportionality, all agencies should require that deadly force be used only as a last resort when reasonable alternatives have been exhausted or are not feasible to protect the safety of the public and police officers.
Marin County Sheriff’s Office Response: We currently do not have a policy or directive addressing deadly force as a last resort.  By categorizing deadly force as a last resort, it also implies that other use of force options must be exhausted prior to deadly force being used.  Situations can become dynamic where other force options may have to be skipped in order to use deadly force to protect the lives of others or the officer’s life.
 
Comprehensive Reporting: All agencies should create a general order dedicated to use of force reporting and investigations, requiring comprehensive reporting that includes both uses of force and threats of force.
Marin County Sheriff’s Office Response: This is already being accomplished and required of staff when force is used.  It is covered in our policy below:
300.5   REPORTING THE USE OF FORCE
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 deputy should articulate the factors perceived and why he/she believed the use of force was reasonable under the circumstances. To collect data for purposes of training, resource allocation, analysis, and related purposes, the Department may require the completion of additional report forms, as specified in department policy, procedure, or law.
 
300.5.1            NOTIFICATION TO SUPERVISORS
Supervisory notification shall be made as soon as practicable following the application of force in any of the following circumstances:
The application caused a visible injury.
The application would lead a reasonable deputy to conclude that the individual may have experienced more than momentary discomfort.
The individual subjected to the force complained of injury or continuing pain.
The individual indicates intent to pursue litigation.
Any application of a CEW or control device.
Any application of a restraint device other than handcuffs, shackles, or belly chains.
The individual subjected to the force was rendered unconscious.
An individual was struck or kicked.
An individual alleges any of the above has occurred.
 
300.5.2            USE OF FORCE DOCUMENT
Sergeants, or the appropriate supervisor, shall complete the Use of Force Document when any use of force options outlined in Section 1 of the Use of Force Document are met. Upon completion of the form, sergeants, or the appropriate supervisor, will electronically send the form to the Use of Force Team.  A review of the incident will be conducted upon receipt of the Use of Force Document by the Defensive Tactics Coordinator or by the authorized designee at the rank of sergeant or above. The review will include, but is not limited to any and all associated reports, photographs, and video images captured by the body worn camera or any other department owned video recording devices.  Compliant arrest techniques do not require the completion of the Use of Force Document.
 
Canine Use: All agencies should discontinue the use of “find and bite” and “bite and hold” techniques and instead implement “find and bark” or “circle and bark” techniques, where canines are trained and deployed to alert by barking, rather than biting a suspect as a first response, and then circling and barking until the handler takes control.
Marin County Sheriff’s Office Response: We do not have a bite dog in our department, so this recommendation does not apply to us at this time.

We hold ourselves to the highest standards and continuously look for ways to improve.

Thank you, 

The Marin County Sheriff's Office

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