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Turlock police reviews use of force policies

As communities around the country discuss ideas of police reform and what that entails, the Turlock Police Department is continuing to look at their own policies and procedures on use of force and update as needed.

The national campaign 8 Can’t Wait implores police departments to take immediate action on eight reform measures. Turlock Police Chief Nino Amirfar said California has been leading the nation on this issue and the Turlock Police Department is already in compliance.

The top reform is for police departments to ban chokeholds and strangulations. The Turlock Police Department did train in the use of carotid control hold, but on June 8, Amirfar ordered the use of this practice be discontinued.

Other measures in the campaign that the Turlock Police Department was already adhering to included: warning before using deadly force; exhausting all alternatives before use of force; a duty among law enforcement to intervene if another sworn officer is using force inappropriately or is no longer needed; require officers to report each time they use force or threaten to use force against civilians; and de-escalation training.

The campaign also calls for departments to require use or force continuum, which restricts the most severe types of force to the most extreme situations and creates clear policy restrictions on the use of each police weapon and tactic. In a letter to the community, Amirfar said this was an outdated training method and already proven ineffectual.

“Our policies are extensive and provide our officers with the knowledge and the training that they must utilize in the split seconds they have when determining the necessity to use force and the type of force,” Amirfar said in his letter.

The only one of the proposed reforms that the TPD has not already put in place is a ban on shooting at moving vehicles. Amirfar said the use of vehicles in homegrown acts of terrorism makes this proposal not practical. He said the last time the department had to shoot at a moving vehicle was about 15 years ago when they shot out the tires of a car being used by a kidnapping suspect.

In 2019, TPD had 17 incidents involving use of force, which is down from the year before. In 2018, there were 29 incidents and in 2017 there were 33.

TPD use of force

March had the highest rate, with four incidents. Most months had one or two.

In 2019, the most common type of call resulting in the use of force was for a warrant service, wherein force was used during three separate incidents. Calls regarding a mental health issue, a verbal disturbance and suspicious individuals resulted in two use of force incidents each.

The area of patrol designated as Beat 5 had the greatest number of use of force incidents with five reported. The area is bounded by Soderquist, Hawkeye, Canal, Grant and Main.

Beat 2 and Beat 3 each had four incidents. Beat 2 is the southeast side of town and Beat 3 is the southwest. Beat 4, which is the northwest of town, had two incidents and Beat 1 - the northeast of town - had one. The other use of force was in the county jurisdiction.

Thirteen of the use of force incidents involved one officer and two and three officers were involved in the remaining four incidents.

The use of force used the most in 2019 in Turlock were personal defensive weapons, which accounted for seven of the incidents. Personal defensive weapons include hands, elbows, knees and feet.

The use of force incidents involving pepper spray, K9s, tasers and take down were reported at three each. Pain compliance was used in one incident. In some cases, more than one tactic was used, which is why the number is higher than 17.

The age group experiencing the most use of force incidents were those 36 years or older, which were involved in nine cases. Those between 18 to 35 were involved in eight cases. There were no reports of juveniles involved in use of force incidents.

The use of force incidents statistics are also broken down by gender and race. The only female case of use of force involved a white woman. Nine of the incidents involved Hispanic males, five white males and one black male. The other two cases involved men with a race classification of other.

The TPD had no incidents of deadly use of force in 2019.

Amirfar said he likes the idea of forming a community advisory board to the police chief and will be moving forward on forming one soon.

“I want a different lens,” Amirfar said. “I want a different view.”