Reasons for CRA Recommendation that CED (Taser) Policy be Explicitly Incorporated in the MPD Policy and Procedure Manual


Approved at April 1, 2009 CRA Board meeting

The Minneapolis Civilian Police Review Authority (CRA) is recommending the following change to the MPD Policy and Procedure Manual:

“That Section 5-314 of the MPD Policy and Procedure Manual be revised to contain exactly the same text as appeared in Section 5-318 of the MPD Policy and Procedure Manual prior to the change made on August 17, 2007.”

There are two aspects to this recommendation:
1) That the substance of the Conducted Energy Device (CED) policy be the same as that which was established on April 14, 2006.
2) That the CED policy be stated explicitly in the MPD Policy and Procedure Manual, without need for reference to training.

Note: There is some concern that we may not know the actual status of the current CED policy. Has the substance of the policy remained exactly the same, but been moved to training? Or have all the guidelines for CED deployment that were previously in the MPD Policy and Procedure Manual been dropped completely, so that the policy is no more than what is explicitly stated in the Manual, plus the minimum guidelines set by the US Constitution and its judicial interpretations? Or is the truth somewhere in between? This paper argues for explicitly including all the previous guidelines in the MPD Policy and Procedure Manual, but it takes no position on what the current status is regarding the substance of the CED policy.

1) The substance of the CED policy should be that which was established on April 14, 2006
a) The reasons why this policy was requested by the City Council, developed and recommended by the CRA, agreed to by the MPD, mandated by the City Council, and incorporated into the MPD Policy and Procedure Manual in 2006, are all still valid. We see no reason to do more than to refer to the CRA report, “Minneapolis Civilian Police Review Authority Taser Policy and Training Recommendations,” agreed to unanimously by the CRA board on February 1, 2006. The studies that are referred to in the appendices to that report, the September 2005 Taser Study by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Northern California, titled, “Stun Gun Fallacy: How the Lack of Taser Regulation Endangers Lives”, and the October 25, 2005 report by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), titled, “PERF Conducted Energy Device Policy and Training Guidelines for Consideration,” are also still valid.

b) That previous policy was developed, agreed to, and implemented in a manner that was open and transparent, with opportunities for public comment and input. Consensus was obtained by consulting with all interested city departments. That policy should remain the policy unless or until a similar process occurs to change it.

c) By contrast, the change to the text of the MPD Policy and Procedure Manual on 8/17/07 was made without consultation with, or even notification to, most of the interested and affected parties.

d) Specific guidelines, such as those in the previous policy, facilitate easier decision making in the heat of the moment. Guidelines such as, “Only one officer should activate a Taser against a person at a time” are easier to apply than the complex guidelines established by court cases or the Constitution. “Reasonableness” standards can lead to wide variations in application from officer to officer.

e) Improvements and/or additions to the CED policy can be made at a later date. We intend to continue study of CED policy to determine what, if anything, should be improved, based on experience and the latest research. For now, we feel that this policy change is simple, well-justified, and urgent.

2) The CED policy should be stated explicitly in the MPD Policy and Procedure Manual, without need for reference to training

a) Greater transparency. Anyone with internet access can determine what the policy is.

b) Public reassurance. Taser usage is controversial. As stated by the MPD in its 1/24/06 report, “Conducted Energy Device (CED) Support Paper”: “The key to reducing community fear about the CED abuses is good policy and oversight.” The “good policy” must be publicly known if it is to have that effect.

c) Verifiability. There is no question as to what policy is in effect on a given date.

d) Easier version control. If officers are to be held accountable for following current policy at the time of a given incident, it is necessary to know which version of the policy was in effect at that time. There is already a system for controlling and documenting updates to the MPD Policy and Procedure Manual. It appears that no such system exists for training, and it would be difficult to implement such a system.

e) Ease of use by the CRA and the Internal Affairs Unit. Both of these organizations provide oversight and accountability by judging officers’ conduct based on their adherence to MPD policy. It is much more difficult to verify current policy if it is contained in a variety of training manuals, rather than in one comprehensive document. The CRA is concerned that it cannot properly carry out its mission without clear knowledge of MPD policy, so as to be fair to both complainants and officers.

f) Ease of reference for officers. The MPD Policy and Procedure Manual can be referred to at any time. By contrast, written materials distributed during training may or may not be kept well-organized for reference. Officers cannot be expected to remember all the details of their training, even with annual recertification.

g) Consistency. If the policy is in the MPD Policy and Procedure Manual, all officers are informed of exactly the same policy. If the policy is in training, it may be conveyed differently by different trainers, or at different times.

h) Does not significantly increase the length of the MPD Policy and Procedure Manual. There has been an interest expressed in shortening and streamlining an admittedly bulky manual. But the addition of three more pages, at the most, would be insignificant. If any streamlining is to be done, it should be in an area far less critical than CED policy.

i) No effect, in theory, on officer accountability. Officers are accountable to the policy in the Manual. If the Manual refers to training, then the policies in that training have the same effect as if they were explicitly included in the Manual. Having policy explicitly stated in the Manual would not change the standards the officers are held to, so there should be no objection from officers or their representatives, if indeed the substance of the policy is the same.

j) Policies can still be included in training also, if desired by the MPD. There should be no need to revise the training manuals, if the previous policy has in fact been simply moved to training.

k) This change is simple to make. The wording is already prepared.

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