Following the death of George Floyd in which former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is charged for murder and several other deaths across the nation, the 8 Can’t Wait movement was born to enact eight use-of-force policies that are said to reduce police violence.
Mesquite Police Chief Charles Cato previously stated that MPD doesn’t use the prone position – the position used on Floyd. Additionally, MPD does not train officers on chokeholds or strangleholds.
"We've had chokeholds banned for almost 20 years. We do currently allow a carotid restraint,” said Cato. “A chokehold is defined as any holding that impedes the breathing or compresses the trachea or the airway. A carotid restraint on the other hand, applies pressure to the sides of the neck where the carotid artery is, so when you compress those two what happens is the blood is allowed to pool in the brain and causes loss of consciousness for a few seconds so we can restrain somebody."
He said that last year they used the carotid restraint about three times and noted that anyone who’s had this technique used on them has to have an ambulance called to the scene or taken to a medical facility. After the individual is cleared medically, if they enter the jail they have to be monitored for two hours.
"In our force continuum we are going to raise the carotid restraint to the level of deadly force,” Cato added. “Right now it's considered less lethal force to prevent you from having to get to the deadly force situation."
Currently, MPD training protocols include de-escalation training and crisis intervention training. Over 90 MPD officers have gone through de-escalation training, and over 60 MPD officers are certified in crisis intervention training.
Cato said their goal is to have all patrol officers certified in crisis intervention training.
Mesquite PD also requires warning before use of force/shooting and current training protocols include verbal commands/warnings being issued before force is used when it is reasonably safe to do so.
It is the policy of MPD for officers to only use the force that is reasonably necessary to effectively bring an incident under control, while protecting the lives of the officer and others. The use of force must be objectively reasonable, according to MPD.
In terms of duty to intervene, Cato said MPD already requires this, but it is referred to as taking corrective action.
"In light of the things that are going on, we're going to go ahead and change that policy to actually state that duty to intervene,” he said.
Mesquite PD policy states that firearms should not be discharged at or from a moving vehicle except under exigent circumstances.
"We only allow shooting at a moving vehicle in dire circumstances (i.e. an officer is being shot at). You have to be in danger,” said Cato. “Our policy doesn't say you can never shoot at a moving vehicle, but you can only shoot at a vehicle if it's a life or death circumstance."
MPD requires all uses of force to be documented and entered into a software system. UOF entries are reviewed by a supervisory chain of command to ensure the employee’s compliance with policy and department expectations.
"The only ones that rise to my level are the ones where there's a policy violation because I'm the one who issues discipline,” said Cato.
He noted that all use of force is tracked – taser, pepper spray, carotid restraint, anything that causes injury to a person, as well as shooting.
Cato said the state of Texas requires all shootings, deaths, in-custody deaths, or death by any other means of force to be reported.
"I also have a comprehensive use of force report compiled from this data once a year. This report not only looks at the incidences of uses of force but the type of technique that was used; whether injury was caused, how many of those injuries resulted in medical attention, how many resulted in lawsuits or any criminal charges against an officer,” he said. “Also, the effectiveness of the technique; there’s an ongoing evaluation of the types of force we can use to determine if this is still even a viable option. Does it not work or is it causing too many injuries? That's why we look at the injuries and the efficacy of the technique itself."
Cato said since joining MPD in 2016 there have only been about four officer-involved shootings. In his 32-year career in law enforcement he has never had to shoot at anyone.
"In Mesquite, we're already doing those eight things that this movement is calling for,” he said.