Use of force down nearly 23 percent, Orlando Police Department says

Most use of force incidents concentrated in downtown area

By Adrienne Cutway - Web Editor
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ORLANDO, Fla. - The Orlando Police Department said during a presentation Wednesday morning that the agency had nearly 23 percent fewer arrests involving the use of force in 2016, when compared to the 2015 figures.

There were 399 response to resistance incidents in 2016, down 22.82 percent from the 517 incidents reported in 2015. 

Police used 603 tactics during those 399 incidents, which involved 441 offenders, according to the PowerPoint presented at the Citizens' Police Review Board meeting.

When officers did use force, they opted for tactics that were less likely to cause injury, such as deploying a Taser or pepper spray or using simple takedown techniques.

"The majority of the time, we're using our pepper spray chemical agent, takedowns, simple takedown to the ground or Tasers," Orlando police Chief John Mina said. "It's interesting to note that takedowns, tackles, many times that (data) is not captured by other agencies around the country. They don't count it as force. We count it when there's an injury, as you know." 

Police said there were 13,092 arrests in 2016, and response to resistance was used in about 3 percent of those arrests.

Tasers were used 168 times (27.9 percent), takedowns were used 160 times (26.5 percent), and chemical agents were used 153 times (25.4) percent. Those methods accounted for nearly 80 percent of all force used by OPD in 2016.

As for other forms of force, strikes were used 88 times (14.6 percent), K-9 apprehension was used 21 times (3.5 percent), stop sticks were deployed 10 times (1.7 percent), and impact weapons were used 3 times (0.5 percent).

In those incidents, 157 offenders were injured to the point that they needed medical treatment, a 17.8 percent decrease from 2015. Five of those offenders filed excessive force complaints.

Fewer officers were battered in 2016, however, more of those officers required medical treatment as a result of their injuries. OPD said 30 of the 87 officers who were battered while making arrests required medical treatment, compared to 18 officers in 2015.

Guido said the agency isn't exactly sure what led to the increase, but it could be because more officers are reporting their injuries, whereas in the past they may have only reported more severe wounds.

"In the past, if an officer was hurt on the job - a finger sprain, knee injury, or something of that nature - they may not have reported it and instead gone right back to work," Guido said. "But we want to be able to effectively capture all the information we can about officer injuries and that is likely why that number has gone up."

OPD said the least surprising portion of this year's data is where and when the use of force tend to be concentrated.

Police said 26 percent of incidents were reported in downtown Orlando. Most incidents were reported on a Saturday or Sunday between midnight and 3 a.m.

"There is a large concentration of people who gather in the downtown area on the weekends," Guido said. "And often, there is alcohol involved, and that could lead people to be more combative or less likely to follow the commands of officers."

OPD said it will continue to properly staff the downtown area during weekends to ensure the safety of locals, visitors and law enforcement officers.

The decline in use of force incidents is part of an overall trend, according to OPD. 

Data showed use of force incidents have decreased every year since 2012, when 674 incidents were reported. Police said they will continue to examine their tactics in hopes of maintaining this trend.

"It's difficult to anticipate the future when it comes to response to resistance, since these actions are a direct response to someone else's behavior," OPD spokeswoman Michelle Guido said. "But our officers are always training, and our training staff and command staff are always looking for best practices, and our practices are adjusted from time to time."

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