Orange County Citizen’s Advisory Committee says use of force policy needs adjustments, lists recommendations

Committee wants policies to further define chokeholds, include more training

File photo.

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – The Orange County Sheriff’s Office Citizen’s Advisory Committee has submitted its use of force policy recommendations to Sheriff John Mina outlining improvements to the agency’s new duty to intervene policy.

The committee was tasked with reviewing the sheriff’s office use of force policies in June and share recommendations based on in-depth research on modern-day policing, law enforcement training, and current operations.

The committee is chaired by Allie Braswell with T. Mark Bassett as co-chair. Jean Sandor, Jay Smith, Pastor Sharon Riley, Russell Kilgore, Scott Boyd, Patricia Rumph and G. Denise Lewis are members of the committee. Its nine members met virtually during the coronavirus pandemic to formulate best practices and review the sheriff’s office policies.

After months of meetings and collecting public comments, the committee submitted their recommendations Aug. 28 addressing four policies.

Outlined in the committee’s letter to Sheriff Mina, the CAC said the agency needs to provide a definition of a chokehold and/or lateral vascular neck restraint. The sheriff’s office should also further clarify if and when chokeholds are permitted.

The second set of recommendations asks the sheriff’s office to revise its language surrounding its excessive force policy, the committee asking to include this policy directly with the agency’s overall use of force policy.

[MORE COVERAGE: Use of force policy update: Orange County deputies now have ‘duty to intervene’]

OCSO recently added duty to intervene in June, when it tasked the CAC to review its use of force policies. The CAC believes the newly added protocol should clearly convey the requirements for deputies to intervene, require intervention to be immediate, and change the policy’s language to require law enforcement to intervene before matters escalate.

Current policy:

“Deputies have a duty to intervene if they anticipate or observe the unreasonable, unnecessary, or disproportionate use of force.”

Recommended change in language:

“Deputies have a duty to intervene based on observations of behavior and/or actions which could result in the unreasonable, unnecessary, or disproportionate use of force.”

In its third recommendation, the committee members emphasized the need for de-escalation strategies into training saying “in an effort to reduce the need for the application of force,” adding these should be documented.

[WATCH: Citizen Review Board tests new Orlando police training simulator]

Members believe these de-escalation strategies should be found at the beginning of the agency’s policy manual and should say use of force tactics should cease once a subject is under control or compliant. Committee members also noted these techniques should be reinforced in the sheriff’s office Field Training and Evaluation Program (FTEP) and during annual block and periodic training exercises.

The final recommendation to the sheriff was to review the Use of Force Matrix, the agency’s cheat sheet on when to use force. This document should include the committee’s recommendations and be placed throughout all training classrooms to serve as a constant reminder for deputies. A copy of the matrix should all be given to each deputy.