In light of increased scrutiny throughout the United States on use of force by police, Tigard Police Chief Kathy McAlpine on June 9 briefed the City Council on her department’s polices in the context of #8cantwait, a nationwide campaign that is encouraging use of force reforms.
“Our use of force policy is very thick and comprehensive,” she said.
In 2019, according to McAlpine, 57 out of 38,810 total calls involved use of force. In 2018, use of force was involved with 57 out of 42,482 total calls.
“A reportable use of force could be, for example, we apply a taser and we miss a target or there’s clothing and it didn’t have any impact – it’s still a documented use of force,” she said.
Generally, the Tigard Police Department is already in line with the #8cantwait policy suggestions, which include requiring officers to deescalate situations; prohibiting chokeholds; requiring officers to intervene when witnessing excessive force and report it to a supervisor; restricting officers from shooting at moving vehicles; asking officers to exhaust all other options before using deadly force; requiring officers to give verbal warnings; requiring officers to report use of force incidents to a supervisor.
The one area where Tigard’s policy diverges from #8cantwait is the implementation of a “force continuum,” which is a set of guidelines for actions officers can take in response to an escalating situation.
Instead, McAlpine said, use of force in Tigard, as well as many other agencies, is guided by Graham v. Connor, a 1989 Supreme Court ruling that established a standard for use of force based on whether it is reasonable and necessary.
Legally, use of force is judged by the whether it was reasonable and necessary, she said, so that is how officers are trained.
“Am I committed in stone? No.” she said. “But I also think that we have done very well training and teaching to the reasonable standard.”
During the discussion, Councilor Tom Anderson asked about the department’s tactical gear “and what some would call the militarization of police.”
“Right now, I would say the most perceived militaristic thing is the external vests that the Tigard Police Department wear,” McAlpine said, adding that the department does not have riot gear or armored vehicles.