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Courts / Law

Pinellas Law Enforcement Agencies Say Use-Of-Force Policies In Line With #8CANTWAIT

Pinellas County Sheriff  Bob Gualtieri
Julio Ochoa
WUSF Public Media
Pinellas County law enforcement agencies are working together to address people's concerns about use-of-force policies.

Amidst continued protests against police brutality across the Tampa Bay area, law enforcement agencies in Pinellas County say they are working together to address concerns about their use-of-force policies.

The largest agencies in the county, including the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and the Clearwater, Largo, Pinellas Park, and St. Petersburg Police Departments, have compiled and released a set of documents they hope will answer the numerous questions they have received.

"I commend our agency heads for working together to improve the quality of law enforcement and continually enhancing the professionalism of Pinellas County law enforcement in service of our community,” said Pinellas County Schools Police Chief Luke Williams, chair of the Pinellas Police Standards Council.

READ MORE: Pinellas Law Enforcement Agencies Strengthen Rules On Reporting Officer Misconduct

The documents are intended to respond to the #8CANTWAIT campaign, a nationwide campaign that aims to reduce killings by police through adoption of eight restrictions on use-of-force policies:

  • Ban chokeholds and strangleholds
  • Require de-escalation
  • Require warnings before shooting
  • Require exhaustion of all alternatives before shooting
  • Require the duty to intervene
  • Ban shooting at moving vehicles
  • Require a use-of-force continuum
  • Require comprehensive reporting

The majority of the departments' responses are explanations of procedures already in place that officials say address these concerns.
However, in light of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, some departments have revised their policies in regards to chokeholds and an officer’s duty to intervene. Floyd died May 25 after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly 9 minutes while a number of other officers watched.

The Clearwater Police Department now prohibits officers from “utilizing any technique which compresses an individual’s airway or compromises blood flow to the brain,” considering these techniques to be deadly force.

Along with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, they now also require all officers to immediately intervene when witnessing “unnecessary or excessive force” and to “summon medical assistance and/or administer medical treatment” if needed.

In a statement, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said, “Pinellas County law enforcement agencies are aware of our citizens' concerns and are working toward common goals and unified policies to ensure confidence between law enforcement and the citizens we serve.”

Click on the links below to see the responses from each organization:

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