TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Guidelines on when a Tallahassee police officer can use a baton or other impact weapon are changing; and it's coming at the hands of a group of citizens.
After reviewing video from 2021 of an officer's use of his baton during an arrest, the Tallahassee Citizen's Police Review Board recommended Tallahassee Police Department "not use impact weapons except in response to overcome aggravated aggressive resistance."
Aggravated aggressive resistance includes "use of a firearm, use of a blunt or bladed weapon, and extreme physical force.”
The Tallahassee Citizens Police Review Board was created to address potential policy issues within the department and ways to fix them. Board Chair Edward Gaines says the board was a result of multiple issues between the people and law enforcement.
"There was the George Floyd incident, that was on a national scale. On a local level, there were three police involved shootings within a 68 day window. Before that, Tallahassee had not had a police involved shooting since 2018," Gaines said.
Now the board is calling on you to help-craft more change. Involvement is as a simple as showing up.
Since its formation in the summer of 2020, TPD has approved three of the CPRB's policy recommendations.
Gaines says the key to bringing about even more recommendations for the police department involves more community engagement.
"I think it's a two way street right, we really need the public to be involved with the process. Because unless the citizens attend, we can't hear their voices," he said.
Gaines says meeting attendance tends to be high after an incident involving an officer, like the May 2021 arrest of Jacquez Kirkland, the basis for the latest policy change.
Now the task is keeping the community engaged.
"I think part of the reason things died down in terms of attendance, according to the people I talked to, is because people weren't seeing any action. One thing we're going to do this year is ado a better job of communicating to the public what's going on and what we're doing," he said.
Video of Kirkland being hit during an arrest surfaced in May of 2021. The board received the case for review a month later. Part of that review involved a TPD use-of-force training. By February of 2022, the Board was ready to finalize its recommendations.
Tallahassee Police Department is now working on getting that policy change into rotation for its team. Law enforcement trainer Steve Sheridan says there are a number of ways TPD could approach them.
"There's no set hard and fast rule for when and how these things change," said Sheridan.
Sheridan's focus is training law enforcement officers on use of force and de-escalation techniques.
When it comes to policy changes, he says the first step likely involves every officer signing off that they have read and understand the new policy changes.
"They will have additional training to explain those things and to have a number of hopefully scenario type environments where we check our folks still understanding this policy they understand when they can utilize this tool and how to utilize this tool," he said.
Sheridan says another key focus now is uniformity throughout the rest of the law enforcement agencies.
"It is a little unusual when you look in Leon county. You have three colleges that have police departments. You got the city, the county. All their policies are vastly different. The way they conduct business is vastly different but we're policing the same community. So we've got to figure out how and why and understand that some nuances but, at the core those things should be pretty similar it's the same community we're all policing," said Sheridan.
Along with tackling use of force, Gaines says the board is currently taking on another topic important to the community; mental health.
"We're now dealing with and we haven't reached consensus, yet, but we're one thing we're working on now is general order number eight which involves mental illness and how police officers respond to cases involving mental illness," said Gaines.
The CPRB meets the first Thursday of every month at 5:30 at the smith Williams center.Gaines says he'll look into the possibility of opening up to more meetings.
Gaines says the board will discuss the possibility of more meetings.
You can request any information from the Review Board by emailing TallahasseeCPRB@outlook.com.