What is Excessive Force?
Excessive Force is utilizing more physical force than necessary to subdue a criminal causing bodily harm or death. Officers have been given responsibility to protect citizens and their property and keep criminals from causing harm in the communities they protect. Apprehending criminals must be done based on policy that is concerned with the protection of life and property without violating rights of those apprehended for criminal activities. Based on the U.S. Constitution, police officers are restricted to the “objectively reasonable” use of force, meaning that their actions would be based on the facts and circumstances of an encounter and the officer’s perception of necessary use of force action required to subdue a criminal or de-escalate a volatile situation. Reasonably necessary actions for “use of force” should only come into play when all other reasonable measures have been exhausted without success.
Filing a Complaint.
The Oklahoma City Police Department investigates all citizen complaints against its officers and employees. If you have concerns about an encounter with an Oklahoma City Police Officer you may contact a supervisor at (405) 231-2121. They will either follow up with you by phone or meet you in person regarding your concerns or complaints. You can fill out the complaint form accessible online and drop it off at any Oklahoma City Police location. All formal complaints are reviewed and investigated by the police supervisors.
Internal Affairs Involvement.
The Oklahoma City Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit is charged with upholding the public trust by performing thorough, unbiased investigations of alleged police misconduct, especially investigations of actions involving 1) excessive force, 2) sexual harassment, 3) false arrest and wrongful imprisonment, 4) wrongful search and seizure, and 5) racial and gender discrimination, while seeking the truth to ensure that victims are treated with respect, and their rights are protected. Excessive force is the number one type of police brutality complaint sweeping police forces all over the United States, and the Oklahoma City Police Department policies address this type of negative interaction by officers in the community in an effort to regain public trust.
Investigations for Excessive Force.
Section 150.0 of the Oklahoma City Police Department outlines the manner in which excessive force investigations are conducted: An investigation will be conducted in every use of force incident when an employee (sworn or non-sworn) resorts to the use of any degree of physical force including the use of lethal weapons or less lethal devices. In any use of force investigation, regardless of circumstances, the applicability of each specific de-escalation tactic and technique in Procedure 153.0 will be evaluated and explained.
Were De-Escalation Tactics and Techniques Used Properly?
Section 153.0 outlines the manner in which de-escalation tactics and techniques are used by officers that seek to decrease excessive force during an incident by increasing voluntary compliance by a subject. These tactics improve the safety of the officer and the subject, reduce the likelihood of injury, improve community relations, reduce citizen complaints, and are consistent with the department’s procedural justice philosophy. De-escalation tactics shall be used whenever possible, if they do not compromise the safety of officers or citizens and only when immediate action is not required to protect themselves or a citizen from bodily harm or death. De-escalation is done in an effort to slow the situation down to a point where the subject might be more level-headed regarding their criminal activities, and/or safer options or resources may become available to the officer to resolve the encounter peacefully. During situations where an officer uses de-escalation techniques, they must be aware of existing circumstances that may not easily allow the subject to comply with orders, based on their physical and mental status at the time of the encounter, such as cases dealing with:
- Medical issues;
- Mental impairment;
- Developmental disability;
- Physical limitations;
- Communication barrier such as language or disability such as blindness or deafness;
- Alcohol and/or drug use; and/or
- Behavioral/emotional crisis.
When time and circumstances allow for de-escalation, an officer’s awareness of the above conditions must be considered when determining which de-escalation option(s) are the most appropriate to attempt to bring the situation to a safe resolution; there will be times when reasonable force will still be necessary. When related to a use of force, the findings of this evaluation will be addressed as a separate matter from the incident resulting in the investigation. De-escalation will not be used to determine whether a use of force is justified or appropriate. If the Use of Force Screening Committee determines de-escalation and related tactics were not utilized appropriately, the matter will be referred to the Oklahoma City Deputy Police Chief for final review.
When the investigation has been completed, recommendations will be made based on the findings that were reviewed with the employee’s chain of command. Dispositions can be:
- Unfounded – The allegation has no merit; evidence exists to either disprove or discredit the allegation.
- Exonerated – The incident did occur, and the officer acted within established policies, procedures, and/or operating guidelines.
- Not Sustained – Insufficient evidence exists to either prove or disprove the allegation.
- Sustained – The incident did occur, and the officer was found to be in violation.
- Withdrawn – The officer’s actions were explainable, and the citizen chose of his/her own accord to withdrawal the complaint.
- Closed – No allegations against known personnel exists and/or no reasonable means of identifying the subject(s) of the allegation exists.
Contact Legal Counsel.
If you feel that your complaint was not taken seriously or reviewed in accordance with the Oklahoma City Police Department Complaint process, you should contact legal counsel to see if you have a solid law suit for damages against the department and/or the officer who carried out the misconduct through excessive force.