A Beaumont Police Officer had a past history of shooting people and it was not transparent enough to stop him from being able to secure another position with the San Jacinto County Sheriff’s officer where he came under review for yet another officer-involved shooting.  Officer Chase Welch had occasion to shoot his gun in two fatal officer-related deaths while he was a sworn officer of the Beaumont Police Department in Jefferson County Texas, when he resigned after the two indictments were resolved. The family of one of the victims, Chaz York, has filed a lawsuit against the city for failing to deal with prior examples of excessive force by Welch, citing examples of the officer being disciplined for his conduct. That includes “improper use of force” for ramming his police car into a fleeing suspect’s vehicle and holding another man at gunpoint and threatening to shoot the man’s dog. On March 5, 2016, seven months before York was killed, Welch fatally shot a man with a scoped rifle who “was allegedly holding a gun to his own head.” In that case, Welch was cleared of wrongdoing, the lawsuit says. In August 2017, four months after his resignation from Beaumont police and while working for different agency, Welch allegedly shot another man. The FBI and Texas Rangers are investigating, the lawsuit says.

It is disconcerting to the public that in this climate of common acts of police brutality in the United States, that Officer Welch had been so free to use his weapon so often over a short period of time resulting in death; the department cannot say Welch is a bad officer but there is a question as to what other possible de-escalating techniques he should employ upon encounters as a Texas peace officer. De-escalation training is required in Texas but with no set minimum hours and the Commission on Law Enforcement in Texas is the accountable body.

De-escalation training.

The Department of Justice defines “de-escalation” as “the strategic slowing down of an incident in a manner that allows officers more time, distance, space and tactical flexibility during dynamic situations on the street.”  Training methods for police officers include:

1) Listen respectfully. Don’t argue or interrupt. People calm down when they feel they are being listened to and taken seriously.

2) Crowd control. Don’t allow an audience to gather. If two people are having an argument, isolate them from friends or family members to reduce aggressive behavior.

3) Courteous example. Use courteous, professional language to uphold the idea that talk must be calm and respectful.

4) Body language. Be aware not to use intimidating body movements.

5) Control encounter. Reduce offensive speech, cursing, and yelling by explaining that acceptable language would more likely get the point across.

6) Don’t publicly humiliate anyone—especially when others are watching. Be respectful of embarrassing questions and pat downs.

7) Don’t waste time and energy trying to convince a citizen that he’s wrong and you’re right. Do what you need to do without becoming defensive.

8) Remember that “broken record” is a useful way to achieve two goals—conveying the message that you’re in charge while keeping the lid on a potential conflict.

Allowed use of force.

Texas Peace Officers are allowed the “use of force” including hands, batons, tasers, or other weapons when necessary, and in accordance with officer training and department policy, to remove the threat of violence by subduing criminals.  However, this broad-based authority is based on policy that dictates what is considered “reasonable” force specific to the encounter and is subjective to the instance when force is used.  Officers must exercise balanced judgment when choosing a force option, keeping in mind the suspect’s 4th Amendment rights. The use of excessive force is a violation of civil rights laws that are in place to protect citizens against arbitrary and negative action from law enforcement officers.  Excessive force is the term described as using continued force even after a criminal has been subdued and has been justified in high intensity situations where the potential for serious bodily harm, mass bodily harm, and death were present.

Police department guidelines should address that while police are accountable to act under often tense and volatile situations, their training should help them maintain actions of a “reasonable person” when apprehending a criminal.  In the case of the Beaumont officer, it seems there a may be some correlation to his quick use of excessive force with his firearm due to his past history as a marine who might have had to use hair trigger responses to situations to keep alive.  This phenomenon may be something police departments across the country should examine as reactions in civilized situations are not the same as reactions in war zones.

If you feel you have been a victim of excessive force by a police officer in Jefferson, Texas, you should seek professional legal help to file a claim and have them review your case to see if you can sue for damages.  Damages may include hospital/medical expenses; past and future permanent disability payments; emotional distress including depression and anxiety; loss of enjoyment of life; physical pain and suffering; and loss of love and companionship due to a death or serious injury caused by police brutality through excessive force.

Complaints with Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, Texas District Attorney, Texas Rangers or FBI.

The Commission can only investigate complaints where a violation of law or rule occurs having to do with training, certification, appointment, licensing or other department standards; or for court ordered supervision or probation of a convicted officer.  If there are allegations of criminal misconduct, the state district attorney or Texas Rangers office should be contacted and if there are violations of civil rights, the Federal Bureau of Investigation may investigate.

Seek legal counsel.

There are various federal and state laws that insure remedy to individuals who have suffered the negative effects of police brutality.  If you feel you have been a victim of excessive force by a police officer in Jefferson County Texas, you should seek professional legal help to file a claim and have them review your case to see if you can sue for damages.  Damages may include hospital/medical expenses; past and future permanent disability payments; emotional distress including depression and anxiety; loss of enjoyment of life; physical pain and suffering; and loss of love and companionship due to a death or serious injury caused by police brutality through excessive force.

 

Sources:

https://codes.findlaw.com/tx/penal-code/penal-sect-9-32.html

https://codes.findlaw.com/tx/penal-code/penal-sect-9-31.html

https://www.usconstitution.net/xconst_Am4.html

http://www.policetrainingcenter.com/training/de-escalation-force-tcole/subpage521.html

https://www.beaumontenterprise.com/news/article/Lawsuit-claims-Beaumont-police-covered-for-13309663.php

http://theexaminer.com/stories/news/former-beaumont-officer-involved-third-shooting