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The Arcata Police Department has implemented several best practice measures this past year to restructure and re-define how policing services are provided to the community in Arcata. The Department strives to continue to be a trusted partner in the provision of public safety services and an organization who is called upon as a source of safety, service and hope for all people.
The Arcata City Council has recognized the opportunity to re-imagine policing in Arcata and requested a discussion on necessary public safety reforms to insure fair and impartial policing is practiced in Arcata.
On Wednesday, June 17, 2020, Arcata Police Chief Brian Ahearn presented his summary of the Arcata Police Department’s approach to a number of key issues currently being discussed across the nation.
Chief Ahearn’s full report can be found here. The City Council meeting and discussion can be found here.
A summary of frequently asked topics regarding law enforcement practices can be found below.
Body Worn Cameras
The Arcata Police Department implemented a body-worn camera program in 2018. This significantly enhanced APD’s ability to meaningfully review and monitor contacts with the community and use of force by an officer, and the APD has committed to further expand the use body worn cameras to allow greater transparency.
Racial Equity & Bias Training
Racial equity training is an important priority for the Arcata Police Department and the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST). All entry-level police officers receive cultural diversity training in the police academy, and throughout their careers, officers receive updated racial and cultural diversity training on an on-going basis. Topics of recent study include promoting fair and impartial public safety, implicit bias and the four dimensions of racism, unbiased policing and cultural humility. Since 2017, members of the Arcata Police Department have also participated in additional racial equity and bias trainings, including a six month intensive program on institutional racism and racial inequities in the United States. Chief Brian Ahearn is also co-chair of equity arcata’s Police and Student Safety working group, who is working to foster an environment where people of color feel safe, protected and engaged interacting with local law enforcement.
APD’s effort is ongoing to bring racial equity training to the law enforcement community in Humboldt County. In conjunction with Cal Poly Humboldt's Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the APD is working to tailor a new training program in partnership with the Humboldt Area Foundation. The goal of this program is to strengthen how equitable police services are provided in Arcata. In addition, an inquiry was made with Stanford University’s Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt, who specializes in racial biases in the criminal justice system, to bring additional training to the APD.
Mental Heath Training
All officers receive mandated POST training on how to interact with individuals with a mental illness, an intellectual disability or those who have a substance use disorder. Additionally, patrol officers receive training in crisis intervention techniques. Members of the APD, like most members of the community, have family or friends who face challenges like this daily, and they take that knowledge into the community while policing.
As part of the Police Department’s arrest and control training program, officers receive de-escalation training. Officers use de-escalation techniques whenever reasonable and use force only when necessary. De-escalation training and techniques are required by California law that “officers utilize de-escalation techniques, crisis intervention tactics, and other alternatives to force when reasonable.” State law also requires all officers be trained on alternatives to deadly force and de-escalation techniques. The APD embraces these requirements and follows this mandate. In addition, the APD will finalize a POST approved de-escalation training program for APD personnel to commence in 2020.
Additional information on Arcata Police Department Training can be found here.
Use of Force
The use of force by law enforcement officers is a matter of critical concern to us all. The Department and its officers recognize the dignity of every individual and the value of all human life. The APD understands the trust the community bestows upon its officers to use only the force that is reasonable to protect the public welfare. The ultimate objective of every law enforcement encounter is to avoid or minimize harm or injury.
The APD’s policy outlines many factors that officers must weigh when determining whether the use of force is reasonable. Under California law and Police Department policy, officers may only use the amount of force that reasonably appears necessary given the facts and the totality of the circumstances known to the officer at the time of the event.
In deadly force situations, officers must evaluate the use of other reasonably available resources and techniques when determining whether to use deadly force. California law and Police Department policy require “where feasible, a peace officer shall, prior to the use of force, make reasonable efforts to identify themselves as a peace officer and to warn that deadly force may be used, unless the officer has objectively reasonable grounds to believe the person is aware of those facts.” APD’s use of force policy includes the same caution by stating, “...a verbal warning should precede the use of deadly force, where feasible...”
The APD’s full use of force policy can be found here.
Duty to Intervene
Police Officers have a moral, ethical and legal obligation to intervene in order to prevent the use of unreasonable force when they observe another officer going beyond what is reasonable. Failure to comply with this obligation is misconduct and grounds for discipline. Department policy also requires that an officer who observes another employee use force that exceeds the degree permitted by law and policy to promptly report these observations to a supervisor.
The APD’s policy can be found here.
Carotid Control Hold
The carotid control hold is a technique used by law enforcement to control a violent and resisting subject. Use of the cartoid control hold was banned for use by APD Officers on Friday, June 5, 2020. Chokeholds and strangleholds have never been taught or authorized and are strictly prohibited in the Department.
Use of Force Reporting and Review Policy
The APD oversees a thorough review of each use-of-force incident. Reviews include reading and analyzing all reports and documentation, including body worn and in-car camera video footage. After the use of force report is reviewed by the On-Duty Watch Commander or an uninvolved Sergeant, the facts are reviewed by the Patrol and Investigations Operations Commanders who analyze the information and the officer’s actions to ensure that the actions uphold APD’s policies and practices. The APD regularly monitors and reports the frequency and types of force used.
The APD procured 14 rifles through the military surplus program for patrol purposes, and has never used them while on patrol or for training purposes. The APD will return all 14 rifles to the Department of Defense’s Law Enforcement Support Office program.
The Arcata Police Department badge is a symbol of public trust. Trust with the community includes being open and honest about what members of the APD do, what they say and what they should be doing. In accordance with California state law, the Arcata Police Department publishes its policies, procedures and department training outlines here. The Department also offers a CitizenRIMS interface so the public can view near-real time local crime data, arrest information, the department media bulletins and more.
POST governs all peace officer training throughout the state of California. Training, including basic police academy curriculum, is typically delivered by instructors who are current or former police officers. The APD is committed to continue working with community partners, including the NAACP, Black Humboldt, the Humboldt Area Foundation and equity arcata to develop meaningful and effective local police training practices that are consistent with community expectations.
The City of Arcata’s Public Safety Committee provides a platform for the community to come together to gain understanding of public safety concerns and recommend actions the City can take to improve the quality of life in Arcata. The Public Safety Committee focuses on providing a public forum for the City, the APD and community members to share public safety concerns and identify potential solutions, and this committee will continue to explore topics surrounding police reform in Arcata. Meeting dates and agendas can be found here.