JPD chief, Stutsman County sheriff discuss use of force policy
There is not a single definition for the term "force" but according to Jamestown Chief of Police Scott Edinger and Stutsman County Sheriff Chad Kaiser, there is a single answer as to whether or not local law enforcement officers want to use it.
"Officers don't want to use force," Edinger said.
After the death of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis, protests directed at law enforcement have occurred across the country. Edinger and Kaiser said the local police department and sheriff's office have eight policies totaling 55 pages related to the use of force. Both offices adhere to the same policy.
"The use of force (policy) goes through everything from: what force is, what deadly force is, the duty to intercede, the use of force to effect an arrest, factors used to determine reasonable use of force and pain compliance techniques," Kaiser said. "Then it goes into reporting, medical issues, what supervisors need to do and training."
Edinger said anything up to and including an officer's presence on a scene can be considered a level of force. Edinger said an officer's presence will influence the outcome either deterring or sparking a reaction from an individual.
"From a force perspective, an officer's presence is the lowest level of force," Edinger said. "Anything that could cause serious injury or death would be considered deadly force. A lot of people associate that only with a handgun, but I can tell you it could be one of a million things. It could be a chokehold (and) officers have used their vehicles at times."
Kaiser said officers are often put in situations requiring split-second thinking, largely relying on law enforcement officer training to make decisions regarding what type of force to use and if backup is en route. Kaiser reiterated that all Stutsman County deputies only use the amount of force that is necessary for that situation at that time.
"The thing is with the use of force is you don't know when it is going to happen," Kaiser said. "We don't want to use force on anyone if we don't have to, it all depends on how the situation escalates."
Edinger added that law enforcement officers are not the ones responsible for determining the level of force.
"Law enforcement is responding to the actions of another person," Edinger said. "If we are arresting someone and they are not resisting there is very little force used - there is officer presence and the application of handcuffs probably. But if the person resists, that's when force is used, so they determine when that happens and when that does not happen. That is the proper application."
Kaiser and Edinger stressed the importance of communication with officers. In order to reduce the level of force used, Kaiser said law enforcement officers are trained in what is called "verbal judo."
"We like to talk and if we can talk to them without using force that is what we'll do," Kaiser said. "When a deputy goes to a situation they feel out that situation. If we do have to use force, it is a reasonable force used to effect the arrest and that is it. Nothing over. That is how we have been taught."
Kaiser said the knee position used by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in George Floyd's case is not taught to Stutsman County deputies or JPD officers. The knee position is not deemed permissible by the current force policy. Kaiser also added that unless a suspect is actively trying to flee police custody and there are other officers present, no force except handcuffs and officer presence are used. At this time, JPD and the sheriff's office have not revisited or revised any of the use of force protocols in place.
"I don't want to speak for everybody but I can say here locally we haven't had any issues," Kaiser said of excessive use of force by officers.
Kaiser said whenever any act of force is used by an officer it must be reported formally to law enforcement officials. Edinger said officers must always be conscious of the policies in place when using force and if not followed JPD administers severe repercussions.
"We have never had that issue where anybody has been using excessive force," Kaiser said. "None of my deputies want to hurt anybody. When you do have to use force it is only the force necessary to take care of the situation. That is it. You don't go way over and above and beyond. I would say 99% of it around here - we typically don't have to use force."
Edinger said in his eight years at the helm of the Police Department, there have been no complaints from the community or fellow officers regarding breaches in force policy.
"We are for the people," Kaiser said. "We are there to protect the people and to help the people, the community, all residents of Stutsman County and the ones passing through. That is what we are here for. We are not here to make anybody scared, we're not there to harm anybody at all. We're here to serve them."