HCSO And Justice

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

There have been a lot of arguments from both sides of the isle over the past few months regarding racism, social justice and other topics in reference to law enforcement. All of this is in an effort to either reform or defund law enforcement. Additionally there have been a host of ideas floated from both sides on what actions should be taken. One of the ideas that has been demanded by social reform advocates is the 8 can’t wait model. This model outlines eight critical areas that need to be addressed by law enforcement. In their statement 8cantwait.org states, “Research shows more restrictive use of force policies can reduce killings by police and save lives. Tell your city to adopt all eight of these policies.”

In my role as a local Union Board Member for the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, I believe these policies are exactly what is needed and should be implemented by all law enforcement agencies. These policies are so on point that many of them have been around and implemented for my entire law enforcement career of 15 years by both Chattanooga Police and the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office. Listed are my thoughts on the eight polices.

1.      Ban chokeholds and strangle holds. In policy. This was taught when I went I went through the police academy in 2005. Exceptions are when you are in a fight for your life, anything goes.

2.      Require De-Escalation. In policy. Again this is great and should be used when appropriate. In late 2018 at Brainerd High School one student walked up to another student and pointed a loaded gun at the back of their head while school was dismissing. The school resource officers successfully de-escalated the situation without a shot being fired and the suspect was taken into custody. On the reverse side, when CPD and HCSO responded to the attack on the Naval Reserve Base in Chattanooga they didn’t take the time to politely ask the suspect to drop his gun. They had to act immediately and yes, violently, to save innocent lives.  

3.      Require a warning before shooting. Same comment as above. In fact during my short 15 years in law enforcement I have seen the “warning shot into the ground” be removed from several agencies policies because of the community stance against it.

4.      Requires exhaust all alternatives before shooting. If anyone thinks that shooting a suspect is the first option, instead of the last resort, for law enforcement then you are delusional. First you will be questioned by a different investigative agency as to the validity of the shooting. Then a district attorney will review the findings and make the determination if criminal charges are applicable. You will be subject to media attention and lawsuits. Keep in mind your family will suffer through this as well due to the stress the incident transfers. All of this is because the officer thought there was no other option. Additionally consider this, your child is in a school where there is an active shooter. Do you wait like in Columbine or like the disgraceful deputy at the Parkland, Fl. shooting and weigh your options? Or do you expect that officer to deal with the threat to save lives?

5.      Duty to intervene. It’s been in our policy and I completely agree with it. Aside having a duty to intervene you have a mandate to report any illegal, immoral, unethical issues as well as policy violations.  

6.      Ban shooting at moving vehicles. The only time I can think that this would be allowed anywhere is if there is a very rare and exigent circumstance. Last time I remember this happening at one of our local agencies, the officer received a very harsh punishment.

7.      Require a use of force continuum.This has been a standard in law enforcement since well before my career in law enforcement. Not only are you taught the use of force continuum in the police academy its reviewed and gone over annually during “in-service” (required 40 hours of annual training for law enforcement). Additionally it is covered in basically every single class that you take that teaches any level of force.

8.      Require comprehensive reporting. I’m glad this is the last topic as yet again, the HCSO does this. If a HCSO deputy has a use of force against an individual you can count on an incident report, probably an arrest report, a use of force report and if warranted an Internal Affairs report and if there is a concern the agency head or DA can request further investigation which will yield more reports. Which 98.5 percent of the time exonerates the officer. The most important part of the comprehensive report is gathering all the facts. Which is why, I’m going to personally change my vote, and not support Glen Scruggs, a sad choice indeed. 

The agencies in the area almost universally have these policies in place and have had them in place for the past at least 10 to 15 years. The eight items from 8cantwait.org should be in every agencies policy. If it’s not, contact you’re elected officials.    

In closing I want to address one last issue. The other week, Commissioner Geter stated she would like to see a 12 member equity task force. I support the decision wholeheartedly. Our community is made up of a diverse population. We need Hispanics, African Americans, Caucasians, our local Serbian community, Indian community, Asian community and Jewish community, just to name a few, involved at the minimums. Person of both genders and all sexual orientations as well as the members of most faith based organizations. America is the great melting pot and despite our differences we have managed to build America in the greatest nation on this planet. I am interested in having a great dialog and finding the issues that affect all communities. To exclude one community is in of its own virtue, racist. To both sides of the isle, get educated, bring facts and let’s move forward.

Mike Korter
Hamilton County President
IBPO Local #673

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