Duluth Police Department Updates Use-of-Force Policies

This comes in the wake of George Floyd's death in the Twin Cities leading the community to urge the police to review their policies and make sure that they are using their best practices. 

DULUTH, Minn. – The Duluth Police Department’s Chief Mike Tusken announced on Thursday updates to the department’s use-of-force policy.

This comes in the wake of George Floyd’s death in the Twin Cities leading the community to urge the police to review their policies and make sure that they are using their best practices.

In 2019, only 0.15% of all calls involved use of force. That’s 158 uses of force for the 100,766 calls for service in the city of Duluth.

The DPD said on Thursday they wanted to make sure their use of force policies were updated to be clear for officers and the community as a whole.

A video from June from the Duluth Police Department shows one example of an incident involving use of force.

Chief Tusken said the officer was within his right to use knee strikes as the suspect was resisting arrest and minutes before had tried to run from police when they asked him to stop.

Nearly one month ago, the DPD audited their use-of-force policies and the chief says that they found they are using best practices.

On Thursday, the department said it was updating its written policies in light of the George Floyd protests, with the chief adding that he welcomes the calls for more transparency.

“We embrace an environment of change and seek continuous improvement,” said Chief Tusken.

Some of the updates are an official ban of chokeholds and strangleholds, the tactic that contributed to George Floyd’s death, which the department says they have not used as a tactic in more than 20 years, but needed to put it in writing.

“Chokeholds and strangleholds are not an approved use of force at DPD and are considered deadly force,” said Chief Tusken.

“We just wanted to make sure it’s down on paper for our officers and for the public to see,” said Sgt. Joel Olejnicak, who heads up the training officer development unit at the Duluth Police Department.

Other updates require officers to report any usage of force above putting on handcuffs.

This includes using tasers or less-lethal firearms.

The new policies also mandate that officers, regardless of tenure or rank, must get involved verbally or physically if another officer is using excessive force.

“Doesn’t matter whether you are the chief or you are a rookie officer working with your field training officer it’s ok to step in between that to stop that kind of action,” said Sgt. Olejnicak.

Chief Tusken explained that the community can also do its part to prevent situations from escalating by listening to officers’ directions.

“We seek to generate voluntary compliance and use less-lethal alternatives to deadly force. We have added less-lethal alternatives to deadly force in recent years and this enhances the ability to save lives,” said Chief Tusken.

The department has worked for nearly a month making sure their policies reflect the best practices they have been using for several years.

“It’s very clear to me that the department takes seriously its relationship with the community and works hard at it and so I think that these steps are important ones to take to make sure we are tracking those changes in the industry and they are working to make sure we are on top of best practices,” said Noah Schuchman, the chief administrative officer for the City of Duluth.

One of the DPD officers also said that the goal is to get all use of force incidents as close to zero each year as possible.



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