Norwich Police Department Monthly report for May 2020

An important report with lot's of valuable info

Good Morning Norwich and Upper Valley residents. I hope everyone is staying safe and enjoying life every day. I am posting the latest newsletter from the Norwich Police department so as to keep you informed. It is always loaded with the facts,guidance and advice you need to keep you safe. There is always a nice monthly report with updates of community events that take place and involve the community and the police.

The NPD May 2020 Monthly minutes have been posted.

Link:  https://drive.google.com/file/d/1sDLNcjtWuKSa19ygcX7L72MNWvZQzm4U/view?usp=sharing

May 2020 NPD monthly minutes.pdf

drive.google.com

Below is an excerpt from the minutes...

            Author, artist, and photographer Doe Zantamata once wrote, “It is only in our darkest hours that we may discover the true strength of the brilliant light within ourselves that can never, ever, be dimmed.”  The Norwich Police Department joins together with our colleagues, and our community in expressing great sadness and heartbreak regarding the death of George Floyd.  As leaders in the community we are ever aware that the actions of a few, to often are represented as the action of all.  The unwarranted use of force and neglect of care committed by the Minneapolis police officers on that day, were unconscionable and a disgrace to the career of law enforcement and to the morality of the human race.  These reprehensible acts have created and fueled a sense of distrust and fear between citizens and law enforcement that has spread across the nation.  As police officers we are called on to PROTECT and SERVE, and neither of those responsibilities were met on that day.

            The Norwich Police Department has a rich history of community policing.  We understand and value the importance of relationships and are committed to treating all people fairly and justly.  We work closely with the members of our community, and with those who choose to come to our town to work, play and live; regardless of their race, gender identity, sexual orientation, or religion.   In April of 2020, the Norwich Police drafted a new strategic plan built around the six pillars of policing that were espoused in Presidents Barack Obama’s 2014 Task Force on 21st Century Policing: Building Trust and Legitimacy, Policy and Oversight, Technology and Social Media, Community Policing and Crime Reduction, Training and Education, and Officer Wellness and Safety.  We embrace and adhere to each of those pillars and fully recognize and honor the power and authority given to us as guardians who are charged to serve and protect.  We are called upon to safeguard the dignity and human rights of all, regardless of their circumstances whether a victim, witness, or offender.  Norwich Police officers are leaders in our communities and in our state.  We believe in accountability to the department, to our community, to one another, and to ourselves.  We pledged upon our honor to treat people with dignity and respect, to be transparent in our dealings, and to listen to those whom we interact with.  On that fateful day, the Minneapolis police officers denied Mr.  Floyd his “voice,” failed to be fair and judicious in their dealings, and failed in their duty of care.  The Norwich Police Department has safeguards to prevent such heinous acts. 

            The Norwich Police Department “Response to Resistance” Standard Operating procedure, which has been in effect since February of 2011, and signed off on by every officer employed by the department restricts officers to using the least amount of force necessary to bring an incident under control; “It is the policy of this department that officers will use only reasonable force to bring an incident or event under control.   Reasonable force is only that force which is necessary to accomplish lawful objectives.  All responses to resistance must be objectively reasonable (Ref: SOP1: Section II).”  This is further clarified in section K which states that “once the subject’s active resistance has ceased and control has been gained an officer is no longer authorized to use force.” 

Recognizing that the inaction of the involved officers speaks as loudly as the action of others, it is important to note that the Norwich Police Department requires officers to “immediately provide any necessary medical assistance to the subject to the degree to which they are trained and provide for emergency medical response where needed.”   These policies serve as accountability tools to prevent just such a tragedy.  Annually Norwich Police Officers complete Use of Force training and specifically review the Norwich Police Department Response to Resistance policy to ensure that officers are familiar with and up to date on best practices and current standards.  Officers are instructed regarding the impact of force utilized on various areas of the body and the dangers and potential injuries that can result from that applied force.  The area of the neck, as identified in the Use of Force chart and Use of Force materials in the police academy basic training manual is listed as a “High Risk Target” “Most likely to cause serious injury or death,” and as a “target(s) of last resort” as they “may lead to serious injury or death.”  Officers are instructed at police academy, at their inception into the career field, that application of force to these areas will likely result in deadly force.  It is for that reason that officers are instructed not to strike or apply force to this area unless absolutely necessary to prevent the imminent threat of deadly force by that individual upon another, and is a measure only employed in the most extreme circumstances and only after all lesser means of force have failed or could not be reasonably utilized.

            While I cannot speak to the training of officers in the Minneapolis Police Department, I can speak to the training received by the officers of the Norwich Police Department.  Our agency publicly recognizes in our Standard Operating Procedures the sanctity of human life.  Nowhere in our training at the police academy, in-house, or at regional training sessions, are we instructed on the use or deployment of neck or carotid restraints.  Officers are restricted to utilizing only those applications of force necessary, for which they have received approved police training and to use force only when necessary with de-escalation as the primary goal.  Officers are educated regarding the signs and dangers of positional asphyxia, a condition in which a person laying face down may have inhibited breathing resulting from the compression of the body weight preventing the lungs from being able to fully expand.  Additionally, we have policies in the department that prohibit an officer from securing a handcuffed subject in this position, and policies that require monitoring of any individual detained or taken into custody.  Moreover, officers receive extensive training on various court cases and legal guidelines regarding the application of force, and the constitutional rights all citizens maintain.  These training sessions included instruction around primary factors that officers must consider when applying force to include:  “Severity of the crime, Whether suspect poses immediate threat to safety of officers or others, Whether suspect is actively resisting or attempting to evade, Whether circumstances were tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving (Listed as bullets in training material).”  Officers do not exist in a bubble and we are required to hold one another accountable.  The Norwich Police Department has policies to make certain this occurs.  Standard Operating Procedure 17 makes clear that “All Norwich Police Department personnel are required to promptly report allegations, complaints or knowledge of biased policing or suspected violations …[and] are required to intervene at the time the biased policing incident occurs.”  Furthermore, “the Norwich Police Department is required to report to the Criminal Justice Training Council instances in which officers have willfully engaged in biased law enforcement or substantially deviated from policies prohibiting such enforcement” and to the Attorney General’s Office (20 V.S.A. § 2403 and NPD SOP 17).

            While we are disheartened, dismayed, and angered by these horrific acts we recognize that they have birthed an opportunity for discourse.  We expect more from law enforcement and recognize a need to “do better.”  In every career field, people can point to an individual who refuses to follow the rules, breaks policies, or is described as the bad apple.  I have yet to meet anyone who believes that the acts perpetrated against Mr. Floyd were just or fair, and to focus simply on policies and procedures misses the mark.  We recognize that it is the character of the officers an agency hires that influences their behavior, and the training they receive that most significantly effects the application of their behavior in the field.  Plato is credited with recognizing that “in a republic that honors the core of democracy—the greatest amount of power is given to those called Guardians. Only those with the most impeccable character are chosen to bear the responsibility of protecting the democracy.”  Recognizing this we must as officers strive to be of the most impeccable character, beyond reproach.  The Norwich Police Department holds its officers to the highest of ethical standards, and is comprised of good individuals who serve with honor.  We recognize that we have an obligation to protect and care for those in our charge and we mourn with the nation at the failure of our brothers in law enforcement who failed to do so.

            Understanding that we have policies in place to prevent such tragedies is not enough.  Law enforcement must evaluate the training received and question the culture of hierarchy that is embedded in the academy training curriculum.  The officers on scene who failed to intervene have attempted to justify their behavior by blaming their actions on orders from a higher authority (their Field Training Officer), and on their status as new officers.  The officers at the Norwich Police Department recognize that orders to violate the law or the rights of others are not justified regardless of the  authority issuing such, and we have worked to create a culture that emphasizes the importance of doing that which is right, at all costs making certain that we are “do[ing] the right thing, at the right time, in the right way, for the right reason.”  We are committed to being a part of the solution and to working within the career field to create an environment of fairness, transparency, and equity for all.  We believe this can most effectively be done at the heart of police training where the culture of law enforcement is first embedded in an officer, at the police academy and through training officers.  We recognize the need to reevaluate the role that hierarchy plays, and continue to provide opportunities and outlets for officers to step forward and question others if they see a perceived injustice occurring.  As Elie Weisel stated, “Just as despair can come to one only from other human beings, hope, too, can be given to one only by other human beings.” Together we can be better, and together we can provide hope for a better future.

Chief J. Frank

Norwich, VT Police Department

10 Hazen Street / P.O. Box 311, Norwich, VT 05055

(802)649-1460 (Office)

(802)649-1775 (Fax)

Jennifer.Frank@Vermont.gov

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