ACLU Urges Overhaul of Pasco Police Policies

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The City of Pasco’s Police Department needs a thorough overhaul of its policies and training for the use of force, de-escalation of encounters with civilians, engagement with individuals in emotional crisis, and interactions with the Latino community, according to a report the ACLU of Washington issued today. The report is aimed at improving police practices and preventing unnecessary deaths and excessive use of force.

“The Department’s policies are outdated and inadequate. They do not emphasize de-escalation nor do they provide adequate details to guide officers to use force only when necessary. Such guidelines are essential to avoid officers responding based on impulse, anger, or adrenaline,” said ACLU-WA deputy director Jennifer Shaw.

The ACLU-WA undertook the report in response to three high-profile shootings of civilians by Pasco police officers in recent months, in particular the killing of Antonio Zambrano-Montes in February 2015; Zambrano-Montes had been throwing rocks when he was shot fatally by three officers on a busy downtown Pasco street during rush hour.

“Under our Constitution, police use of force must be reasonable and appropriate to the threat of harm. To ensure that officers use force only when necessary, police departments must have clear use of force policies and effective training and supervision to enforce those policies,” said Shaw.

The report pinpoints several areas of concern and offers recommendations for addressing them. Key recommendations address the following:

Proportional Use of Force: The Department needs a much clearer policy for the use of force by officers. It should provide a detailed explanation for each level of force, from grabbing someone by the arm through use of deadly weapons. It should relate the force options available to officers to the types of conduct by individuals what would justify using each type of force.

De-Escalation: The Department’s policies should stress that de-escalating encounters with civilians so that force is not needed is a vital part of policing. Officers should (over) receive training that familiarizes them with how to employ tactics that de-escalate challenging situations. Officers should receive training specifically focused on dealing with people with disabilities or in crisis.

• Ensuring Effective Access to Police Services for Spanish-Speaking Individuals: The Department should recruit, hire, and train more Spanish-English bilingual officers. Spanish-speaking officers should be dispatched to respond the 911 calls involving Spanish-speaking individuals when at all possible, and interpreters should be readily available.

In compiling the report, the ACLU-WA analyzed Pasco Police Department policies, procedures, and training materials in light of the best practices of other police departments and guidance issued by the Department of Justice and other organizations. The ACLU-WA will be advocating for implementation of the report’s recommendations with Pasco officials, organizations, and activists.