Chief's Letter: Community Training & Use of Force

A Letter to the Community regarding Training, Community Outreach, and Use of Force

June 5, 2020

The past couple of weeks has been difficult for the policing profession and the communities it serves. Our hearts are saddened by the horrific events that took place in Minneapolis, and we at the Fayetteville Police Department (FPD) continue to extend our deepest condolences to the family of Mr. George Floyd and the community of Minneapolis, Minnesota. This event has understandably led our citizens to question the Fayetteville Police Department’s tactics and training. Rather than respond individually, I wanted the entire community to know about our community outreach and engagement efforts.  I also wanted the community to know about the training our police officers receive. 

The use of force is a critical issue for both FPD and the community we serve. Unfortunately, there are times when our officers must use force to ensure the safety of our citizens and/or themselves, and our actions must be justifiable within the law, policy, and training guidelines. I am committed to ensuring FPD officers respond to situations with the appropriate level of force, and I also believe critical information about use-of-force situations must be transparent to our community. Our police officers must use judgment and restraint to determine when force may be necessary. That process begins with officer presence, and it includes verbal commands and de-escalation techniques before any actual physical force is used.  FPD is constantly developing best-practice standards for policies and training for our officers while emphasizing concepts of de-escalation, crisis intervention, and utilization of resources that minimize the use of force.

Every use of force requires documentation, including when a weapon is pointed at someone. Use-of-force documents are reviewed by the officer’s sergeant, lieutenant, and captain. They are also forwarded to the Administrative Lieutenant and maintained and analyzed in the department’s Early Warning System (EWS). The Administrative Lieutenant completes a use-of-force analysis each year, and it is available to the public. Use-of-force trends, training issues, and potential problems are identified and included in our annual department-wide training program. Misuse of force is understandably disturbing, and all officer-involved shootings and complaints of misconduct are investigated thoroughly through our Office of Professional Standards (OPS). I hold my officers accountable for any misconduct. However, I also vigorously defend and support my officers when their use of force is justified to protect themselves and our citizens.

We have received several inquiries regarding our police operations as they relate to #8cantwait.org (https://8cantwait.org/).  As outlined throughout this letter, you will find that FPD has long enacted and operated under the recommendations of this organization. A link has been provided below to provide additional information and resources regarding FPD policies.

In 2017, all Fayetteville police officers were equipped with Body-Worn Cameras (BWC). Our BWC policy requires officers to record all contacts with citizens, when possible, in the course of official duties.  The use of a BWC is expected to promote officer safety, strengthen police accountability, create greater operational transparency, promote trust, provide for more effective prosecution, and reduce complaints against officers. BWC footage is a useful tool in providing clarity about police interactions. However, camera footage cannot always provide all the information needed to make a balanced and comprehensive determination about police activity. Videos are just part of a thorough investigation, and the footage often does not tell the entire story. These videos are audited quarterly for quality control and compliance by supervisors.  A link has been provided below for additional information regarding our BWC policy.

In March 2013, FPD became an accredited police department through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), which requires FPD to meet approximately 160 standards to improve our level of service and accountability. Every year, CALEA requires FPD to submit annual reports in areas such as bias-based complaints, bias-based training, recruitment, and as previously mentioned, use of force. One of CALEA’s requirements was for FPD to rename our “Racial Profiling Prohibited” policy to “Bias Based Profiling Prohibited” to be more inclusive of our diverse community. We continually monitor traffic stop and arrest statistics to ensure we are not disproportionately stopping, ticketing, and arresting any race or gender. Our CALEA awards verify our history in developing sound use-of-force policies and general orders. These CALEA awards also show the department’s dedication to use-of-force training.

We consistently strive to work with community leaders and faith-based organizations to build trust, legitimacy, and partnerships. One of these partnerships resulted in this past year’s “Living Room Conversations” program. During these interactions, myself or my command staff engaged with the community in small group focused discussions about race, equity, and diversity, among other issues facing the community and the police department. These are core values of our mission statement here at FPD.

Community outreach continues to be a priority at the Fayetteville Police Department. Each year, we aim to hold more than 200 community outreach events, and if you follow our social media platforms, we regularly post information about these events. We commit to being intentional and conscientious in identifying and engaging with areas of our community where we see elevated instances of crime. Our Department of Justice – Project Safe Neighborhood grant will help us do that and hold us accountable to continue this mission.

We are fortunate and blessed in Fayetteville to have the overwhelming support of our community. In order to maintain unification, we must continue to work together to educate one another on issues, and this is a partnership that requires continuous involvement from all stakeholders. We always seek to change and improve at FPD. My vision for the future is built on the 6 pillars of The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which include building trust and legitimacy, policy and oversight, technology and social media, community policing and crime reduction, training and education, and officer wellness and safety.

Starting next week, we will be highlighting several aspects of our department such as training, policies, use-of-force standards, body-worn cameras, community outreach, the complaint process, and our accreditation programs.  You can find all of the Fayetteville Police Department’s policies on our website here: http://www.fayetteville-ar.gov/3115/FPD-Policies

We update our statistics weekly also. Those can be found here: http://www.fayetteville-ar.gov/3797/Weekly-Summary-Reports.

Respectfully,
Mike Reynolds
Chief of Police