Columbia Police Department updates day-to-day operating policies

Eight policies finalized in August represent the first wave of updates for the Columbia Police Department.
Maria Harper / Graphic Designer

The Columbia Police Department updated eight polices regarding day-to-day operations. The police have plans to make more updates in November, CPD spokeswoman Jill Wieneke said in an email.

Wieneke said under the new system, CPD will review policies at least once a year.

Policies covered in this initial batch of updates include seizure of persons, use of force, restraint and control devices and prisoner searches of the opposite sex statutes.

The eight policies posted on the CPD’s website went into effect mid-August after finalization in June. Wieneke said all officers attended mandatory training sessions before policy implementation.

“Any time we update our policies and procedures to better reflect law enforcement best practices I believe the community is better served and the department operates at a higher level of professionalism,” she said.

Wieneke said these eight updates are a precursor of what's to come. She said the unit's entire manual will be updated when the department receives new software in late November. The Command Staff chose to update these policies before the rest because they affect the department's daily operations.

"We have been working on policy updates for quite a while," Wieneke said. "It is a daunting task. Law enforcement and the law itself is always evolving and it can be difficult to keep up with. It is important that our policies are reviewed periodically to make sure we are keeping up with changes."

Wieneke said the policy updates were not made in response to an incident of excessive force against a man in a holding cell Aug. 15. Rather, they had been in the works for months.

The man had been arrested on two outstanding felony warrants and was pepper-sprayed for resisting arrest prior to being taken in. From a security camera, the man could be seen pacing the holding cell covering his eyes with a paper towel and yelling.

Officers entered the cell, pushed the man against the wall and handcuffed him. One of the officers had blood visible on his forearms after the confrontation. Police Chief Ken Burton fired an officer involved, an 18-year CPD veteran, after the incident.

The updated Use of Force policy states that the use of unreasonable force has never been tolerated because it degrades the community's confidence in the police, exposes officers to legal and physical hazards and violates Constitutional rights police are sworn to uphold and protect.

The use of force policy acknowledges that "reasonableness" is a subjective word, but lists characteristics that officers use to analyze whether or not force is justifiable at the time of apprehension.

Some factors the policy states that officers should take into consideration before using force include whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of officers or others, the severity of the crime at issue, the physical condition of both the officer and the suspect, the suspect's mental state and the suspect's alcohol- or drug-related condition.

Wieneke said the department took other measures of education and training after the August incident, but the policy update was not intended as a direct response.

“The Training and Recruitment Unit is working on some training for officers on dealing with unruly people in holding cells,” she said. “The chief also has created a policy that prisoners are not handcuffed to the rings in the holding cells without a supervisor's approval, and they must be present.”

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