The Santa Clara Police Department (SCPD) is re-evaluating and changing some of its policies after the death of George Floyd and the recent Black Lives Matter protests. The department issued a Commitment to Action in early June and responded to the #8CantWait campaign. Among the changes, a ban of the use of chokeholds by officers unless deadly force is required.
“Governor Newsom instructed POST (State of California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training) to stop training the carotid restraint technique,” said SCPD Chief Pat Nikolai. “POST then decertified their training for the carotid restraint. Based on the changes from POST, as well as the very public concern over the use of the carotid restraint, I instructed our department to immediately change the use of the carotid restraint to be only used in a deadly force situation.”
The department’s use of force policies is one of the many things Nikolai and other city officials will be evaluating in the coming months. They will also review the department’s policies involving body worn cameras.
SCPD Lieutenant Saskia Lagergren says all officers are equipped with body worn cameras. Officers are required to make “every reasonable effort” to activate the body worn camera before making contact in an incident where there is a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity or a violation of law.
“This includes, but is not limited to dispatched calls where criminal activity is reported and/or suspected, self-initiated activities, traffic stops, pedestrian checks or any other investigative or enforcement encounters,” said Lagergren via email.
Officers are also supposed to turn the camera on if any other contact becomes adversarial.
SCPD has an escalating disciplinary process for officers who do not use their body worn cameras or who intentionally turn off the recording to commit a violation of the law or department policy.
According to records, SCPD officers were involved in 100 use of force incidents in 2019. All but four of those incidents were captured on body worn cameras. The ones that were not captured on a body worn camera all occurred at Levi’s Stadium.
“In all four incidents, the force was used either by our per-diem Special Events Officers (SEOs) or plain clothes detectives. SEOs are officers from other surrounding agencies who work at the Stadium events. They are not equipped with body worn cameras since they are employed by other agencies. Our plain clothes detectives do not wear body worn cameras while working in plain clothes,” said Lagergren.
The 100 use of force incidents amount to just 0.16 percent of the incidents officers responded to in 2019. None of the use of force incidents involved carotid restraint.
Only one incident was deadly. On Jan. 5, 2019, an armed man entered the Rotten Robbie gas station on Lafayette Street. The Santa Clara District Attorney’s office says the man fired at least 60 rounds at parked cars, walls and gas pumps before he was shot and killed by police. The District Attorney’s report determined that the officers acted lawfully.
Nikolai has said in the past that he has an open-door policy. If you have comments or concerns for the SCPD they can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling the on-duty Watch Commander at 408-615-4700. There are also instructions on the SCPD website.