After the horrific in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, communities throughout the United states are asking reasonable and understandable questions of their local police departments. Just like our community wants, the Walla Walla Police Department wants to make sure a tragedy like Mr. Floyd’s death will not occur here.One of the police reform movements that has garnered a great deal of attention is #8cantwait. The following is an effort to let our community know how the Walla Walla Police Department measures up to the #8cantwait reforms requested, as well as some other overall information about the department.
Yes. We became an accredited agency in 2019.
The purpose of law enforcement agency accreditation is to professionalize the law enforcement industry by providing a review process for agencies to be certified as operating under industry best practices and standards. In 1976, the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) was directed by the Washington State Legislature to develop standards and goals for Washington State Law Enforcement. WASPC has maintained an operational accreditation program since that time.
The current accreditation program was updated in 2007 and is continually updated as needed. The program is overseen by WASPC's Professional Services Committee, Accreditation Commission, and Board of Directors. The membership wanted the program to reflect the highest professional standards of policing yet be financially accessible to any member agency that desired to earn it.
The main differences between previous WASPC accreditation programs and the current program are:
- All standards are "have-to practices" as determined by law or a universal practice within the profession;
- The number of standards is less than 150 but all are mandatory for every agency; and,
- The dominant verification method by the on-site assessors includes the examination of written documents, observations, and interviews with the agency employees. Assessors review agency files for policies and procedures as well as documentation showing the agency is operating under the direction of those policies and procedures. Assessors will also interview agency members to gather additional information.
The Accreditation Committee is responsible for maintaining accreditation standards, directing assigned WASPC staff, and oversight of the program. The Accreditation Commission is responsible for reviewing accreditation on-site reports and making recommendations to the Board of Directors on whether an agency should receive WASPC Accreditation. The Board of Directors is responsible for conferring accreditation.
Becoming a police officer at the City of Walla Walla requires a series of steps an applicant must successfully pass before proceeding forward in the hiring process. Entry-level applicants begin by taking the civil service test in which they must complete a written and physical examination and an oral interview panel. Upon successful completion, the applicants are placed on an eligibility list and ranked by their overall scores.
When a police officer position becomes available, the top five names from the eligibility list undergo a preliminary background investigation. Upon successful completion of the preliminary background investigation, the top five applicants are invited to an interview with the Chief of Police and Captains. The Chief makes the final selection for hiring and offers the applicant a conditional offer of employment.
To complete the conditionals for employment, the applicant must successfully pass a
- Psychological Examination
- Physical Examination
- Extensive Background Investigation
No. “Chokeholds” and “Strangleholds” are designed to restrict the flow of oxygen to the brain. These types of holds are not allowed by our officers.
Our officers may utilize a carotid control hold (sometimes also referred to as LVNR), if trained and reasonable based on the circumstances. The carotid control hold is different that a “chokehold” or “stranglehold” in that it does not restrict the flow of oxygen to the brain.
WWPD Use of Force Police section 300.3.4 Carotid Control Hold covers the use of carotid control holds in more detail.
No, it does not ban shooting at vehicles, but does detail the circumstances under which this is allowed.
WWPD Use of Force Policy 300.4.1 (Shooting at or from Moving Vehicles) states, “Shots fired at or from a moving vehicle are rarely effective. Officers should move out of the path of an approaching vehicle instead of discharging their firearm at the vehicle or any of its occupants. An officer should only discharge a firearm at a moving vehicle or its occupants when the officer reasonably believes there are no other reasonable means available to avert the threat of the vehicle, or if deadly force other than the vehicle is directed at the officer or others. Officers should not shoot at any part of a vehicle in an attempt to disable the vehicle.”
Use of Force Policy section 300.4(b) discusses the use of verbal warning during deadly force encounters.“An officer may use deadly force to stop a fleeing subject when the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed, or intends to commit, a felony involving the infliction or threatened infliction of serious bodily injury or death, and the officer reasonably believes that there is an imminent risk of serious bodily injury or death to any other person if the subject is not immediately apprehended. Under such circumstances, a verbal warning should precede the use of deadly force, where feasible.”
Yes. Use of Force policy 300.2.1 (Duty to Intercede) states, “Any officer present and observing another officer using force that is clearly beyond that which is objectively reasonable under the circumstances shall, when in a position to do so, intercede to prevent the use of unreasonable force. An officer who observes another employee use force that exceeds the degree of force permitted by law should promptly report these observations to a supervisor.”
Policy 402.4 (Officer Responsibilities) states, “Every officer of this department shall perform his/her duties in a fair and objective manner and is responsible for promptly reporting any suspected or known instances of bias-based policing to a supervisor. Officers should, when reasonable to do so, intervene to prevent any biased-based actions by another officer.”
The concept of a “Use of Force Continuum” is no longer considered an industry best practice and refers to an outdated use of force model. As an accredited agency, we established policies and procedures for the necessary, reasonable, and legal use of force that ensures those decisions are made in a professional, impartial, and safe manner, and that there is an understanding and appreciation for the limitations on the authority to use force.
De-escalation training is mandatory for all Walla Walla Police Department sworn personnel. Washington state law mandates that all officers most complete a minimum of 40 hours of continuing de-escalation and mental health training every three years, as provided in WAC 139.11.020 and WAC 139.11.060.
Policy 208.4(b) (Training Policy) states that all officers must complete a minimum of 40 hours of continuing de-escalation and mental health training every three years, as provided in WAC 139-11-020 and WAC 139-11-060.
No. Currently our officers are not equipped with body worn cameras (body cams). The Chief’s decision on this issue is not simply an arbitrary one. The Chief was asked a few years back to speak on this issue at the Pacific NW Digital Government Summit. At that time, he outlined three reasons why he opposes the use of body cams:
1. Usefulness – do they help accomplish our mission?
a. Prosecution – is the video helpful at trial? In our case, the answer is no from our prosecutor.
b. Incomplete Record
i. Too much importance is given to a small piece of the contact.
ii. One-dimensional view of the incident.
iii. Should a 5 second video clip, selected and run continuously by the media define our department?
iv. Security – securing the record from YouTube, social media, etc.
c. Retention – Servers or Cloud
d. Records Clerk – one full-time employee just to respond to Freedom of Information Act/Public Disclosure Requests.
3. What about transparency?
a. Transparency vs. Authenticity – Enron was transparent, just not authentic.
b. One-dimensional – a short video clip is not “transparency”
c. Come on a ride-a-long – Get the full picture of who our officers are, what they do, and how they do it.
d. Transparency is not always a good thing – i.e., sexual assault victim interviews.The Walla Walla Police Department continues to review and rethink its position on this issue regularly. At this point, at least for our department, the issues with body cams outweigh their value.
Yes. In order to maintain State Accreditation, we are required to have a policy for personnel to submit a Use of Force report to the agency Chief or designee when the officer:
- Discharges a firearm (other than routing training or recreational purposes)
- Takes any action that is capable of injuring a person
Officers are required to provide a written report for any Use of Force incident in which they are involved. Uses of Force are reviewed by supervisory and Command-level staff to ensure that it is in line with training, policy, and best practices. Please see Policy 300.5 (Reporting the Use of Force) for more information. This policy also discusses supervisor notification and responsibilities.To be a State Accredited Agency, we are required to have annual management and analysis, with final review approved by the Chief of Police, of Use of Force events. Please see Policy 300.9 (Use of Force Analysis) for more information.
We recognize that the use of force by law enforcement personnel is a matter of critical concern, both to the public and to the law enforcement community. Our use of force policy and training is based on the concept of reasonable and necessary. Officers shall use only the amount of force that reasonably appears necessary given the facts and circumstances perceived by the officer at the time of the event to accomplish a legitimate law enforcement purpose.
Our officers are trained to understand their options within the context of volatile situations and apply the appropriate level of reasonable and necessary force to safely bring resolution. Please see Policy 300.3 (Use of Force) for more information.