To our community,
On May 30, 2020, I wrote to you to make clear that the Concord Police Department deplores the actions and inactions of the police officers that resulted in the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. The statement also made it clear that we condemn hate in all forms.
I have recently been contacted by members of our community regarding a number of policing issues. Some have asked if our Department has requested or accepted any “military” equipment from the federal government, we have not. Others have asked about body-worn cameras. We are currently in the early stages of formulating a program with implementation expected in the near future. In addition, a group “Concord Indivisible” sent me a letter asking me to address eight specific points. Each of the points had previously been addressed via, policy, training or practices, however we reviewed our Department policies and made updates to ensure there is clarity for our officers and the community.
1. “A ban on chokeholds and strangleholds”: The Concord Police Department’s training is aligned with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Municipal Police Training Committee standards. Our policy reads:
“Prohibition of Chokeholds
• Chokeholds or neck restraints, with or without a device that restricts a person’s airway, are prohibited. (Unless in an extreme circumstance where lethal force is justified.)
• This Department does not accept any training related to the use of chokeholds or neck restraints.”
2. “Requiring deescalation”: De-escalation is stated in our use of force policies and is used whenever possible. Our policy includes, “The Concord Police Department recognizes that the development of skills and abilities allowing an officer to regularly de-escalate confrontations without resorting to force is a hallmark of the professional police officer.” “DE-ESCALATION: The use of tactics, communication skills and other interventions with the goal of non-violent positive compliance with lawful objectives.”
3. “Requiring warning before shooting”: Our use of force policy reads in part, “Where practicable, prior to discharging a firearm, officers shall identify themselves as Concord Police Officers and state their intent to shoot.”
4. “Shooting only as a last resort”: Our use of force policy reads in part, “It is important that officers of this Department exercise the utmost care and restraint when using force. Officers are required to exhaust all other alternatives prior to discharging a firearm.”
5. “Duty to interfere if fellow officers use excessive force”: Included in our code of conduct policy, “All officers of the Police Department should be aware of their personal responsibility during a use of force encounter. Officers shall have an affirmative duty to intervene should they observe a situation in which they perceive more than the necessary use of force is being deployed by a fellow officer.”
6. “A ban on shooting at moving vehicles: Our policy reads, “Officers shall not discharge their firearms at or from a moving vehicle unless there is imminent threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others and there is no reasonable alternative.”
7. “Requiring a use of force continuum”: Our use of force policy includes a use of force continuum which comports with the Municipal Police Training Committee standards that depicts the three (3) elements (Perceived Subject Action(s), Threat Perception, Reasonable Officer Response) which must be considered in determining whether an application of force was objectively reasonable.
8. “Requiring comprehensive reporting” Our policies have included clear reporting guidelines for reporting use of force for over two decades and in addition our Department has submitted data to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Use of Force Data Collection program which was created in January of 2019.
Along with other Massachusetts Police Departments, our Department, embraced the Presidential 21st Century Policing report, which provided a framework to improve policing nationally. Due to recent events, we are enhancing our review of our policies and procedures to ensure that we are comporting with the latest standards and best practices. We will continue to build upon our partnerships with community stakeholders to problem-solve when issues arise, such as our initiatives to link those with mental health issues and substance abuse disorders to needed services. The Concord Police Department is committed to community policing and providing exceptional service.
Joseph F. O’Connor
Chief of Police