8 Can't Wait Project and the Cambridge Police Department

We wanted to take a moment to provide additional information on the questions the Cambridge Police Department has been receiving regarding policies and use-of-force, as we continue to listen and respond to renewed concerns that have surfaced about how policing in America should be.

Transparency and trust in our community with regards to how we protect and serve you is top of mind for us – we understand that the more we are able to open our doors to you on all levels, the more we can connect, communicate, and collaborate. The information provided here is a compilation of information you may find in other areas of our website.

We continually examine our policies to ensure that they not only meet the state’s requirements, but also conform to the very best practices in policing. We feel that most, if not all, directly align with the spirit of what is being asked for in the recommendations, but there are nuances in verbiage. For example, this is how our policies and procedures compare to the 8cantwait.org website’s recommendations:

Ban chokeholds and strangleholds – These techniques are not permitted in our policies.  Our Use of Force policy states officers will not employ carotid control or choke holds. Further, officers will not use any other type of manual holds that are intended or designed to inflict pain or injury.

Require de-escalation – De-escalation is interwoven into the department’s training and operations. De-escalation techniques are regularly included in our continued professional training curriculum.

Require warning before shooting – Whenever practical to do so, our policies require an officer to identify themselves as a police officer if the situation leads to a firearm being pointed at another person and to state their intentions to shoot prior to discharging a firearm.

Exhaust all other means before shooting Our Officers are well-trained on ICAT, which stands for Integrating Communications, Assessment and Tactics. The training, which was a natural evolution to the training that was already in place at CPD, is intended to help officers resolve those situations short of having to result to higher levels of force. Some of the tactics taught include critically thinking through stressful situations, including encouraging officers to take a tactical pause in non-life-threatening situations to evaluate what they might be facing. Overall, officers are instructed to evaluate the use of other reasonably available resources and techniques when determining whether to use deadly force, and deadly force is to be only used when there is an imminent threat of death or serious injury to the officer or another person.

Duty to intervene and stop excessive force by other officers – Our policy mandates an officer to promptly notify a Sector Sergeant whenever an officer has resorted to the use of force, regardless of whether or not any injury was sustained. The Sector Sergeant will then notify the Patrol Supervisor or Shift Commander of the incident.  Additionally, upon observing or otherwise becoming aware of a violation by another member of the department’s rules, procedures or policies, an officer is obligated to report such violation to their superior officer. Officers who do not intervene in an unlawful use of force are criminally liable under joint venture law.

Update: On June 8, 2020, Commissioner Bard announced a new General Order, which is effective immediately, that requires “all sworn members of the Cambridge Police Department present at any scene where physical force is being applied, to either stop, or attempt to stop, another member of the Department when force is being unreasonably applied or is no longer required.” See more: camb.ma/2UpwKWt 

Ban shooting at moving vehicles – Our policy prohibits an officer from discharging a firearm at a moving vehicle. The exception is when the occupants of the vehicle are using it to employ/exert deadly force against the officer or another victim.

Require use-of-force continuum – Law enforcement agencies vary whether they incorporate a use-of-force continuum. Continuums do not require officers start with one level of force before moving to another. Our policies require officers to use only that amount of force that reasonably appears necessary given the facts and totality of the circumstances.  The use-of-force continuum is initially presented to recruits at the Cambridge-Northeastern Police Academy and then reinforced with officers during the annual in-service training program.

Require comprehensive reporting each time an officer uses forces or threatens to do so – All law enforcement actions are documented, including uses of force and threats of force. Every Cambridge Police Officer that uses force or threatens to use force is required to report their actions immediately to a Supervisor. The Professional Standards Unit, which is overseen by a non-sworn staff member, annually produces a report that reviews and analyzes use of force incidents that department personnel were involved with.

For the reasons outlined, we feel our policies are already very close to the recommendations being asked for.  That said, our leadership is more than willing and open to discussing potential changes to our policies, procedures and training, particularly if they lead to increased safety.

To be clear, the Cambridge Police Department recognizes and respects the value of all human life and dignity without prejudice to anyone. We are keenly aware of the systemic injustices and are working hard every day to ensure that every member of our community is treated with the utmost respect and dignity. Most officers have a deep connection to this city, and it remains home to many and their loved ones.

We are fully committed to having further dialogue on these issues and opportunities. and working with all stakeholders to make change a reality not only here in Cambridge, but across the country.

Page was posted on 6/4/2020 4:21 PM
Page was last modified on 6/8/2020 3:30 PM
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