Princeton approves police use of force policy

The use of deadly and less than lethal force was discussed at the March 7 Princeton Commissioners meeting.

Commissioners voted unanimously to approve a 16-page General Order submitted by Police Chief Tyrone Sutton.

“This is a policy I’ve been thinking about for a long time,” said Sutton. “We’ve not had a policy dealing with officers involved in shootings. I think we need a policy which goes into some detail.”

Sutton declined to address the specifics of the policy.

“However I will say with the climate of law enforcement changing I have to ensure the police department remains transparent and focus on keeping the community safe as well as officer safety,” said Sutton.

“This policy recognizes that the use of force by law enforcement requires consistent evaluation,” states the approved policy. “Even at its lowest level, the use of force is a serious responsibility.”

The policy states than “when an officer determines that force is necessary, he is authorized to use force only to the degree sufficient to overcome resistance or to protect himself, or another person.”

Also included in the policy is a section on “Pain Compliance Techniques.” “Pain compliance techniques may be very effective in controlling a passive or actively resisting individual.”

The techniques range from physical force where an officer might apply pressure to a suspect’s nerves to the use of a stun gun to subdue the person.

Under “Deadly Force Applications,” officers may use deadly force to protect him or others from what he believes is the “eminent threat of death or serious bodily injury.”

Princeton officers can only apply pain compliance techniques if they’ve received department-approved training and believe it’s the only way to resolve the situation.

Uniformed officers who are trained may carry pepper spray, a collapsible police baton, stun gun and a flashlight while on duty.

New employees aren’t authorized to carry lethal and less than lethal weapons until they are issued copies of the Princeton Police Department Operations Manual and been instructed in the department’s General Orders concerning the use of deadly force.

Off duty officers shouldn’t take forcible police action except when one’s life, valuable property or public order is threatened.

Any use of force must be documented in an incident report. Prior to booking or release, medical assistance should obtained is a suspect has a visible injury, complains of an injury or is unconscious.

Officers whose actions result in death or serious injury will be placed on administrative leave. They also must undergo psychological debriefing.

The State Bureau of Investigations and the Johnston County District Attorney’s office will investigate all deadly force encounters. Princeton Police will also conduct an internal review.

Officers may seek legal representation, at their own expense, through a private attorney, the Fraternal Order of Police or the Police Benevolent Association.

The policy also contains a section on the use of deadly force on animals. It is permitted fro self-defense, to prevent “substantial harm” to the officer or another person or to protect another animal.

With a supervisor’s approval, a seriously injured wild animal may be destroyed. Before that happens, effort must be made to contact the owner or local veterinarian.

Princeton Police Chief Tyrone Sutton

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