Investigator Finds SPD’s Use of Force Mostly “Reasonable” During July Protest
The City of Springfield released a report Thursday detailing the findings of an investigation into the city police department’s use of force. The document includes a number of recommendations for the Springfield Police Department, but it ultimately concludes most of the officer’s actions were not considered excessive uses of force during the Jul. 29 protest in Thurston.
The report, conducted by use of force expert Rick Braziel since Oct., includes a combination of videos from demonstrations before and during the Jul. 29 protest, computer dispatch logs, community member’s verbal and written testimonies, and other pieces of evidence.
According to a statement from the city, Braziel “did not find specific wrongdoing, malice, or collaboration with counter protesters.”
The findings state SPD’s use of force when initially arresting Black Unity leader Tyshawn Ford was justified as protesters tried to free Ford.
“A Taser was used in drive stun mode to push people back,” stated the report. “Batons were also used against people who were not actively assisting in freeing Ford but were intentionally battering officers by aggressively pushing barricades against them during the struggle. All the uses of force described above were reasonable during the confrontation.”
This comes after The Civil Liberties Defense Center filed a lawsuit in early Mar. on behalf of Black Unity and two community members filming the protest. The suit claims protesters’ constitutional rights were violated by SPD at the demonstration.
The report also states there are “three instances of force that require additional review and scrutiny.” However, the report seems to also justify the additional use of force instances in question.
The first refers to a protester who grabbed an officer’s baton, and the officer hitting the woman in order to regain control of the weapon.
“An officer’s obligation to maintain control of any weapon in their possession is important to the safety of everyone including the officer and the person trying to take the weapon,” stated the report. “The need to quickly regain control of the baton was an obligation of the officer. Given the number of people under and around both the officer and woman the punch was reasonable to regain control of the baton.”
The second and third instances specifically refer to a Black officer’s efforts to place Ford in custody. The report said Officer Durrant’s decision to use a closed fist to hit Ford in the arm and side while Ford “continued to resist by kicking and flailing his arms at officers,” was justified. The action in question comes after a lieutenant came to aid Officer Durrant by using “his body to partially kneel and lay across Ford to control his lower body movements.” Then Officer Durrant used the side of his fist to strike Ford for a third time.
“While the first and second strikes seem reasonable given Ford’s active resistance the third is in question,” stated the report.
Braziel’s recommendations include another investigation be conducted to specifically look at the use of force taken place when arresting Ford, as well as suggesting SPD adopt a policy that requires a review of all use of force incidents that result in an injury requiring a community member or a police officer to seek medical attention.
38 recommendations were included among a variety of topics regarding Command and Coordination, Planning and Preparation, Mental Health, Wellness, and Resilience, Communication, and their After-Action Review Process.
Notable suggestions include SPD creating a Mental Health/Wellness safety officer for their incident command and after-action review process, the creation of a separate tracking system for use of force complaints, and to make more attempts to communicate with protest leaders. This also includes the suggestion for SPD to review/re-train staff using the National Incident Management System (NIMS), and create a standardized Incident Command System (ICS) implementation to outline clear leadership roles among officers.
The Springfield City Council is expected to discuss the findings of the report at an upcoming city council meeting.