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Town police updates force policy to include duty to intervene

Similar reform enacted in Boston

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UPDATED, June 12: The Arlington Police Department has updated its use-of-force policy, requiring officers to intervene in situations where another officer is using unreasonable force, bringing the department in line with all reforms of the "8 Can't Wait" campaign. 

Chief Julie Flaherty reported the policy changes in a June 11 news release. Effective immediately,t every officer present at any scene where physical force is used must stop, or attempt to stop, another officer when force is being inappropriately applied or is no longer required for the safety of the officers or the public.


June 12, 2020: 2 town police unions decry Minn. death, tout advances

Arlington police officers already operate under a use-of-force policy that includes many aspects of the "8 Can't Wait" reforms, as do law enforcement agencies across Massachusetts. Boston police put its own changes into effect June 11, The Globe reported.

With the addition of the duty to intervene, the department's force policy is now fully aligned with all "8 Can't Wait" reforms. That campaign encourages departments to adopt restrictive use-of-force policies, including banning choke holds and strangleholds, requiring de-escalation, requiring officers to provide a verbal warning before shooting, exhausting all alternatives before shooting, implementing a duty to intervene, banning shooting at moving vehicles, requiring a use-of-force continuum and requiring comprehensive reporting of all incidents that resulted in the threat or use of force.

In addition, the department has updated its policy to include further language in its existing ban on neck restraints as well as the requirements for officers to attempt to de-escalate any situation and give verbal warning before using force.

"Our use-of-force policy has for many years included characteristics of the '8 Can't Wait' reforms, and we continuously review our internal policies to evaluate how they may be advanced to protect the welfare of all people," Chief Flaherty said in the release. "Including the duty to intervene requirement reflects not only what the community expects from us, but also what we already expect of our officers on a day to day basis."

In 2019, Arlington police responded to 27,649 calls for service. There were zero complaints for use of excessive force, and there have been zero such complaints so far in 2020.

The department is an accredited law enforcement agency under the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission, a voluntary process that involves a self-assessment and verification by an outside team of reviewers that the department's policies and procedures are in line with best practices not only in Massachusetts but nationally as well.

Drafted by a campaign that emerged in the wake of unrest in Ferguson, Mo., after the fatal 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown, a black teenager, the eight items in the campaign are billed as the first steps in a process that eventually leads to defunding police departments and creating safer societies by increasing focus on living conditions, like housing, public health and fair wages. In the weeks since George Floyd’s death, the campaign has been promoted by Oprah Winfrey, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, and former president Barack Obama, The Globe reported.


June 7, 2020: Chapdelaine decries Floyd death, lauds local protests, prepares for phase 2

Globe, June 11, 2020: Boston police update use-of-force guidelines, pledge to bring innovative peer intervention program to city


This news announcement by Leah Comins was published Thursday, June 11, 2020. The writer works for John Guilfoil Public Relations, which provides news releases to the town. The report was updated June 12, to add Globe reporting and a town link.

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