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PD Training and Policies: Questions Answered
Chief Dan O'Neil

To our Auburn Community,

I have received several questions in recent weeks related to the operations of the Auburn Police Department. The following is meant to answer some of the most common questions and provide information to our community. I believe that it is important for this information to be available to the entire community, not just those asking the questions.

Does your Use of Force Policy allow for “chokeholds” and “strangleholds”?
The answer to that question is no. Chokeholds and strangleholds are designed to restrict airflow. Because of the obvious dangers associated with such holds, these types of holds are considered deadly force in our policy. We do allow officers in specific situations the use of Vascular Neck Restraint. This technique in no way compromises airflow and is an effective alternative to other forms of force which are likely to cause injury. The Auburn Police Department has been using Vascular Neck Restraints since 2004. Research shows that the use of a vascular neck restraint reduces injury to both the offender and the officer.

Does your Use of Force Policy require a warning before shooting?
Our department policies are based on a national standard developed through Lexipol. Our policy requires a verbal warning not only before shots are fired but before the use of any force, when feasible.

What are your department Calls for Service, Arrest, and Use of Force statistics?
In 2019, we handled 86,062 calls for service, made 4,606 arrests, which resulted in 214 uses of force. A use of force occurred during 0.25% of all police contacts, or 4.6% of all arrests.

Does your Use of Force Policy require officers to exhaust all alternatives before shooting?
Yes. Officers may use deadly force to protect him/herself or others from what he/she reasonably believes would be an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury.

Does your Use of Force Policy ban shooting at moving vehicles?
Shots at or from a moving vehicle are rarely effective. Officers are advised to move out of the path of an approaching vehicle instead of discharging their firearm at the vehicle or any of its occupants.

Does your Use of Force Policy require a “use of force continuum?”
No. The idea of a use of force continuum is an outdated model. Our policy focuses on fundamental concepts of reasonableness. Officers may only use the amount of force necessary to effect the lawful purpose attended. The reasonableness of force is judged against 17 factors used to determine reasonableness and is in line with the current best practices of the law enforcement profession.

Does your department have a policy requiring officers to intervene or report excessive force?
Yes, the Auburn Police Department has had a policy for several years requiring officers to intervene and report any use of force.

Does your policy require comprehensive reporting?
Yes. Our policy requires that any use of force is immediately reported to the on-duty supervisor. The on-duty supervisor reviews the use of force and then forwards it through the chain of command through the Assistant Chief of Police.

Do your officers have in-car video or body cameras?
Yes, every Auburn Police Vehicle has in car video. Officers who don’t operate patrol vehicles (traffic, parking enforcement, bicycle officers) are equipped with body cameras.

Is the Auburn Police Department a State Accredited Agency?
Yes, the Auburn Police Department is accredited through the Washington Association of Sheriffs & Police Chiefs. The Auburn Police Department also has a policy and procedures manual based on best practices developed through Lexipol. Lexipol employs a group of legal experts who regularly review state and federal law and court decisions on a daily basis.

How does your department connect with your community?
We use social media and attend community events (Kids Day, 4th of July at Les Gove, Farmers Market, Teen Night, National Night Out, Coffee with a Cop, Petpalooza, Shop with a Cop, Special Olympics Torch Run etc). We also host two citizens academies a year and a block watch meeting each quarter. We are continuously looking for ways to increase our community engagement. Some of the things we are considering include a Junior Citizens Academy, Lunch with the Cops, and unplanned regular visits in the community with the new Auburn Police mascot. Unfortunately, the public gathering restrictions as a result of Covid have limited our ability to interact with the community this year as much as we want to.

Does your department conduct training in de-escalation, crisis intervention, and anti-bias training?

De-escalation is covered in these sections of our policy and procedures manual. 

  • Section 207 Training
  • Section 304 Taser and Use of Force
  • Section 430 Crisis Intervention Incidents
  • Section 409 Emergent Detentions
  • Section 433 Civil Disputes

Each year, we conduct four sessions of defensive tactics that all commissioned employees are required to attend. There is an emphasis placed on de-escalation during each session. At the end of the year, we measure the success of this training with mock scenes where officers are required to demonstrate crisis communications and de-escalation.

In addition to defensive tactics, officers get two hours of crisis intervention training through the state. This training focuses on crisis communications and de-escalation. Additionally, the State of Washington requires that 25% of all patrol officers attend a 40 hour crisis intervention training course. The Auburn Police Department exceeds this standard and requires every commissioned officer attend this 40 hour course. Officers also attend bias-based policing training every other year with ethics the year in between. Additionally, all members of the Auburn Police Department will attend a 10 hour course at CJTC related to Implicit Bias. On average, Auburn Police Department employees attend an average of 17,000 hours of training annually.

Does your department have a bias-based policing policy?
Yes, and our department receives bias-based policing training every two years with a policy review each year.

Does your police department have a formal complaint policy?
Yes, our department has a formal complaint policy. A complaint can be filed by calling the on duty sergeant or filing a complaint online at auburnwa.gov/police.

Does the Auburn Police Department have quotas or write traffic tickets just to generate revenue?
There are no quotas (this is illegal) and no rewards or any type of recognition for writing tickets. The Auburn Police Department conducts traffic enforcement in the areas of community with concerns and complaints.

Aside from school zones and community complaints, we focus traffic enforcement on intersections where the highest number of collisions occur. The overall goal of traffic enforcement is safety and not revenue. For each infraction that the City of Auburn issues, the average cost is $139, the City gets about $21 that goes to the general fund.

In 2019, the Auburn Police Department responded to 86,062 calls for service and issued 4,372 traffic infractions. Only 5% of all police contacts in 2019 resulted in a traffic infraction. Specifically, the police department made 7,895 traffic stops, issuing 4,372 infractions. The Auburn Police Department only issued infractions on 55% of all traffic stops. The Auburn police Department places an emphasis on education and safety, not enforcement.

Sincerely, 
Daniel O'Neil
Chief of Police