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Understanding Use of Force

Baltimore police officers have taken an oath to protect and serve the city’s residents, workers, and visitors. In carrying out these duties, it is the policy and commitment of the Baltimore Police Department to uphold the sanctity of human life, avoid escalation, respect the value and worth of all persons, and seek peaceful resolutions.

 

Use of Force Investigations

All Level 1* and Level 2* uses of force undergo an exhaustive, multi-layered review by an officer's sergeant, lieutenant, captain, and major/commanding officer. Furthermore, in all Level 2 use of force incidents, once the officer's chain-of-command has reviewed the officer's actions, the investigation — including the statements of any involved or witnessing officers, statements of any independent witnesses, statement of the subject(s) on whom force was used, video surveillance, photographs, medical records, body-worn camera footage, and any other available evidence — is forwarded to the Audits and Inspections Division for review by the Use of Force Assessment Unit (UFAU). The UFAU determines whether or not all use of force investigative actions have been taken by the officer's chain of command. If not, the unit returns the report for additional investigation and/or documentation. Additionally, the Performance Review Board (PRB) — comprised of members of all ranks from the Patrol Division, Criminal Investigations Division, Legal Affairs Section, Education & Training, Public Integrity Bureau, and the Audits and Inspections Division — reviews a sample of all Level 2 use of force incidents for compliance with departmental policy and training guidelines. Finally, the Civilian Review Board of Baltimore City (CRB)   is a City agency independent of the Baltimore Police Department, through which members of the public can issue a complaint against officers, including allegations of excessive force.

*Level 1:

  1. Techniques that cause temporary pain or disorientation as a means of gaining compliance, hand control or escort techniques (e.g., elbow grip, wrist grip, or shoulder grip) and pressure point compliance techniques. Force under this category is not reasonably expected to cause injury
  2. Pointing a firearm, less-lethal launcher, or CEW [Taser] at a person
  3. “Displaying the Arc” with a CEW [Taser] as a form of warning
  4. Forcible takedowns that do not result in actual injury or complaint of injury

*Level 2:

  1. Force that causes or could reasonably be expected to cause an injury greater than temporary pain or the use of weapons or techniques listed below, provided they do not otherwise rise to a level 3 use of force
  2. Discharge of a CEW [Taser] in drive-stun or probes deployment, in the direction of a person, including where a CEW [Taser] is fired but misses
  3. Use of OC spray or other chemical agents
  4. Weaponless defense techniques including, but not limited to, open hand strikes, elbow or closed fist strikes and kicks
  5. Discharge of a less-lethal launcher/munitions in the direction of a person
  6. Canine-inflicted injuries that do not rise to a level 3 use of force
  7. Non-weapon strikes to the head, neck, sternum, spine, groin, or kidney area
  8. Striking of a person with a vehicle that does not rise to a level 3 use of force

*Level 3:

  1. Strikes to the head, neck, sternum, spine, groin, or kidney area with an impact weapon
  2. Firearm discharges (including unintentional firearm discharges)
  3. Applications of more than three (3) CEW [Taser] cycles in a single encounter, regardless of the mode or duration of the application, and regardless of whether the applications are by the same or different officers
  4. CEW [Taser] application for longer than 15 seconds whether the application is a single continuous application or from multiple applications
  5. Uses of deadly force/lethal force, loss of consciousness, or injury requiring hospitalization

All *Level 3 uses of force are investigated by the Department’s Special Investigations Response Team (SIRT), a well-trained unit of supervisors and detectives with extensive experience in investigations. At the conclusion of their investigation, and pending any additional criminal investigation or prosecutorial review by the Office of the State's Attorney, the PRB makes a determination on the issues below and provides written recommendations for improvement to the Police Commissioner:

  • Whether the initial police contact was conducted in a manner that was constitutional, consistent with training, and consistent with policy
  • Whether the investigation of the incident was thorough and complete
  • • Whether the member's use of force was necessary, reasonable, and proportional based on the totality of the circumstances
  • Whether the member attempted to de-escalate
  • Whether different tactical decisions could have allowed the member to resolve the incident without the need to use force
  • Whether any deficiencies in policy, training, supervision, tactics, or equipment were identified during the review.

The PRB's decision may result in disciplinary charges, additional training, and/or amendment of Department policies and training practices.

Deadly Force

Deadly force is to be employed only in the most extreme circumstances and when all lesser means of force have failed or could not be reasonably employed. Baltimore police officers respond to roughly 3,300 calls for service every day. The overwhelming majority of these calls are handled without significant incident and result in satisfactory service. Unfortunately, while fulfilling the duty to serve and protect, officers sometimes encounter life-threatening situations, resulting in the use of deadly force to protect themselves and/or citizens.

When an officer uses deadly force, the officer is removed from street duty while the circumstances of the incident and the actions of all involved officers undergo a thorough and unbiased review. The Office of the State's Attorney for Baltimore City reviews all police-involved shootings, as well as other deadly force incidents, for consideration of criminal charges.

Before an officer who has been involved in a shooting is permitted to return to street duty, he or she must meet with a licensed psychological services provider and complete an after-action training program at the firearms range. These measures are taken to ensure the officer is not suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or is otherwise not prepared to return to street duty.

What Is an Officer Involved Shooting?

An officer involved shooting is the discharge of a firearm, whether accidental or intentional, by a police officer, whether on duty or off duty.

Why Do We Post Police Officer Involved Shooting Information?

We post this information to make transparent the Police Department's process and progress when an officer-involved shooting occurs. We believe public trust and confidence in the BPD will increase with an understanding of what our officers encounter, how we prepare them for these encounters, and how we hold them accountable for their actions. We are continuously reviewing and improving our policies and procedures to reflect national best practices, especially those surrounding the critical issue of deadly force.

Training Procedures

Firearms and other use of force (e.g., hands, pepper spray, expandable baton, Taser) training is consistent with and reinforces Police Department policy. Officers receive tactical training and firearms certification in the police academy, annual firearms training while on the force, and mandatory retraining after the discharge of a firearm. This training includes reality-based, decision-making scenarios, and reinforces the fact that most police-citizen interactions are non-violent. Through training, we equip officers with the tools needed to make sound decisions in stressful, rapidly evolving situations. We train officers to use de-escalation techniques and tactical maneuvers that minimize the chances a scenario will call for the use of deadly force.

Use of Forces Policies

The BPD takes the use of deadly/lethal force very seriously. We have an obligation to ensure that officers adhere to federal and state law, as well as stricter standards set forth in Departmental policy. The BPD is further obligated to provide our officers with quality training to ensure that they are well-positioned to comply with these policies.

The Department’s Use of Force policies are under review as part of the Consent Decree Agreement, and current proposed drafts can be found here: https://www.baltimorepolice.org/transparency/draft-policies

Individual Shooting Summaries

For the purposes of this chart, an officer involved shooting refers only to those instances in which an officer discharged a firearm at a person. The case numbers are not always sequential because incidents such as accidental discharges and animal shootings (e.g., to save a child from being attacked by a vicious dog or to end the suffering of a deer that has been struck by a car) are not included in this chart. A summary of each incident will be forthcoming as this new website is further developed and the BPD expands its opportunities to share more information with the public.

The state's attorney may find the police involved shooting justified and decline prosecution, or determine that the shooting is not justified and refer the case to a grand jury for criminal indictment.

Equally important to note is the prohibition on posting the specific rulings and recommendations of the Performance Review Board (PRB). According to Md. Code. Ann., General Provisions Article 4-311(a), the BPD (and other employers) is prohibited from providing personnel record information pertaining to its past and present employees. To comply with this law but also fulfill the public's desire to know what occurs in the PRB, the BPD will publish an annual report of anonymized, aggregated data on the decisions and recommendations of the PRB.

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