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Police chief reports minimal ‘use of force’ instances in West Jordan

Feb 23, 2022 07:46PM ● By Erin Dixon

The West Jordan Police Department claims a 2.7% use of force during arrests and detentions. (Photo courtesy West Jordan Police Department)

By Erin Dixon | [email protected]

Two years ago, during the “Defund the Police” movement, the City Journals interviewed West Jordan Police Chief, Ken Wallentine.

His response to the movement was: “No one, no one, dislikes a bad cop more than a good cop. We have the responsibility to police our own profession. I’m all for reform steps; I’m all for more transparency in police discipline records. One of the things we’re trying to do is listen very hard.”

In a presentation to the West Jordan City Council this year about the use of force from officers, he said: “I can’t rely on ‘I think it would never happen.’ I have to rely on specific training, specific policy to teach officers to step in appropriately in those situations and make sure they don’t happen.”

The following programs and training are all new since 2019. Some began before the “Defund the Police” movement.

●       Developing and Implementing an Outward Mindset (DIOM) and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI)

●       “Hands-on” techniques and “takedowns,” largely governed by Peace Officer Standards and Tranining (POST)

●       Segmenting: a technique that helps get someone to the ground fairly quickly and put them into control quickly without needing to put a knee on their back or kneeling on their neck and causing injury. All prior officers have taken this course and it is now a part of PD initial training.

●       De-escalation Tactics and Communications: exercises are conducted with virtual reality (VR) programs.

●       Interacting with persons with Autism: training done with family members of people with autism and VR.

“We track any use of force in this city,” Wallentine said. “It’s anything beyond ‘I’m putting a handcuff on you.’ If you pull away, if you fight, if you twist, and we respond to that, it’s a use of force. We only had officers hit people twice in the year [and this was only] when the person was resistant.”

The US Bureau of Justice Statistics collects information from police forces in the country. (These numbers are uses of force on people, not forced entries, accidents or incidents with animals.)

“Those folks will tell you that 16.5% of police contacts for detention or arrest, force is used by an officer,” Wallentine said. “Other sources will tell you 21.6%. West Jordan, 2.7%.”

(These numbers are use of force on people, not forced entries, accidents, incidents with animals.)

In the United States, officers use physical force for one in five arrests, whether that’s a twist lock, a blow, pepper spray, taser, baton or firearm.

In West Jordan, officers only use force for one in 36 arrests or detentions.

Another way to look at what is happening in West Jordan is to consider how many incidents officers respond to, for any reason.

In January to December 2021, 25,355 calls went to the West Jordan police. Officers used force 0.0003% of the time they had face-to-face contact.

How is the use of force tracked?

 “If you use force in the West Jordan police department, a sergeant looks at it immediately, that night,” he said. “Within 48 hours, a lieutenant looks at it and makes sure the report has been entered. Our professional standards, and internal affairs looks at it, and it goes to a deputy chief, then to the chief of police. We review [and ask] ‘Are our officers' behaviors proper? Are our trainings proper?’”

West Jordan officers hand out cards with a QR code to people they interact with. The code brings you to a program where the individual can rate and explain their interactions with the officer. They also mail 50 surveys a month, randomly, to people who've had contact with the police, to encourage more public feedback.

Editor's note: a previous version of this story incorrectly stated the name of the online program.