In 2014 in response to the recommendations put forth by the Police Executive Research Forum, the Dane County Sheriff’s office took a hard look at our policies, procedures, and agency culture. As a result, we discovered areas where we were unintentionally lacking in transparency, sensitivity to the cultures we serve and protect, and accountability. We immediately went to work by forming committees and workgroups to address issues such as fair and impartial policing and creating a clear and concise mission statement and vision for our staff and community.
In 2015, our efforts were realized and published to the department via our code of conduct. In essence, we developed policies and procedures that incorporate what is now in a concise initiative requested by our community in 2020, “8 can’t wait.” Because this initiative came after the development of our code of conduct and the work we did between 2014 and 2020, we were careful to not make an immediate statement but rather review and research our current practices to ensure they are in line with what our community expects from us. We are pleased to share with you what we are currently doing and announce that we will once again be looking inward to ensure that we are representing our communities as the guardians of all who live within it. We hope that you can rest assured that the Dane County Sheriff’s Office, guided by our core values, are committed to providing a safe and secure community through professional service and partnerships.
The DCSO policy states “When practical, deputies shall identify themselves and state their intent to shoot or use deadly force before doing so.” This is in compliance with the Supreme Court case that covers verbal warnings in the use of deadly force (specifically Tennessee V Garner). It is important to recognize that there are times when giving a warning will potentially create a greater risk of danger for both the deputy and the lives of others. We train in a simulator and on the range when verbal announcements are tactically sound and when they are not. Specifically, in 1st session in-service in 2019, we covered that a verbal warning should be given if you have sufficient time, distance, cover and it would not increase or prolong the danger to self or others. We also trained this in 4th session in 2019 when covering our response to active shooter threats.
The DCSO policy lays out the circumstances that must be met to justify the use of deadly force by using the state’s justification for the use of deadly force. It does not specifically mention preclusion, but preclusion is included in all State use of deadly force training. We have also talked about preclusion, at our last several in-services when we have covered deadly force. Specifically, we discussed it in-depth at the 1st session in 2019 with specific points on Deadly Force being the last resort and how preclusion is a necessary part of the decision making process.
As far back as 2005, the Dane County Sheriff’s Office has trained deputies to intervene when their partners are acting outside of policy or are acting offensively in any manner through a Professional Communications Skills concept titled, “Contact Officer Override.” Our Use of Force Policy, #200.520, includes a parameter which states that Deputies are expected to prevent misuse of force, intervene in situations involving misuse of force, and report any misuse of force to a supervisor.
In 2014 deputies participated in “Below 100” training which included a section titled, “courageous conversations” which gave recommendations on how to intervene when they notice their partner behaving inappropriately or in a manner that could injure the deputy and/or our clients. In addition to training our incumbent deputies, we use the State of Wisconsin academy required training for our new hires which includes Contact Officer Override training in both Professional Communications Skills and Ethics portions of training.
The Dane County Sheriff’s Office recognizes that any apprehension of suspects operating a motor vehicle is a danger to the public, the deputies involved, and to the suspect. Because of the inherent danger involved, our Pursuit Policy, # 200.140 states that the decision to pursue a vehicle must be based on the deputy’s conclusion that the necessity of immediate apprehension outweighs the risk to the community should the suspect remain at large.
Our Use of Force Policy, #200.520 further instructs that deadly force is justified when the suspect/suspect’s actions have caused or imminently threatens to cause death or great bodily harm to the officer or another person or persons. Therefore, by policy, deputies would not be permitted to pursue or shoot at a suspect in a moving vehicle unless the risk to the general public or the deputy is greater than the risk of not shooting at the vehicle.
From the time Deputies are in the Law Enforcement Academy until they retire, they are required to write comprehensive reports detailing their contacts and interactions with a variety of citizens in Dane County, WI. The Dane County Sheriff’s Office requires a full written report in addition to the most fillable forms used to track activity. Each report is reviewed by a supervisor and reports that meet the criteria are reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
According to our Use of Force Policy, #200.250, each deputy involved in a use of force incident where they are required to use a compliance hold (or greater level of force) up to, and including Deadly Force is required to write a report detailing the incident. Any use of force incidents are reviewed internally by the “Use of Force Committee”. Additionally, use of force incidents are tracked and reported using the Uniformed Crime Reporting program to the FBI via the WI Department of Justice.