The head of Nassau’s largest police union called Tuesday for the county’s top cop to delay implementing new use-of-force guidelines, citing concerns about officers not being properly equipped to follow a policy stressing de-escalation methods over physical force.
Police Benevolent Association president James Carver pointed to a lack of widespread distribution of Tasers he said the police department already has in stock. The devices are one of the “intermediate weapons” the guidelines call on officers to use to control suspects before evaluating if more force is needed.
“How am I supposed to follow a policy when I don’t have the equipment?” Carver said at a news conference.
He estimated about 500 out of approximately 1,300 patrol officers have Tasers in a department of 2,400 members.
Nassau’s acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter said later Tuesday he won’t delay Friday’s launch of the amended use-of-force guidelines.
The policy tweaks follow a prior use-of-force overhaul in 2014, and Krumpter called the guidelines a way for police “to be more transparent” and “to continue to build the trust” in the community.
He said a lack of full distribution of Tasers wasn’t a reason to delay rolling out the new guidelines, and that the weapons hadn’t been given to every officer yet because of budgetary constraints related to training. Krumpter said each officer needs eight hours of Taser training, and he expects about 1,600 to 1,800 department members will be equipped with Tasers by year’s end. In the meantime, he pointed to the other “intermediate weapons” that officers can use, such as Mace and an extendible baton.
Officials said the new guidelines mirror those of the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit think tank that has advised the police department on ethics reform as part of a three-year, $675,000 contract. The agency’s director has described the guidelines as a framework to defuse and slow down a situation “rather than simply rushing in and using force.”
But Carver also said the newly revamped guidelines put too much emphasis on de-escalation and not enough emphasis on officer safety. He said the idea of training officers to think and take a step back could jeopardize their safety.
“While you’re taking that breath,” Carver said, “you could be putting yourself in danger. . . . There’s no timeout in police work.”
Carver also took issue with Krumpter mentioning rifles among weapons officers can use to physically engage suspects. The union leader said while the department has acquired new rifles, they haven’t been deployed in patrol cars yet for coverage around high-target areas because officers haven’t been trained.
But Krumpter said the department already has a significant amount of personnel trained and equipped with rifles. He said a rollout of more rifles to triple or quadruple the amount of officers who have the weapons is being done “in a measured way,” and that training of patrol officers will start in the next couple of weeks.