Elizabeth police chief suspends choke holds


During the six years that Stephen Hasler has been the chief of police in Elizabeth, he said there have been no complaints filed against the department for use of excessive force, but in light of the tragic death of George Floyd, Hasler sent an email to all police staff suspending any use of the carotid control hold — commonly known as a choke hold.

“Reviewing the Use of Force policy, there is a section on the Carotid Control Hold (300.3.4) which is fundamentally a ‘choke’ hold,” said Hasler. “May I say, no situation would present itself where kneeling on a person’s neck would be deemed justifiable, reasonable or necessary. However in light of the tragedy of late, on June 8 I sent an email to all police staff suspending that section of the policy until reviewed by the State Accreditation Board.”

The Elizabeth Police Department is the only law enforcement in Elbert County that is state accredited, and according to Hasler that means all of its policies and procedures, functions and training have been reviewed by the state. His suspension of the policy allowing choke holds will be in effect until the state hands down its recommendation.

Hasler’s leadership skills were questioned by Elizabeth Board of Trustees Member Ron Weaver during the June 9 trustees’ meeting. Weaver accused Hasler of being “unprofessional, deceitful, disrespectful and showing a lack of leadership.”

Weaver read an email he had written to trustees, and expressed concerns about fears of riots in Parker, and how the department would handle that situation, and claimed that Elizabeth residents do not trust the police department and don’t feel safe in their homes.

“I call your actions disgusting. I can’t believe the lack of organization from the people that we trust to keep us safe,” said Weaver. “I would think we would be able to stay safe in our own homes. The people do not trust Elizabeth Police Department, and the police department has demonstrated the fear that you’ve created. I do not feel safe in my own home with the lack of leadership you provide in our community.”

Weaver questioned the department’s use of body-worn cameras, and demanded to know why Hasler didn’t wear one himself.

“My office is not wired for video or audio recording, we have a designated interview room that is used in case we need to audio and video recordings,” said Hasler. “All operational officers wear a body cam, and there is a spare available if I go out operationally.”

Mayor Pro Tem Angela Ternus defended Hasler and his department, and said she feels safe with the service the department provides.

“I completely trust our police department and I’ve spoken with each of our officers numbers of times,” said Ternus. “Statements made by Trustee Weaver, in my opinion, has nothing to do with our police department. This is a personal vendetta because of issues you have had with the chief and I find it disturbing that we have to go through this every single meeting. I have lived in town for 24 years, and this is the best department and best chief this town has had since I lived here. Many are comfortable with them, and I would disagree with your assessment.”

Hasler said his focus and those of his officers is to keep community members safe and keep lines of communication open.

“We are a very proud organization of very dedicated officers who are very loyal to this town and work hard every day to keep our community safe,” said Hasler.


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