Englewood Police ahead of reform curve

Department already followed some requirements of new state measure

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The passage of a statewide police reform bill is coinciding with the process of adopting body-worn cameras by Englewood Police, after the Englewood City Council reached a consensus at a June 1 meeting to explore purchasing the equipment.

Senate Bill 217, signed by Gov. Jared Polis on June 19, includes provisions that require police departments to use body-worn cameras and increase data collection pertaining to interactions with the public. Chokeholds are also now banned because of the bill.

Amid protests throughout the nation against police brutality and systemic racism, Senate Bill 217 was born less than a month after George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was killed by Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin. Video of Floyd’s death showed Chauvin, who was charged with second-degree murder, kneeling on Floyd’s neck as Floyd said he couldn’t breathe.

Chad Read, acting commander for Englewood Police, said the department is testing several different body-worn camera manufacturers over a 30- to 60-day period and hopes to install the equipment by the first quarter of 2021.

Denise Maes, public policy director for the ACLU of Colorado, said the community has always asked for body-worn cameras. She said the equipment increases transparency and accountability and added that individuals act better when they are being filmed.

“It’s always good for police departments to look at their practices and procedures to make sure they are aligned with acceptable practices and not consistently involved with officer-involved killings. It’s always good to look at these techniques,” said Maes. “They might be because police officer-involved killings are a little more prominent in the news, but I think it’s always good to look at (practices and procedures).”

Englewood Police had a policy in place before Senate Bill 217 that banned the use of chokeholds and strangleholds unless deadly force was justified.

Instead, the department trains its officers to use Krav Maga — a form of self-defense that combines techniques from karate, wrestling, boxing, judo and aikido — as an arrest control discipline.

“(Chokeholds) are not a technique that have been taught in Krav Maga, and it’s not something in my time here that we have been trained on,” said Read.

Englewood Police routinely cover proper holds and restraints, to include escorts and takedowns along with de-escalation techniques, handcuffing and scenario-based training.

As required by the state, Englewood Police participate in anti-bias training every five years through the Colorado Peace Officer Standards and Training. The department is set to participate in the training again in 2022.

“We all have implicit bias — whether we think we do or don’t. Recognizing those and worrying about those make us better police officers,” said Read.

Englewood Police’s anti-bias and community policing training covers topics like multi-cultural communities, how the community and police can do community policing together, and tragedies and image problems.

Englewood City Councilmember Cheryl Wink, who is Black, said she is confident that what happened to George Floyd wouldn’t happen in Englewood. Wink pointed to how Englewood doesn’t use chokeholds as an example for her reasoning.

In 2018, Wink participated in the Citizens Academy — a nine-week Englewood Police Department program that is designed to provide citizens with an overview and knowledge of police operations.

While participating in the program and being on Englewood City Council, Wink said she learned Englewood Police go above and beyond to serve the community.

“We have a police department that actually cares. I think they are a team of stand-up human beings,” said Wink.

The department is working to implement a restorative justice program — a system of criminal justice that focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community at large, according to city documents.

“We don’t condone what happened in Minneapolis. That is not a technique we would ever teach our officers to use or approve,” said Read. “Simply put, as police officers and as a profession, we can always get better whether because of Minneapolis or something else. We can always better ourselves. We’re human, we’re not perfect. And the more training we do makes us better police officers.”

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