Law enforcement to hold public hearing

DALLAS — Polk County law enforcement officials are holding a public hearing on Thursday to review proposed change to the county’s response plan to law enforcement use of deadly physical force.

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What: Public hearing on law enforcement deadly force response plan.

When: 7 p.m. Thursday.

Where: Polk County Courthouse conference room, 850 Main St., Dallas.

State law requires each county to have a response plan outlining protocols for investigations, including recommendations on how to decide which agency should investigate deadly force incidents, training and communicating with the public following after an incident.

The planning authority consists of Sheriff Mark Garton, District Attorney Aaron Felton, all city police chiefs, an Oregon State Police representative and a member of the public.

Garton said much of the plan is outlined in state statute, but the county planning authority incorporated some of Marion County’s plan in its proposed revisions.

“Marion County had this plan, so we looked at theirs and used some of their language, but the core of all the language is right out of statute,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of leeway in what we can have. It tells us what we have to have.”

The most noticeable change is the title, revised from “Law Enforcement of Deadly Physical Force Response Plan” to “Law Enforcement Intentional Use of Deadly Physical Force Response Plan.”

Garton said other changes mostly affect wording.

“There’s no substantive change,” he said.

Those changes include adding a paragraph to the preamble explaining the purpose of the plan. Other revisions include a recommendation that an agency other than the one the involved officer or officers work for investigate incidents. Proposed changes also provide guidelines on how to determine which agency should take the lead on the investigation.

The revised plan outlines when and who should communicate with the public about the incident and investigation: “In order to preserve the integrity of the investigation, the scene supervisor and investigative supervisor shall notify all involved officers to refrain for making public statements about the investigation, until such time as the investigation has concluded and the District Attorney has made a determination regarding the criminal responsibility of all involved persons.”

Also included are guidelines for informing the public about the incident, directed through the district attorney’s office and the lead investigative agency. The plan directs that a public statement be released as soon as possible including: time and location of the incident; condition of any suspect; nature of the intentional use of deadly physical force; and any other information “the district attorney, lead investigative agency, or the involved officer’s agency deems necessary given the particular circumstances of the incident.”

Garton said following the public hearing, the next step is to present the plan to all governing bodies in the county for approval.

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