Box Elder County sets new protocol for officers in deadly force incidents

Nov 1 2013 - 9:11am

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PDF: Read a copy of the new protocol for investigation of deadly force cases.

 

BRIGHAM CITY -- In the wake of two police shootings of suspects in the past year, officials have updated the detailed protocol for the investigation of deadly force cases.

Officials here would rather not talk about the 23-page document in those terms because the shootings are rare -- the two latest incidents making for a total of three in recent memory in Box Elder County. They note it also applies to police chases or any incident involving traumatic injury.

Titled "Box Elder County Officer-Involved Critical Incident Investigation Interlocal Agreement," the document was drafted by the County Attorney's Office and was approved by the County Commission on Oct. 2. It is now being circulated among law enforcement agencies around the county for signature.

Local police chiefs asked for the update to the protocol after the recent fatal police incidents, County Attorney Steve Hadfield said. "The shootings kind of brought everyone's attention to the protocol, because it hadn't been used for so long."

County Commission Chairman Ryan Tingey said the main feature of the agreement, as in the past, is the framework for ensuring an outside agency is brought in to investigate the incidents, so departments aren't investigating themselves.

"It shows a willingness for transparency in government," Tingey said.

The new feature is that it allows for any police agency in the state to be brought in to conduct the investigations, Tingey said.

"We're a small enough place that if there's an officer-involved incident that results in traumatic injury, there has to be this kind of protocol in place ... with the potential for lawsuits in these cases," Chief Deputy Sheriff Kevin Potter said. His understanding was that most agencies have signed it or are planning to.

Tingey said the protocol is "definitely" a protection in an increasingly litigious world.

"There are few of these tragic cases that don't bring a lawsuit," he said.

The protocol is detailed, all the way down to who is assigned to secure a crime scene and record who enters it, and when an officer's "employer agency" can have a supervisor present when an officer is being questioned by an investigator.

It delineates the authority of the "employer agency" involved as well as the "venue agency," the latter being the agency in whose jurisdiction a shooting or other incident takes place.

It specifically addresses evidence collection: "Twelve rounds of the same type of ammunition fired will be collected by the criminal investigators from each shooting officer or from another appropriate source if the officer has insufficient similar rounds remaining."

Contact reporter Tim Gurrister at 801-625-4238 or tgurrister@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @tgurrister.

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