SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – As calls mount for police reform in the wake of George Floyd’s death, the Savannah Police Department (SPD) is making an immediate change.
Savannah Police Chief Roy Minter announced Wednesday that his department is suspending training and use of the Bilateral Neck Restraint Technique.
“We are watching the hurt and pain so many people are expressing after the tragic death of George Floyd and are committed to taking new actions to make sure something like this doesn’t happen in Savannah,” Minter said in a statement to News 3. “That starts today with my decision to immediately stop this particular restraint that has led to so much concern and frustration in communities.”
Neck restraints and chokeholds have been criticized in recent years. Some neck restraint techniques cut off blood flow to the brain temporarily, resulting in loss of consciousness. In contrast, chokeholds apply pressure to the windpipe, restricting breathing.
In SPD’s response to the “8 Can’t Wait” policies, introduced by the activist group Campaign Zero, officials say chokeholds aren’t allowed.
Read the department’s response to each of the reforms below.
Ban chokeholds and strangle holds
- Neither technique is allowed by SPD policy.
Require de-escalation training
- All officers are trained in verbal and physical de-escalation training.
Require a warning before shooting
- Our policy states, “A verbal warning will be issued prior to the discharge of a firearm, if practical.”
Exhaust all other means before shooting
- Officers receive training in verbal de-escalation and conflict resolution and are required to use the amount of force that reasonably appears necessary.
Duty to intervene
- Any officer present and observing another officer using force that is clearly beyond that which is objectively reasonable under the circumstances shall, when in a position to do so, intercede. SPD policy also requires that an officer who observes another employee using force that is beyond reasonable under the circumstances promptly report those observations to a supervisor.
- The SPD Oath of Office, Ethics and Conduct Policy states “any employee that observes serious misconduct will take appropriate action to cause the misconduct to immediately cease regardless of rank.”
Ban shooting at moving vehicles
- An Officer WILL NOT discharge a firearm at the occupants of a vehicle (moving or stationary) or from a moving vehicle, except in self-defense or the
defense of another.
- Officers WILL NOT discharge a firearm at a moving vehicle in an attempt to disable the vehicle.
Require use of force continuum
- SPD does not follow a specific continuum for use of physical force as Officers are to operate under state and Federal law which is defined as, “a reasonable amount force and/or minimum amount of force to affect the arrest.”
Require comprehensive reporting
- After any use of force by a member of the department, a supervisor shall be notified, and it shall be documented promptly. All use of force incidents are reviewed by a Precinct Commander or above.
News 3 also spoke to two Savannah city aldermen who have worked actively in the police force. They shared their thoughts on these new policy changes.
“It’s hard to turn on the news and you see some of the atrocious things that are happening nationwide,” Alderman Nick Palumbo said. “We’re really proud that we are following those steps and we’ve adopted those steps and our police department has come a long way over the decades and over time.”
The Savannah Police Department already follows most of the 8 Can’t Wait guidelines.
“They do a good job, we can always do better. we can do better at training, we can do better with how we interact with people,” Purtee said.
Both aldermen tell News 3 they have received emails asking city leaders to defund the Savannah Police Department. Purtee says there have been about 250 that have come in. Right now they say that’s not something they need to do.