BONNIE JAMES | DAILY EVERGREEN FILE
In Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins’ open letter, he wrote that he is committed to holding himself and his department accountable so the tragedy in Minneapolis will not repeat itself in Pullman.
“Condemnation of unacceptable conduct by law enforcement officers is not enough,” Jenkins wrote. “Law enforcement leaders must take a stand and take action.”
In his letter, Jenkins linked an accompanying six-page document that states several of the department’s practices, training and policies. This includes information about complaints, use of force, body-worn cameras (BWC’s), and the department’s policing philosophy.
“Providing this information is not an attempt to say we have done everything that we need to do,” he wrote, “it is to say that we are giving our best effort.”
Filing a Complaint
Filing a complaint against a Pullman police officer can be done in several ways, Jenkins said. A person can call or email the police department or fill out an online complaint form on the department’s website titled “Feedback Form PPD.” The form can be dropped off at the PPD’s office or sent via mail.
During this process, the officer’s supervisor will review the complaint and will contact the informant for follow-up questions. Jenkins said the supervisor will initiate a formal investigation if the complaint is serious, such as an officer using excessive force.
The investigative process includes notifying the officer about the nature of the complaint, he said. Witnesses are then interviewed and footage from BWCs are reviewed to determine if that complaint is unfounded.
If it is determined that an officer violated a policy, Operations Commander Jake Opgenorth will review the complaint, Jenkins said. Opgenorth will recommend discipline to Jenkins, who will then impose the discipline.
The severity of the discipline depends on the seriousness of the complaint and policy violation involved. Jenkins said this can range from supervisory counseling to job termination.
“We also review complaints to determine if there is a need for specific training, or a policy change or addition,” Jenkins wrote in the document.
When imposing discipline, PPD incorporates an approach called progressive discipline.
“What that means is if there’s a second or subsequent misconduct, then the level of the severity, or the level of the discipline, increases,” Jenkins said.
For the same violation, the discipline can start at supervisory counseling and progress into a week off without pay and eventually job termination.
Complaints are documented in PPD’s early warning system, Jenkins said. When an officer accumulates a certain number of complaints, the system creates an alert that is shared among the department’s supervisors and command staff.
“That gives us kind of a way to try to identify maybe troubling trends before they really develop into something that could be serious,” he said.
Use of Force
Use of force instances are documented in the early warning system as well.
“We classify use of force at a very low level, beginning with just a hold to physically move someone,” Jenkins wrote in the document.
Opgenorth said that anytime officers use force, they are required to report it. He reviews the reports to ensure use of force was justified and the action meets policy. He also examines BWC footage from the officer who used force and from other officers who were at the scene to determine if the report was accurate.
“That’s one of the real, big benefits of having body-worn camera video is that we can go back and really do a full, accurate assessment of use of force by officers,” Jenkins said.
Opgenorth said an internal investigation will occur if the use of force appears to violate policy.
“I’m looking for not just if it’s within policy and within law,” he said, “but also if there’s ways that we can do something better, or if we need to expand our training.”
An outside agency will conduct an independent investigation if the use of force appears to be a criminal violation, according to the document. The Whitman County prosecuting attorney will then review the case for a charging decision.
Last November, a use of force expert conducted a week-long training with PPD’s staff and taught a class titled “Use of Force: Transformative Practices for Trainers and Supervisors,” according to the document.
Jenkins said the expert was invited as a response to some use of force instances that PPD officers were involved in. He said the officers’ actions were within the department’s training at the time.
PPD received backlash when a video of former WSU football player Treshon Broughton’s 2017 arrest circulated on social media.
Broughton allegedly tried to use a fake $20 bill at Bob’s Corner Market, and a person called 911 to report the incident, according to a Whitman County Watch article. A Pullman police officer arrived and asked Broughton for his ID. Broughton ended up on the ground and an officer used a taser on his back. An officer kneed Broughton multiple times as well.
In October 2018, Broughton filed a lawsuit against PPD alleging “excessive force, false reports and malicious prosecution,” according to a Whitman County Watch article. The lawsuit was resolved when Pullman city officials agreed to a $150,000 settlement, which was finalized in July 2019.
“I saw that we needed to change the way that we trained use of force,” Jenkins said. “That’s why I brought this expert in to recalibrate how we look at use of force and how we train use of force.”
Jenkins said there are many gray areas when addressing use of force instances. He said there are things officers can do that are within policy. However, it does not mean that the officers should do it.
“Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should,” Jenkins said. “We want to make sure that we’re only using force when it’s absolutely necessary, and using only that amount of force that’s necessary.”
PPD adopted the use of BWCs in March 2013, according to the document. BWC footage is important evidence when reviewing complaints and use of force instances.
“In addition to use in criminal cases, body-worn camera video helps to hold officers accountable for their interactions with the public,” Jenkins wrote in the document.
Each police officer and code enforcement officer is assigned their own BWC, Jenkins said. They are responsible for uploading the videos after each shift. Each video is tabbed with a case number. Videos are stored in an online storage system for the department’s digital evidence.
PPD currently has a five-year contract with Axon, he said. Axon supplies the department’s BWCs and replaces them every two and a half years. The company also provides PPD with tasers, online storage via a digital evidence management system and other hardware.
Jenkins said footage from in-car cameras are uploaded automatically when the cars are in the department’s vehicle bay. Supervisors do random reviews of videos to ensure officers are complying with policy.
BWCs are not turned on all the time, he said, because there would be too many videos to store in their system.
“We have a policy that outlines when officers have to activate their body-worn cameras,” Jenkins said. “Essentially, it’s anytime that an officer comes into contact with someone where that could be adversarial.”
Training, Guardian Philosophy
Officers receive 720 hours of Basic Law Enforcement Academy training, according to the document. BLEA training focuses on a guardian mentality.
Sean Hendrickson, de-escalation program manager for the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, said the guardian philosophy came from Plato’s “Republic.” He said a guardian is defined as a warrior philosopher.
“What that means is that you absolutely need the skill, the strength and the courage of a warrior,” Hendrickson said. “But you also need the temperance, the wisdom and the gentleness of a philosopher.”
This philosophy connects with PPD’s community-oriented policing, which focuses on the engagement and collaboration of the community. Hendrickson said BLEA teaches officers to be free-thinking problem solvers.
“It’s more of looking for more long-term solutions with the community rather than a lot of times just treating the symptoms of maybe what a longer-term issue is,” Jenkins said.
In addition, officers undergo BLEA de-escalation training. Hendrickson said de-escalation involves “proper patrol tactics that increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome for all parties involved.”
De-escalation is more than just communicating with people, he said. It also focuses on whether or not officers are using enough distance and cover.
New Policy Manual
As PPD continues to seek ways to improve, the department is currently in the process of transitioning into a new policy manual with the help of the company Lexipol, Jenkins said. The new manual can be customized to meet PPD’s needs and will be automatically updated whenever there is a change in laws.
“Once we have that in place, it’s going to be a really good thing for us,” Jenkins said. “We’ll always have up-to-date policies that reflect current laws and best practices.”
This story has been updated to clarify allegations about Treshon Broughton using a fake $20 bill.