North Texas Daily

Lawmen dispute McMillan attorney’s claim on ‘use-of-force continuum’

Lawmen dispute McMillan attorney’s claim on ‘use-of-force continuum’

March 10
02:57 2016

Tiffany Ditto | @TiffanyDitto

Laura Cortez | @Laura_Cortez94

Some law enforcement officers and educators have joined the debate on whether UNT police Cpl. Stephen Bean moved too quickly to shoot and kill, rather than subdue, Ryan McMillan.

The debate swirled when McMillan’s attorney, Renee Higginbotham-Brooks, said in a February news conference Bean should not have killed McMillan.

Criminologist Dexter Simpson, who is working on the case with Higginbotham-Brooks, said Bean failed to employ proper policies taught by the use of force contin-uum. The continuum, he said, is a training technique officers utilize when responding to different situations. He said there are three types: physical force, intermediate force and deadly force.

Denton Police Academy director of training Vernell Dooley pulled out old docu-ments to refresh his memory on the “use of force continuum.”

“The continuum is an outdated technique,” Dooley said. “We don’t teach to a contin-uum anymore and continuum would mean that there’s a beginning, middle and an end. When officers arrive on scene it’s not like they have to start at the beginning, go to the middle, just to get to the end.”

Dooley said officers might need to skip through the steps in the continuum to properly respond to a threat. He said in an active shooter situation, or a situation involving someone harming others, it’s not always a viable option to try and talk the man down before bringing out the gun.

“We stopped teaching that because it leaves the wrong message in the heads of the citizens and officers,” Dooley said.

Along with questioning Bean’s decision, Higgonbotham-Brooks said the parents of McMillan wanted to know whether the officer had access to a Taser, or some other less-than-lethal weapon, when he reached for his gun.

In the wake of McMillan’s death, multiple news outlets — and the attorney — asked to see documents that would reveal the answer to that question. Requests for the answer under the Freedom of Information Act came back empty. But Ian Campbell provided the North Texas Daily with a FOIA return that showed the UNT police do carry Tasers, though it is unclear whether Bean had one on him when he shot McMillan.

“Generally incorporated as part of an agency’s use of force policy, the continuum is often presented in a linear model,” said John Leonard, director of accreditation services at the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators. “With each level of force matched by a corresponding level of subject resistance.”

Travis Parrish, the director of client services and relations from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc., said CALEA standards state an officer is allowed to use deadly force if they are led to believe it is a proper defense for human life. The purpose of this is to clearly define agency policy of guidance for when the use of deadly force is applicable to “prevent unnecessary loss of life.”

“When an officer first encounters an individual, their interaction may begin at any point along the spectrum,” Leonard said. “An officer’s response must be based on the circumstances present at the time.”

There is more than one use of force continuum and federal and state law define its authorization. If authorized, the employing agency then defines it. Force continuum is not presented at all police departments, Leonard said.

Gary Grant, who has 20 years of Texas law enforcement experience, said the use of force continuum is always changing in an effort to improve officer interactions with communities. Grant has worked as an undercover narcotics officer, a police K9 officer, a police motor officer and a SWAT officer.

“The ultimate goal in use of force is for the officer to go home at the end of the shift,” Grant said. “If an officer goes to a call [where] a person is threatening people with a knife, or a gun, the officer is not going to go into that scene holding pepper spray or a Taser. The officer is going to go into the scene using whatever force necessary to de-escalate the situation.”

Grant added that under most use of force policies the officer’s presence is defined as a type of non-lethal force, but still force.

“If a person is holding a knife or a gun the officers are justified in using deadly force,” Grant said.

Featured Image: UNT police have access to a taser, but it is unclear if Cpl. Bean was in possession of one at the time of the shooting. Courtesy | Wikimedia

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