DPD chief speaks out on major use-of-force policy changes

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DENVER (KDVR) — Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen says changes were needed to improve the department’s use-of-force policy.

“We are in this movement — we have to reevaluate every single thing that we do,” Pazen said.

Under a newly enacted policy, the use of the carotid compression technique is banned.

It used to be permitted in life-threatening situations; now it is banned altogether.

Chokeholds are already banned, per DPD policy.

Any time an officer points his or her gun, the officer must file a report as to why.

Additionally, SWAT officers will be required to turn on their body cameras.

“Arguably, this is the strong and most progressive or one of the strongest and most progressive use-of-force policies anywhere in the country,” Pazen said.

Chokeholds have caused problems in Denver before.

A Denver police officer was suspended for 30 days last year for illegal use of the chokehold technique.

This struggle took place after a man tried to steal a Greyhound bus in Five Points.

At one point, the man says, “I can’t breathe.” He lived and pleaded guilty in the case.

The change in DPD’s policy came after massive protests in Denver over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Andrea Borrego, a professor of criminal justice at Metropolitan State University of Denver, said it should have been done sooner.

“It helps clarify when police officers should or should not use force and so it reduces their discretion,” Borrego said.

Pazen says he wants a clear policy.

“We’re accountable to the people of Denver and by documenting this, it can help us and guide informed decisions moving forwards,” said Pazen.

The chief said the department worked with a citizens’ committee on establishing previous use-of-force policies.

DPD is also working with the Center for Policing Equity.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story stated chokeholds were recently banned. However, they have been prohibited by DPD since 2011.

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