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New Haven police finalizes its use of force policy

Danielle Wedderburn
WSHU Public Radio

The New Haven Police Department has finalized a new policy about the use of force by officers. Officers are now required to only do what’s necessary, rather than what’s considered justified later by investigators.

The city Board of Police Commissioners approved the policy on December 14. It was then signed by Police Chief Renee Dominguez and released by the department on December 21. It was written by Commissioner Tracey Meares and Captain David Zannelli.

Zannelli said the change was required by the recent state policing reform bill. The policy mandates officers to only use force or discharge a gun as a last resort, and any violence needs to be necessary and rational to the threat they’re up against.

It also gives officers the authority to intervene when a colleague uses an inappropriate use of force, help any injured person and report any alleged abuse.

Barbara Fair, a member of a 2015 community policing panel under then-Mayor Toni Harp, told Hearst Connecticut Media that the policy is a start but she would like the department to shift further away from allowing force — like strikes and kicks.

“Too much time spent on how much violence is allowable when the department should be working toward zero tolerance for police violence,” Fair said. “Less lethal does not equate to harmless.”

She also stressed the importance of holding officers accountable instead of “bending the law in their favor.”

Any use of force beyond “unresisted handcuffing and general escorting techniques” are reviewed by an immediate supervisor by the end of their shift or once body camera footage is accessible.

The policy went into effect on January 1.

Natalie is a former news fellow with WSHU Public Radio.