An Open Letter to Humboldt County: 8 Can't Wait and the HCSO
In the last week, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office has received numerous inquiries and messages of support regarding the national campaign, 8 Can’t Wait. Thank you for reaching out and bringing this to our attention. After reviewing the recommendations of this campaign, we’d like to share some clarifying information regarding our current policy and how that compares to the recommendations made by the 8 Can’t Wait campaign.
Three important things to note: The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Policy Manual is accessible for anyone to review on our website at humboldtsheriff.org/transparency. The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office uses Lexipol software to continually update our policies. Lexipol is the nation’s leading provider of public safety policy and training solutions for law enforcement. This system ensures that all policies are aligned with State and Federal law and policies are continuously updated as laws change. In 2019, California passed two pieces of legislation that are relevant to this discussion. AB 392 set a new standard for peace officers’ use of deadly force in California. SB 230 set national precedent by establishing a minimum use of force policy standard for all departments.
8 Can’t Wait Recommendations and Our Current Policies Ban Chokeholds and Strangleholds
On June 11, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office issued a departmental directive immediately suspending the use of the carotid restraint by our deputies. Governor Newsom has instructed the California POST (Commission on Peace Officers Standards and Training) to cease training officers in its use and stated he intended to sign pending legislation that would ban its use throughout the entire state. The decision to suspend the use of carotid restraint will be formally documented in an upcoming update to our use of force policy.
Require De-Escalation This recommendation, while not directly articulated in our policy, is part of the legal standard for all California law enforcement. SB 230 requires that “officers utilize de-escalation techniques, crisis intervention tactics, and other alternatives to force when feasible.” SB 230 also mandates each policy require officers to conduct all duties in a manner that is fair and unbiased. Additionally, SB 230 requires all officers be trained in alternatives to deadly force and de-escalation techniques. Humboldt County Sheriff’s deputies undergo regular training on de-escalation techniques and are taught to first use de-escalation tactics prior to utilizing any type of force. All incoming sheriff’s deputies must complete a 40-hour de-escalation and crisis intervention course taught by crisis intervention specialists. Deputies are also required to complete a de-escalation training certified by California POST. After this initial training, deputies must complete a refresher training every two years.
Require deputies give a verbal warning before shooting This is already included in our current policy in section 300.4. Humboldt County Sheriff’s deputies are required to identify themselves as peace officers and warn that deadly force may be used, when feasible.
Require deputies to exhaust all other reasonable alternatives before deadly force is used Peace officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the amount of force that reasonably appears necessary in any situation. However, per our Use of Force Policy 300.4, if safe and feasible considering the circumstances, Humboldt County Sheriff’s deputies should consider the use of other reasonably available resources and techniques when determining whether to use deadly force.
Require deputies to intervene. This is already in our current policy in section 300.2.1 and is a requirement of SB 230. Humboldt County Sheriff’s deputies are required to intercede when observing another officer using force that is clearly beyond that which is necessary.
Ban shooting at moving vehicles Section 300.4.1 of our current policy limits when a deputy can shoot at a moving vehicle. Deputies are advised to move out of the path of an approaching vehicle instead of discharging their firearm at the vehicle or any of its occupants. Deputies are only authorized to shoot at a moving vehicle or its occupants when the deputy reasonably believes there are no other means available to avert the threat. The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office does not believe an outright prohibition in all circumstances is reasonable as it does not account for situations where the driver of a vehicle may be threatening death or great bodily injury to others.
Require use of force continuum The use of force continuum is an outdated model that has proven impractical, even dangerous, when applied in real life situations. Instead, policies should focus on requiring officers to create space and separation in an attempt to utilize de-escalation techniques, which is captured in the training and policy requirements within SB 230. The appropriate use of force per situation is outlined in the entirety of the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office policy, with specific situations broken down by section. When determining whether to apply force, deputies must take a number of factors into consideration as time and circumstances permit. Per California Penal Code 835a, deputies must only use the amount of force that is reasonably necessary based on the circumstances perceived by the deputy during the time of the event.
Require comprehensive reporting This is already included in our current policy in sections 344.2.2 and 300.5, and is a requirement of SB 230 and AB 71. Deputies must promptly and completely document anytime a deputy points a firearm at any person, uses force against any person, or discharges a firearm. The deputy must also include in that report the factors perceived and why the deputy believed the use of force was reasonable under the circumstances. In 2019, Humboldt County Sheriff’s deputies responded to more than 62,000 calls for service- of which, only 0.07% required a use of force. As noted in our current policy, each reportable use of force is tracked, reviewed and evaluated by a supervisor to ensure the use of force is in legal compliance and within policy.
The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office mission is to protect and serve our community and to earn the public’s trust through compassion and accountability. We take great pride in serving Humboldt County and strive to continue building trust and relationship with our community. We are continuously reviewing our policies to ensure that the services we provide meet the needs of the community. We welcome your feedback. To view our full policy and other information about the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, visit humboldtsheriff.org.