With the approval of the Board of Public Safety, the Fort Wayne Police Department will be changing its policies on excessive force.
Gone now are the words excessive force, replaced with what is becoming a more-common term: unreasonable force. The changes became official with a unanimous vote by the board Monday evening.
The penalties for using unreasonable force are consistent with other Class E reprimands – a one-day suspension handed down by the chief of police.
But added to the new policies are provisions for unreasonable force causing serious bodily injury. Drawing from the Indiana criminal codes definition of serious bodily injury, the term includes injuries that cause serious risk of death, serious permanent disfigurement, unconsciousness, extreme pain, permanent or protracted loss of function of parts of the body, or the loss of a fetus.
If unreasonable force causes serious bodily injury, the offense becomes a Class B reprimand and puts the officer under the board of public safetys jurisdiction for the purpose of discipline and could involve suspensions longer than five days or termination, said Police Chief Rusty York. Chiefs can hand out suspensions of only five days or less, York said.
In the past five years, there have been only four or five proven incidents of excessive force within the department, York said.
But accusations of the use of excessive or unreasonable force have increased around the country because so many encounters with police are now captured on video by the public, York told the board. It is now a way of life, York said of the ubiquitous cameras.
In other news, two officers received one-day suspensions for improper conduct and investigative negligence.