Since the death of George Floyd in Minnesota, Pine Bluff Police Chief Kelvin Sergeant has taken an open and honest look into his own departmental police policies to see what changes and updates were needed to ensure officer and public safety.

Since the death of George Floyd in Minnesota, Pine Bluff Police Chief Kelvin Sergeant has taken an open and honest look into his own departmental police policies to see what changes and updates were needed to ensure officer and public safety.

Mirroring a project by Campaign Zero called #8cantwait, Sergeant compared his current policy and procedures to the requests of the organizers.

The campaign is to bring immediate change to police departments around the world by implementing eight vital policies that that can reduce the harm caused by police.

Those eight components include:

• Ban chokeholds and strangleholds

• Require de-escalation

• Require warning before shooting

• Require exhausting all alternatives before shooting

• Duty to intervene

• Ban shooting at moving vehicles

• Require use of force continuum

• Require comprehensive reporting

“One thing I began to see was some of these policies, the Pine Bluff Police Department were already doing, however, they were hid into the existing policies,” said Sergeant. “They didn’t spell them out well or they were not readily available for an officer to recall.”

On June 10, 2020, Sergeant issued a special order to put a ban on the chokehold and stranglehold, a use of force policy that he admitted needed to change.

On June 19, 2020, he followed up with a special order with a duty to intervene.

Policy currently requires officers to report if they see another officer in violation but an update to the policy will require them to physically or verbally do something to stop what shouldn’t be happening.

Failure to intervene would be subject to disciplinary actions.

The order is pending approval of the Mayor and City Council.

Required de-escalation is a technique used to decrease the likelihood that physical force would be necessary and increase the likelihood of cooperation between the officers and subject.

Examples include verbal communication, time and distance, retreat to cover, being patient and call for the assistance of other officers.

“A lot of times in law enforcement we don’t like to retreat but sometimes to get a better viewpoint and to reassess the situation, we have to retreat,” said Sergeant. “The way we’ve done business in the past lets us see how we can de-escalate the situation and change our approach.”

Requiring a warning before shooting is something Sergeant said could be done when possible.

“Sometimes things in this profession go so quick we don’t have time to do certain things,” he said.

The use of force continuum is a policy already implemented by the police department. The levels of force included in the agency is:

Level 1: Verbal Commands

Level 2: Use of hands/minor physical force

Level 3: OC Spray or Taser

Level 4: Baton or other impact weapon

Level 5: Less than lethal projectiles

Level 6: Deadly force

When it comes to shooting at moving vehicles, Sergeant said it is only prohibited when the vehicle is being used at the officer as a weapon or if they are shooting at the officer from the vehicle.

“We’re planning to update our policies,” said Sergeant. “The policies that are presented before you does not mean this is the final. This is just to get the conversation started.”

Sergeant said his willingness as a police agency to change is something he hopes can be a implemented for the entire county.

Sergeant made a valid statement about unity saying,

“One thing I am looking forward to as we are looking at a policy changes, I look forward to speaking to him (Sheriff Lafayette Woods) about it and seeing if this is something we can grab hands together in Jefferson County and Pine Bluff and say as law enforcement in this community this is the approach that we will help unify together.”