Choke holds were prohibited in 2014
In light of the recent national and state spotlight on policing practices, the Solebury supervisors are in the process of reviewing policing policies and procedures.
This also comes after a suggestion by resident John Blevins last month that the township form a citizens’ committee to undertake a review of the role and funding of police in Solebury.
The supervisors say there are no plans to establish such a committee at this time, however if new information becomes available or the situation otherwise changes, action would be taken.
As the supervisors’ review continued, the board enumerated procedures that have already been instituted.
- Choke holds: Since December 2014, the Solebury Police Department has banned the use of “neck restraint control techniques,” which include choke holds. Since very recently there has been a national emphasis on choke holds, Solebury’s police chief has further updated the department’s directive to specifically add the term “choke holds” as a prohibited police action.
- Special department accreditation: The Solebury Police Department carries special accreditation by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association which has only been awarded to about 10 percent of the state police departments. None of the surrounding police departments have this accreditation It includes rules of community engagement procedures addressing de-escalation of stressful situations and sensitivity training. This training also includes cultural and ethnic bias awareness. The department is audited every three years to assure compliance.
- Discharge of a weapon: There has not been an on-duty discharge of a weapon by a member of the Solebury police other than a “mercy” shooting of a critically injured animal or a shooting of a rabid animal in at least 14 years, the tenure of the current police chief.
- Cameras: All township police vehicles are outfitted with cameras. The department is assessing the costs and benefits of bodycams for all officers.
- Under Blevins’ rejected citizens’ committee plan, the group would have considered questions such as:
Are we over-relying on armed officers for public safety services that don’t require a gun and a badge?
Are we tasking armed police with social services, substance abuse prevention and diversion programs, mental health, housing, and animal control duties that would be more appropriately performed by non-uniformed, unarmed employees or contractors?
Should we redirect funding toward other township priorities?
Blevins also suggested the committee review union contracts, cost structure and size of the department, and the role of county and regional cooperation in public safety. It would formulate recommendations regarding engagement in policy forums at county, regional and state levels, and identify opportunities to join with other municipalities, civic organizations and advocacy groups to advocate for specific policies.