Madison Police Chief, Dane County Sheriff discuss police reform one year after George Floyd’s death

Published: May. 25, 2021 at 6:12 PM CDT|Updated: May. 25, 2021 at 6:50 PM CDT
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DANE COUNTY, Wis. (WMTV) - In the year following George Floyd’s death, many people across the nation are calling for police reform.

Leaders in local law enforcement say their own rules for practices and procedures have evolved.

“Like any profession, when something so egregious happens, you have to stop and take a look,” Madison Police Chief Dr. Shon Barnes said.

Barnes said his department revised language in its Standard Operating Procedures Manual (SOPs) to prohibit the use of chokeholds, except in situations of deadly force.

“No matter what officer looks at that policy, they know we don’t use a chokehold or cardiovascular restraint unless there’s absolutely no other option on the table,” Barnes said.

Dane County Sheriff Kalvin Barrett and his deputies follow the same policy for chokeholds and assess when to use force.

“Our officers’ number one [priority], in our policy are taught to use communication and de-escalation first and always view use of force as a last resort,” Barret said.

“I wish that citizens knew that when officers use force, they see that as a failure. because our number one tool is not found on our belt, it’s found on our face, and when that breaks down, the officer sees that as a failure,” Barnes said.

Use of force is just one major talking point police departments across the country are looking at. Local leaders say this is only the beginning.

“So really taking that balance of understanding what’s working well with other law enforcement agencies but also what does the community needs,” Barrett said.

“We’re constantly evolving, constantly looking at best practices, constantly trying to innovate and do what’s right for our community,” Barnes said.

Some other reforms addressed on this list are no knock warrants, body cameras and de-escalation training.

Madison police officers were also required to take a de-escalation class this spring and expect to have another session of that this upcoming fall.

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