Bay Area law enforcement make small changes, reinforce existing policies on use-of-force

In the two weeks since George Floyd’s death while being detained by a Minneapolis police officer, calls for sweeping changes to police policies nationwide have grown louder.

Those conversations are turning into actions. In New Jersey, use-of-force guidelines are being overhauled for the first time in 20 years. City leaders in Minneapolis have banned the use of chokeholds during arrests.

In the Bay Area, the changes vary -- from minor adjustments to outright bans -- but many local law enforcement agencies say the reforms being demanded by protesters are already policy.

Up until May 27, Sarasota police officers could use vascular neck restraint -- or chokeholds -- but two days after Floyd’s death, the chief banned that method of force.

On June 5, Tampa’s mayor reemphasized the city’s current policies, including a ban on chokeholds and shooting as a last resort.

Mayor Jane Castor said during a press conference that the Tampa Police Department "has had these eight policies in place for years," however, in a statement to FOX 13 News, Tampa police public information officer Eddy Durkin said, "the 8cantwait campaign does not accurately reflect the policies and regulations" of the Tampa Police Department.

Durkin said TPD made minor changes to its manual to make policies clearer.

LINK: Watch the press conference with Mayor Castor here:

June 8, Pastor Carlton Childs joined Clearwater police and the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office as they announced clearer language for officers and deputies.

“We’re tired of dying for unnecessary reasons. We’re tired. It’s got to stop. And if not now, then when?” asked Pastor Childs, president of the Upper Pinellas County Ministerial Alliance.

Clearwater PD Chief Dan Slaughter said his officers should know “any blocking of the airway of a handcuffed prisoner is totally unacceptable,” referring to the apparent actions of the officer charged with Floyd’s death.

Also on Monday, St. Petersburg’s police chief revised expectations for his officers.

“We decided to add in the word ‘intervene’ to make it clear to the young officers, to make it clear to the community, that the officer will intervene when they see someone doing something wrong,” Chief Anthony Holloway explained.

The Lakeland Police Department was already working to form a citizen advisory board, which will review interactions between police and citizens, present issues within communities, and evaluate new programs.

At the federal level, House representatives introduced the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, which includes a ban on chokeholds.

As the national discussion continues, Bay Area law enforcement leaders say there is more to do.

‘’We can’t just forget about this and move on, this discussion has to continue,” Chief Slaughter said.