by Sayaka Matsuoka and Nicole Zelniker

Marcus Deon Smith. John Neville. Fred Cox Jr. 

As the world mourns the loss of George Floyd a year later, local activists are remembering and calling for accountability for the unarmed Black men who have been killed by law enforcement here in the Triad. After Floyd’s murder, both local and national supporters of police reform, including former President Barack Obama, turned to the “8 Can’t Wait” campaign for answers.

For the purposes of this article, Triad City Beat reached out to the Greensboro Police Department, High Point Police Department, Guilford County Sheriff’s Office, Winston-Salem Police Department, and the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office to see whether or not they have implemented any of the policies outlined in 8 Can’t Wait.

The eight policies were outlined by Campaign Zero, national nonprofit that focuses on analyzing police practices around the country and identifying solutions to end police violence. Their recommendations are as follows:

  1. A ban on chokeholds and strangleholds
  2. Requiring officers to de-escalate situations by communicating with subjects, maintaining distance and eliminating the need to use force
  3. Requiring officers to give a verbal warning before shooting
  4. Requiring officers to exhaust all alternatives, including non-force and less lethal force options, before shooting
  5. Requiring officers to intervene and stop excessive force used by other officers
  6. A complete ban on shooting at moving vehicles
  7. Requiring a use of force continuum that restricts the most severe types of force to the most extreme situations and creates clear policy restrictions on the use of each weapon and tactic
  8. Requiring comprehensive reporting in which officers report each time they use force or threaten to use force against civilians
A screenshot of the 8 Can’t Wait policies.

According to 8 Can’t Wait’s website, the Top 3 policies that have been enacted by cities in the country are the requirements for a use-of-force continuum and for a verbal warning before shooting, as well as a ban on chokeholds. The least-adopted policies are a ban on shooting at moving vehicles, a requirement to exhaust all alternatives before shooting and a requirement to have comprehensive reporting for use of force.

According to data collected by the National Conference of State Legislatures, there are currently 48 bills in the NC state legislature that relate to law enforcement agencies, eight of them pertaining directly to the use of force. A few of them such as HB 757 — which would ensure greater transparency around use of force by officers — and HB 536 — which requires officers to intervene and report excessive use of force — would make two of the 8 Can’t Wait’s proposals state law if passed. Both bills have stalled in committees. 

At the federal level, efforts to pass bipartisan police reform legislation have stalled in recent weeks. Earlier this year, Democrats drafted the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act which would establish a federal registry of police misconduct, increase accountability for officers who commit misconduct, prohibit no-knock warrants in federal drug investigations, and mandate that federal officers use deadly force only as a last resort. The bill passed the Democratic-controlled House in March but has not yet been voted upon by the Senate. 

While the wait for police reform at the federal and state level continues, here’s how our local law enforcement agencies stack up when it comes to the 8 Can’t Wait policies.

GREENSBORO POLICE DEPARTMENT

Greensboro Police Chief Brian James
  1. Ban on chokeholds and strangleholds
    • Implemented: Not really (see details)
    • When: June 2020 by Chief Brian James
    • Details: The department’s change to Directive 1.6.2 did not ban the outright use of strangleholds or chokeholds. Instead, the directive now states that officers are “prohibited from using chokeholds or any technique intended to restrict an individual’s airway, breathing or blood flow unless the officer reasonably believes a situation exists in which deadly force would be appropriate to protect himself.” Marcus Deon Smith was killed by police after being hogtied in 2018.
    • TLDR: Officers can still use chokeholds at their discretion if they feel deadly force is necessary.
  2. De-escalation
    • Implemented: Yes
    • When: Since 2016
    • Details: According to a memo by Chief James on May 2021, “Greensboro police officers have long been encouraged to employ de-escalation techniques whenever possible. Since 2016, officers have received de-escalation training.” Directive 1.6.2 currently reads as follows, “An officer must continually assess the totality of the circumstances and escalate, de-escalate or completely cease any force utilized appropriately.”
    • TLDR: Officers have been receiving de-escalation training since 2016.
  3. Verbal warnings before shooting
    • Implemented: Kind of (see details)
    • When: September 2020 by Chief Brian James
    • Details: Updated Directive 1.6.2 reads as follows, “Where feasible, officers shall verbally warn a subject before the use of deadly force, the use of a Conducted Electrical Weapon, release of chemical munitions or release of police canine.” Compared to the model use-of-force policies outlined by the 8 Can’t Wait campaign, the GPD’s policy lacks this component: that officers “have a reasonable basis for believing that the warning was heard and understood by the individual to whom the warning is directed prior to using deadly force against the individual.”
    • TLDR: Officers have to give a warning but there’s no requirement for making sure individuals heard the warning.
  4. Exhausting all alternatives before shooting
    • Implemented: Yes
    • When: June 2020 by Chief Brian James
    • Details: While there has been language that says officers will use no more force than necessary since 1996, Directive 1.6.2 was updated in June 2020. The current directive reads as follows, “An officer’s decision to utilize any force in a situation is a response to the behavior of the subject(s) involved, and all relevant factors known to the officer. Officers will utilize the minimal amount of force necessary to overcome resistance and effect an arrest.”
    • TLDR: Officers must use the least amount of force necessary arrest someone.
  5. Requiring intervention
    • Implemented: Yes
    • When: June 2020 by Chief Brian James
    • Details: According to Directive 1.5.6, “at any time if an officer witnesses another officer use force in a manner which violates policy and training of the department, the officer shall intervene both verbally and physically if necessary to stop the force. Supervisory notification shall then be made by the officer as soon as possible so that appropriate investigations can begin.”
    • TLDR: Officers must intervene and then report excessive force by other officers.
  6. Ban on shooting at/from moving vehicles
    • Implemented: Yes
    • When: February 2020 by Chief Brian James
    • Details: According to Directive 1.6.4, “officers will not fire any weapon from or at a moving vehicle except to counter an imminent threat of death of serious physical injury to the officer or another person and no other means are reasonably available at that time to avoid or eliminate danger.” Considerations for shooting include whether the person in the vehicle is using or threatening lethal force by means other than the vehicle; whether the vehicle is being used to strike a person and whether all other reasonable means of defense or escape have been used or are not practical. The use of deadly force must cease after the vehicle no longer presents an immediate threat.
    • TLDR: Officers can’t shoot at or from vehicles unless there are no other options; they must stop shooting once the situation is in control.
  7. Use-of-force continuum
    • Implemented: No
    • When: N/A
    • Details: While the GPD directives includes the policy that directs officers to exhaust all alternatives before shooting, it does not have an outline of which weapon to use in which instance. However, it does list the different weapons at the disposal of officers and in what types of situations they may be used. The directives also outline subject resistance levels from passive resistance to aggravated active aggression but tactics or weapons are not assigned to different resistance types.
    • TLDR: A clear use-of-force continuum does not exist within the GPD manual.
  8. Comprehensive reporting 
    • Implemented: Yes
    • When: Unknown
    • Details: According to Directive 1.6.8, “whenever an employee uses force against another person, immediate notification of the employee’s supervisor is required. It is the responsibility of the supervisor to make a thorough investigation of the incident and to forward a report as required. The use-of-force report will be forwarded through the employee’s chain of command. Each member responsible for reviewing the report will review the report to ensure the investigation is complete and any findings are consistent with departmental procedure and applicable state statutes.” The directive also notes that an analysis of the use-of-force incidents will be conducted an a yearly basis which will be sent to the police chief.
    • TLDR: Officers have to notify their supervisors when they use force; an investigation ensues, and a report is created. The reports are analyzed annually.

HIGH POINT POLICE DEPARTMENT

High Point Interim Police Chief Travis Stroud
  1. Ban on chokeholds and strangleholds
    • Implemented: Not really (see details)
    • When: August 2020
    • Details: The department’s policy states that, “Any compression of the neck that restricts a person’s air flow is prohibited unless deadly force would be authorized. Chokeholds are prohibited unless deadly force is authorized.”
    • TLDR: Officers can still use chokeholds if they think deadly force is necessary.
  2. De-escalation
    • Implemented: Yes
    • When: Unknown
    • Details: The department policy is as follows: “De-escalation will be the preferred method to incident resolution through voluntary offender compliance. Officers shall use de-escalation tactics and techniques when safe and in situations where time and circumstances reasonably permit. Officer safety will remain paramount and will not be compromised in an effort to de-escalate a situation. The immediacy of a threat will dictate whether de-escalation tactics or techniques can be reasonably used.” Examples of de-escalation tactics outlined include verbal communication, body language, distance and seeking extra officers.
    • TLDR: Officers are trained to de-escalate situations.
  3. Verbal warnings before shooting
    • Implemented: No (see details)
    • When: Unknown
    • Details: The manual does not state that officers must use verbal warnings before shooting. Instead, it says that “all verbal identification and commands are used as appropriate and necessary by the officer” and that “whenever possible and when such delay will not compromise the safety of the officer or another and will not result in the destruction of evidence, escape of a suspect or commission of a crime, an officer shall allow an individual time and opportunity to submit to verbal commands before force is used.”
    • TLDR: The directives do not state in plain language that officers have to give verbal warning before shooting.
  4. Exhausting all alternatives before shooting
    • Implemented: No
    • When: N/A
    • Details: There is no plain language in the manual that states that officers should use the least amount of force possible before implementing deadly force. Instead, the manual reads as follows: “The [use of force] option used will be left to the sound discretion of the officer based on the actions of the subject.” There is a list of how officers can react based subject compliance, but “officer response options in each force level are not necessarily listed in order of use, need or preference.”
    • TLDR: There is not requirement to exhaust all alternatives before using deadly force.
  5. Requiring intervention
    • Implemented: Yes
    • When: Unknown
    • Details: The manual states that “any member who witnesses excessive force has a duty to physically intervene in an effort to stop the unreasonable action. The member must immediately report this activity to the appropriate commanding officer or the chief through official channels.”
    • TLDR: Officers have to intervene and then report excessive force by other officers.
  6. Ban on shooting at/from moving vehicles
    • Implemented: Kind of
    • When: Unknown
    • Details: According to the manual, officers can’t shoot at moving vehicles unless deadly force is being used against them or another person. Officers also have to move out of the way of the vehicle. However, the policy does not state that they should stop shooting once the situation is in control nor does it state that officers can’t shoot from moving vehicles as suggested by 8 Can’t Wait.
    • TLDR: Officers can’t shoot at vehicles unless deadly force is being used by the occupants but lacks other details suggested by 8 Can’t Wait.
  7. Use-of-force continuum
    • Implemented: No
    • When: N/A
    • Details: While the HPD directives include compliance level for subjects and how officers can handle the situations, it does not clearly state that deadly force can only be used in certain situations. Rather, it states that “the [use of force] option used will be left to the sound discretion of the officer based on the actions of the subject.” There is a list of how officers can react based subject compliance, but “officer response options in each force level are not necessarily listed in order of use, need or preference.”
    • TLDR: A clear use-of-force continuum does not exist within the HPD manual.
  8. Comprehensive reporting 
    • Implemented: Yes
    • When: Unknown
    • Details: The High Point department has a 13-point reporting policy that includes when, who and how to report use of force.
    • TLDR: Officers have to notify their supervisors when they use force; an investigation ensues, and a report is created.

GUILFORD COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE

Guilford County Sheriff Danny Rogers
  1. Ban on chokeholds and strangleholds
    • Implemented: Not really (see details)
    • When: April 2021
    • Details: The department’s policy states that, “except when there is reason to believe the subject presents an imminent threat of death or serious physical injury to a deputy, officer or another person, all GCSO deputies and officers are prohibited from using chokeholds, strangleholds and/or other vascular neck restraints that restrict the subject’s ability to breathe.
    • TLDR: Officers can still use chokeholds if they think there is an imminent threat of death or serious physical injury.
  2. De-escalation
    • Implemented: Yes
    • When: April 2021
    • Details: Department Policy 13.1.3 is as follows: “An officer shall use de-escalation techniques and other alternatives to higher levels of force consistent with his or her training whenever possible and appropriate before resorting to force and to reduce the need for force.”
    • TLDR: Officers are required to de-escalate situations.
  3. Verbal warning before shooting
    • Implemented: No (see details)
    • When: N/A
    • Details: The manual does not state that officers must use verbal warnings before shooting. Instead, it says that “when reasonable… officers shall use advisements, warnings, verbal persuasion, and other tactics… in order to consider or deploy a greater variety of force options.”
    • TLDR: The directives do not state in plain language that officers have to give verbal warning before shooting.
  4. Exhausting all alternatives before shooting
    • Implemented: No
    • When: N/A
    • Details: There is no plain language in the manual that states that officers should use the least amount of force possible before using deadly force. Instead, Directive 13.1.5 of the manual reads as follows: “Officers will only use reasonable force to accomplish lawful objectives and apply de-escalation techniques when possible. Officers are authorized to use whatever degree of force reasonably appears necessary….”
    • TLDR: There is no requirement to exhaust all alternatives before using deadly force.
  5. Requiring intervention 
    • Implemented: Yes
    • When: March 2021
    • Details: Section 1.5.2 of the manual states that “GCSO employees are required to intervene and notify appropriate supervisory authority if they observe another agency employee or public safety associate engage in any unreasonable use of force, or if they become aware of any violation of departmental policy, state or federal law, or local ordinance. 
    • TLDR: Officers have to intervene and then report unreasonable force or violation of policy or law by other officers.
  6. Ban on shooting at/from moving vehicles
    • Implemented: No
    • When: N/A
    • Details: There was no directive in the manual that indicated officers should not shoot at or from moving vehicles.
    • TLDR: There is no rule dictating shooting at or from moving vehicles.
  7. Use-of-force continuum
    • Implemented: No
    • When: N/A
    • Details: The manual states that “an officer may move from any reasonable force option to another reasonable force option depending on the violator’s actions or other relevant factors.
    • TLDR: The manual states that officers can choose reasonable use-of-force options in any form or order.
  8. Comprehensive reporting 
    • Implemented: No
    • When: April 2021
    • Details: The manual does not state that reports are required when officers use force. Instead, the report states that “after receiving notice of a use of force, the on-duty supervisor must determine whether a use of force report is required.”
    • TLDR: Use of force report are not automatically required.

WINSTON-SALEM POLICE DEPARTMENT

Winston-Salem Police Chief Catrina Thompson
  1. Ban on chokeholds and strangleholds
    • Implemented: Not really (see details)
    • When: 1998
    • Details: While the use of chokeholds is not stated in plain language as being banned, the policy states that neither chokeholds nor strangleholds are taught in Winston-Salem’s academy. However, their use of force policy states that “chokeholds are prohibited unless deadly force is authorized under the law.
    • TLDR: The department says they don’t train to use chokeholds, but they don’t have a strict ban.
  2. De-escalation
    • Implemented: Yes
    • When: 1998
    • Details: According to a Facebook infographic by the department, officers receive annual training on de-escalation tactics. An info sheet outlining best practices for de-escalation includes components on mental health, crisis intervention, implicit bias, how to deal with children and community dissent.
    • TLDR: Officers undergo yearly de-escalation training.
  3. Verbal warnings before shooting
    • Implemented: Kind of
    • When: 1998
    • Details: According to the police directives, “when practical, officers should issue a verbal warning prior to the use of deadly force.” Compared to the model use of force policies outlined by the 8 Can’t Wait campaign, the GPD’s policy lacks this component: that officers “have a reasonable basis for believing that the warning was heard and understood by the individual to whom the warning is directed prior to using deadly force against the individual.”
    • TLDR: Officers have to give a warning but no requirement for making sure individuals heard the warning are included.
  4. Exhausting all alternatives before shooting
    • Implemented: No
    • When: N/A
    • Details: According to an analysis by Duke students, the department does not do this and their policy states that “officers may respond to a scene where there is an immediate need to utilize deadly force.”
    • TLDR: There is no requirement to exhaust all alternatives before shooting.
  5. Requiring intervention
    • Implemented: Yes
    • When: 1994
    • Details: According to a “professional responsibility and philosophy of enforcement” document from 2010, “officers have a duty to intervene and report any and all inappropriate actions that they witness of another officer, including supervisors. This includes, but is not limited to, excessive use of force, misuse of authority, and unprofessional actions.”
    • TLDR: Officers must intervene and report inappropriate actions of other officers.
  6. Ban on shooting at/from moving vehicles
    • Implemented: Kind of
    • When: 1998
    • Details: Police directives state that “an officer shall not discharge a firearm from a moving vehicle unless the officer reasonably believes no other means are practical to defend himself or other citizens from the use or imminent use of deadly force.” The policy also notes that officers should not fire at moving vehicles unless the use or imminent use of deadly force is being used against an officer or another person or “there exists an imminent risk of death or serious bodily injury to the officer or another person by an on-coming vehicle and no other means are available at that time to avoid or eliminate the danger because the vehicle is driving directly toward the officer or third person and there is no avenue of escape.”
    • TLDR: Officers can’t shoot at vehicles unless deadly force is being used by the occupants but lacks other details suggested by 8 Can’t Wait like a requirement to stop shooting once the threat is over.
  7. Use-of-force continuum
    • Implemented: Kind of
    • When: 1998
    • Details: While the department provides guidelines as to how much force an officer can use in any given situation, it is not required. The directive reads as follows: “The Use of Force Continuum should be utilized as a guide rather than a specific path to use of force decisions. Officers may respond to a scene where there is an immediate need to utilize deadly force.”
    • TLDR: There is a use of force continuum, but it is not mandatory.
  8. Comprehensive reporting
    • Implemented: Yes
    • When: 1997
    • Details: The department requires officers to “notify their immediate supervisor as soon as possible after an incident involving the use of the Penn Arms Launcher, MLR Launcher, OC, tear gas, baton, CEW, or use of a firearm on a citizen.” 
    • TLDR: The department requires reporting for use of force.

FORSYTH COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE

Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough
  1. Ban on chokeholds and strangleholds
    • Implemented: Not really (see details)
    • When: Unknown
    • Details: The FCSO’s use-of-force policy states that the department does not train in the use of chokeholds and therefore, officers “are prohibited from utilizing chokeholds except in those situations where the use of deadly force is allowed by law.” The policy defines chokeholds as “physical maneuvers that restrict an individual’s ability to breathe for the purposes of incapacitation.”
    • TLDR: The department says they don’t train to use chokeholds, but they don’t have a strict ban.
  2. De-escalation
    • Implemented: Yes
    • When: Unknown
    • Details: According to their use-of-force Directive 375.5.K, “an officer shall use de-escalation techniques and other alternatives to higher levels of force consistent with his or her training whenever possible and appropriate before resorting to force and to reduce the need for force.”
    • TLDR: Officers “shall use de-escalation techniques…whenever possible and appropriate before resorting to force.“
  3. Verbal warnings before shooting
    • Implemented: Kind of
    • When: 1998
    • Details: According to the police directives, “whenever possible and when such delay will not compromise the safety of the officer or another and will not result in the destruction of evidence, escape of a suspect, or commission of a crime, an officer shall allow an individual time and opportunity to submit to verbal commands before force is used.” Compared to the model use of force policies outlined by the 8 Can’t Wait campaign, the FCSO’s policy lacks this component: that officers “have a reasonable basis for believing that the warning was heard and understood by the individual to whom the warning is directed prior to using deadly force against the individual.”
    • TLDR: Officers have to give a warning but no requirement for making sure individuals heard the warning are included.
  4. Exhausting all alternatives before shooting
    • Implemented: Yes
    • When: Unknown
    • Details: According to their use-of-force Directive 375.5.K, “an officer shall use de-escalation techniques and other alternatives to higher levels of force consistent with his or her training whenever possible and appropriate before resorting to force and to reduce the need for force.”
    • TLDR: Officers “shall use… other alternatives to higher levels of force…whenever possible and appropriate before resorting to force.“
  5. Requiring intervention
    • Implemented: Yes
    • When: Unkonwn
    • Details: The department policy states that “any staff member present and observing another staff member using excessive force that is clearly beyond that which is objectively reasonable under the totality of the circumstances shall, when it is safe and reasonable to do so and by any means necessary, intervene to stop the use of excessive force.” The policy also states that officers shall notify their supervisors.
    • TLDR: Officers must intervene and report inappropriate actions of other officers.
  6. Ban on shooting at/from moving vehicles
    • Implemented: No
    • When: N/A
    • Details: There is no directive that bans shooting at or from moving vehicles.
    • TLDR: No such directive exists.
  7. Use-of-force continuum
    • Implemented: Kind of
    • When: Unknown
    • Details: The department uses a “Use-of-Force Circle” to train officers on which kind of force to use in situations but states in their policy that it “is not intended to suggest a graduated sequence of options; officers shall exercise individual judgment in determining the appropriate minimum use-of-force option to employ in a given situation.”
    • TLDR: There is a use of force continuum, but it is not mandatory.
  8. Comprehensive reporting
    • Implemented: Yes
    • When: Unknown
    • Details: The department requires officers to report any use-of-force to supervisors. “The incident must be thoroughly documented in an incident report by the primary officer prior to the end of their tour of duty, unless an extension is granted by the Sheriff or designee.” The Professional Standards Division “shall submit a comprehensive Use-of-Force Analysis… for review on an annual basis or as directed by the Sheriff.”
    • TLDR: The department requires reporting for use of force.

Is 8 Can’t Wait Enough? 

In the wake of George Floyd’s murder last year, national calls for police reform coalesced around eight specific policies that law enforcement agencies could implement to begin departmental change. Now, more than a year later, many in the community view 8 Can’t Wait as a start, but not the end goal.

“It feels like a good start,” said Kay Brown, a member of the Greensboro Criminal Justice Advisory Commission. “These are the eight that couldn’t wait, but what it’s supposed to be moving us toward is, in my opinion, an abolition mindset.”

Brown, as a member of the GCJAC, reviews police procedures and data to come up with recommendations for the police department. She said that the eight policies put forth by 8 Can’t Wait are the bare minimum.

In fact, a Harvard Civil Liberties Law Review article from June 2020 states that many of the policies outlined in the 8 Can’t Wait have already been enacted in major police departments. Even our analysis of local law enforcement departments found that many of the policies were already in place prior to 2020, or that they had been partially implemented.

Because of this, Brown said that there are other policies that should be considered by local law enforcement.

For example, in the last year, GCJAC has brought forth two recommendations to city council. In early 2020, the commission sent a recommendation for written consent for police searches, and in October 2020 they issued a recommendation to cease probable-cause searches based on the smell of marijuana because it is indistinguishable from the smell of smokeable hemp, which is legal. To this date, neither policy has been adopted by the police department.

The other criticism put forth by activists and community members like Brown is that the current police procedures were put in place by the current police chief, Brian James, and that if another chief were to take his place, they would have the authority to get rid of any policies or procedures without consulting city council.

Because of that, Brown and others are pushing for city council to pass ordinances that would codify many of the policies into municipal law, something that is rare across the country.

“I’m wanting our municipalities to take stronger stances on these guidelines,” Brown said. “So if we’re not shooting in moving vehicles, it shouldn’t change with the discretion of the police chief, it should be something we decide as a community.”

Lastly, Brown said that while the implementation of many of the policies in the last year in Greensboro have been positive, that she would like to see data that reflects what impact the policies have had on the community.

“Do the changes that we have made have enough meat on them that they would count?,” Brown asked. “Is it working? Is it not working? Were there positive consequences? Negative consequences? At this point, that’s not known.”

Another fact to consider is whether officers are held accountable for not following the directives. According to TCB’s analysis many of the policies in place use subjective language such as “shall” and “when appropriate.”

The Harvard article argues that this is the most fallible part of the 8 Can’t Wait proposal.

“We cannot control for prejudiced officers, bad-tempered officers, or the very real possibility that an officer may simply break the rules, as Derek Chauvin did in Minneapolis,” the article states.

To combat some of these issues, Brown said she hopes to have conversations with Chief James about these things in the next few months as part of GCJAC. Transparency is key to maintaining trust with the community, she said.

“It would be disheartening for people to have been out protesting asking for reform and accountability and then a year and half goes by and we still feel like things haven’t been done,” she said. “Then it doesn’t feel like Greensboro is living up to the standards that we have set for ourselves.”

GCJAC meets every month. Learn more at greensboro-nc.gov/departments/legislative/greensboro-criminal-justice-advisory-commission.

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