Roseburg police want to inform citizens about how the department implements the use of force.
Last week, the department held a meeting at the Roseburg Public Safety Center to talk to citizens about use of force issues and find out what the public’s concerns are. It was hosted by Roseburg Police Chief Gary Klopfenstein and Officer Todd Crouse. Crouse is the lead use of force trainer for Roseburg police officers.
Klopfenstein said the purpose of the meeting was to get the word out about how Roseburg police handle use of force situations compared to other parts of the country and to help build trust and confidence between the police department and the community.
Crouse said showing people how the police train to respond to different situations and answering questions can help, and maybe even reveal deficiencies in training.
“I think this allows people, instead of just assuming, to just come and ask the questions straight, what you do and how are you doing it,” Crouse said.
The controversy over appropriate force came to a head when George Floyd died in police custody on May 25, in Minneapolis, when an officer held Floyd down with a knee on his neck for more than 8 minutes.
“That’s not a failure, that’s a travesty,” Klopfenstein said. “When that happens, all of us who are worth our salt, just cringe because we know, one officer or group of officers make an awful, awful choice, and we are going to pay for that for years to come.”
Klopfenstein said if RPD officers get into a struggle with a suspect, they are trained to use reasonable force and then provide care for the prisoner.
“As soon as we get heads up on somebody, you set them up as soon as you can get them up on their feet, offer them water, and because we’ve had some kind of force, always call medical,” Klopfenstein said.
Crouse said de-escalation techniques are taught and officers are taught to verbally warn a suspect before shooting, if they have time. But he added that they don’t always have time.
“If they’ve pulled a gun and it’s escalating, if the expectation is that I will sit there and warn you that I’m going to shoot you now, is that reasonable?” Crouse said. “The point is if they pull a gun, do I have time to warm them.”
House Bill 4203-A was signed by Gov. Kate Brown after the special session of the state Legislature, is now law. It bans chokeholds, which didn’t sit well with Crouse.
“If you choke someone long enough, you will kill someone,” Crouse said. “But Roseburg trains (a control hold) that you can control someone around the neck and not ever choke them out. But guess what, wrapping your arm around the neck is now a chokehold, no matter what.”
Crouse said the control hold was a weapon that he used to avoid the use of deadly force.
A small crowd of about 10 people attended the two-hour meeting last Wednesday, but Klopfenstein said if there is more interest from the public, more meetings will be scheduled.
Anyone interested in attending one of the classes should contact Sgt. Jeff Eichenbusch at the Roseburg Police Department at 541-492-6760.