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Local police ahead of the game

When Gov. Tom Wolf proposed reforms to the state’s policing agencies based on the 21st Century Policing Task Force report, Chambersburg’s police department had already implemented many of those.
When Wolf suggested creation of citizen’s advisory committees, CPD was already well on its way to doing just that.
”We are well ahead of the game,” he said. “One of our inititaves planned for this year is a Chief’s Advisory Council.”
Citizens from a cross section of Chambersburg will sit on the advisory board, reflecting the various segments of the community.
The idea is to create a council to share information and bring concerns in the community to the table.

Local police engage the community

The department has been working on engaging the community for a number of years.
Before COVID-19, officers participated in “Coffee With a Cop” events and neighborhood events such as the annual National Night Out, a community-police awareness-raising event held the first Tuesday of August.
Even in a pandemic and other national crisis’, the department lets the community know they are there for them.
During recent rallies downtown, officers were there. Camacho and Lt. Rick Morrissette mingled with Black Lives Matter demonstrators and joined hands with several in an impromptu prayer circle.
Camacho went to schools and read to children earlier this year. Officers are usually on hand for celebrations such as Cinco de Mayo and ChambersFest, manning information booths, talking to residents and visitors, sometimes bringng along one of the department’s police dogs.
A Citizens Police Academy started three years ago for residents wanting to learn more about the department. The idea is to give those who take the course lessons in modern policing. Graduates don’t have policing powers but hopefully do come away with a better understanding of the work involved in policing.
Mayor Walt Beitsch, Camacho and the department’s command staff have been discussing details for the advisory council. They hope to have everything in place to call its first meeting sometime late this summer or in early fall.
The advisory council is not a reaction to recent protests over the George Floyd death in Minneapolis last month, Camacho said. It is a proactive move already in the planning stages before that tragedy happened.
As for the 21st Century Policing Task Force report, Camacho calls it “the Bible for a modern police force.”
Local police departments depend on it heavily.

‘8 can’t wait’

Camacho has also spoken out publicly about the “8 can’t wait” campaiign launced this month. It lists eight policies for law enforcement agencies to adopt in order to reduce force by police officers.  
Those include:
  • Ban Chokeholds and Strangleholds
  • Require De-escalation
  • Require Warning Before Shooting
  • Duty to Intervene
  • Require to Exhaust All Alternatives Before Shooting
  • Ban Shooting at Moving Vehicles
  • Have Use of Force Continuum
  • Require Comprehensive Reporting
“The Chambersburg Borough police department prides itself on transparency and its constant evolution as a professional, empathic, and integrity-based organization,” Camacho said in a recent post on the department’s CRIMEWATCH® page.

CPD’s policies, protocols

He explained the department’s policy and protocols in response to the “8 can’t wait” list:
  • CPD defensive tactics instructors don’t teach tactics such as chokeholds and strangleholds. Those tactics are prohibited in CPD’s policy unless deadly force is authorized.
  • De-escalation techniques, such as time, distance, and communication, are required when feasible.
  • Crisis intervention is an important part of CPD training. It is a requirement for all officers; a main component of that training is the use of verbal de-escalation techniques.
  • CPD policy states “…a verbal warning should precede the use of deadly force, where feasible.”
  • Deadly force is the last resort.
  • CPD policy clearly outlines a Duty to Intervene element. Offficers must intervene if use of force rules are violated.
  • From CPD’s policy: “Shots fired at or from a moving vehicle is rarely effective. Officers should move out of the path of an approaching vehicle instead of discharging their firearm at the vehicle or any of its occupants.
  • The CPD focuses defensive tactics training on the prevailing constitutional legal standard “objective reasonableness” under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. There is no direct or implied legal standard that requires police trainers to utilize a use-of-force continuum in defensive tactics or force training. The courts will look to the substance of training, rather than its format.
  • CPD policy emphases documentation and accountability in use of force incidents.

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