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Yukon officers face split-second decisions

Yukon police officers have not received a different kind of use of force training since the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers occurred May 25.
However, the Yukon Police Department has continued trainings that incorporate use of force.

From left, Yukon Police Master Sgt. Andy Henderson and Sgt. Mike Stilley kneel to fire their weapons at the Yukon Police Department’s range May 6. Photo / Provided

Use of force decisions happen quickly and officers must weigh facts and circumstances, such as if there are victims or bystanders that could be harmed, Yukon Police Chief John Corn said.
“We’re finding in the political and social climate, the standard and the weight of all those decisions is much greater now,” said Corn. “Probably as great as I’ve seen it in my career.”
At times, officers respond to situations on limited facts, so there is always the variable of the unknown, he said.
The department follows the national standard of use of force, which provides guidelines for how much force may be used against a resisting subject.
There are five different levels.
Officer presence is the first level, where no force is used.
The National Institute of Justice has determined the combination of officers’ presence working to diffuse a situation with their attitudes being nonthreatening as the best way to resolve a situation.
The next level is verbalization, where force is not physical, and the officers issue non-threatening commands, like “let me see your identification and registration.”
Officers might also increase their volume and shorten commands for compliance.
These might include “stop” or “don’t move.”
Empty-hand control, which is the third level, is where officers use bodily force to control a situation.
Within this level, there are two techniques.
In a soft technique, officers use grabs, holds and joint locks to restrain a person.
They use punches and kicks to restrain someone in a hard technique.
The fourth level, less-lethal methods, consists of officers using technologies to control a situation.
One method, blunt impact, is where officers may use a baton to immobilize a suspect.
A chemical method occurs when officers use chemical sprays to restrain someone.
Conducted-energy devices, or Tasers, may also be used.
Lethal force is the last option.
Officers use firearms to control a situation, and they should only be used if someone poses an imminent threat, according to NIJ.

ONGOING TRAINING
While the Yukon Police Department follows the continuum with firearms and Taser trainings, Corn said, “every agency is different.”
Agencies may have different tools their officers use.
For Yukon’s department, officers’ pistol training occurs quarterly and their rifle training is biannually.
They also receive a yearly re-certification training on how to use Tasers, focusing on deploying the cartridges in the center of the body.
Corn said the face and groin areas are not good targets to hit.
“It’s a reoccurring education, so our officers are constantly vigilant,” Corn said.

COMMUNITY SUPPORT
Yukon’s community has been supportive of the department throughout the protests that happened worldwide because of Floyd’s death, Corn said.
“In my 31 years, I’ve never seen that kind of support in turbulent times,” he said.
On Aug. 17, Yukon officers were dispatched to a scene where Myron Prather Jr., 21, of Yukon allegedly attempted to kidnap a five-months pregnant female at gunpoint.
Officers did not use lethal force.
One officer observed Prather run toward a vehicle with a handgun in his right hand, where the female was in the driver’s seat, according to the police report.
Prather opened the driver’s door, pointed the gun at her and forced his way inside.
The vehicle moved toward the officer’s location at 124 W. Meade Drive, and the officer could not see the gun through the windshield.
Prather then exited the vehicle and walked to the front door of the residence.
The officers told him to “stop” and “get on the ground” and asked where the gun was.
Prather said he didn’t have a gun. The officers took him into custody.
While searching the vehicle, officers allegedly found the gun between the console and passenger seat, with a round in the chamber.
Prather was charged with possession of a firearm after the conviction of a felony, kidnapping and pointing a firearm.
“I think (the officers) used very good discretion and weighed all the facts and circumstances at that particular moment in that particular case, and elected not to use deadly force,” Corn said.

LETHAL FORCE
The department’s last lethal use of force incident was three years ago.
No one died from the incident, but an officer did fire his weapon.
Laddie Polasek, now 58, a Texan, was charged with eluding police officers and endangering others and assault and/or battery with a deadly weapon.
A report stated Polasek was traveling around Health Center Parkway, blaring his truck’s horn when there was little traffic around him.
An officer on patrol thought Polasek was having a medical emergency, so he conducted a traffic stop.
Polasek stopped, but before the officer got out of his car, Polasek rammed his truck into the front of the patrol car.
The officer requested back-up.
Polasek drove forward and the officer followed, indicating he needed to stop.
He drove farther for a bit but reversed and tried to hit the patrol car two more times.
The officer no longer suspected Polasek was having a medical emergency, rather he was driving erratically with the intention of hitting the officer’s vehicle.
After other units arrived, Polasek continued to evade the officers and attempted to also hit them.
He was successful in reversing his truck on top of the hood of an officer’s car.
According to the report, the officer said he felt his life was in danger, so he opened fire with his rifle through his front windshield at the truck.
The bullets hit the truck, not Polasek.
The officer and Polasek both suffered minor injuries.
One officer’s report said Polasek, appearing distraught while being treated at a local hospital, told them he was with the Secret Service and that he had killed thousands of people.
The case is pending.
“An officer can deploy deadly force, even if it is to save or prevent harm to another,” Corn said. “It doesn’t always have to be directed at the officer.”

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