Mustang police chief discusses use of force

The Mustang Police Department follows the national standard of use of force continuum, which provides guidelines for how much force to use against a resisting subject.

Mustang Chief of Police Robert Groseclose kneels by an officer during rifle training at Yukon Police Department’s range. Groseclose is also a firearms instructor. Three Mustang officers were trained on firing their rifles. Other officers pictured are with different departments. Photo / Provided

“The Supreme Court standard is the minimum amount of force necessary to affect arrest,” said Mustang Chief of Police Robert Groseclose. “Every situation is different — sometimes you tell somebody, ‘hey, you’re under arrest’ and they willingly stick their arms out and you cuff them, and you leave.
“Some people run, some people fight, some people, all of a sudden, will go to guns and we’re in a life and death, lethal use of force situation,” he said.
There are five different levels of force, which determine an officer’s response.
Groseclose said officers are constantly in a state of using force.
The first level is an officer’s presence.
The National Institute of Justice says the combination of officers’ presence working to diffuse a situation with a nonthreatening attitude is the best way to resolve a situation.
The second level is for an officer to issue a non-threatening command such as “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.
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 use a baton to immobilize someone.
A chemical method occurs when officers use chemical sprays.
Conducted energy devices, more commonly known as Tasers, may also be used.
Lethal force is the last level.
Officers use firearms to control a situation, and they should only be used if someone poses an imminent threat, according to NIJ.

DEADLY FORCE
Groseclose said deadly force can mean different things, such as vehicular death or blunt force trauma with a weapon that doesn’t have to be a firearm.
The focus is on the standard, not the tool used to control a situation, he said.
Along with the national guidelines, Mustang officers receive updates on policies and training solutions, as well as court decisions and best practices.
In every use of force case, Mustang officers’ conduct is reviewed by the department’s supervisors, including Groseclose.

RECENT INCIDENT
Five Mustang police officers were involved in a deadly shooting June 5 when a suspect was in possession of a firearm.
The suspect died. None of the officers were shot.
It was the first time officers had been involved in a fatal shooting since 1998.
“One of the proudest things (to me) was the lengths the officers went to to try and save this man’s life,” Groseclose said. “This is not a choice the officers made. This is a choice the suspect made.”

WHAT HAPPENED
One off-duty officer was traveling east on SW 59th Street when he observed a truck that was driving erratically, a police report stated.
The officer notified the department’s communication center of what he believed to be a drunken driver, as the truck pulled into a convenience store’s parking lot.
The officer pulled into the same parking lot and waited until other on-duty units were dispatched to the area.
The report said the driver, Benjamin Ballard, 42, of Yukon, continued to make erratic movements as he sat inside.
Other officers arrived and approached Ballard’s truck, as they did so he started the truck.
One officer stayed at the truck’s rear, while the other spoke with Ballard, who told the officer he had been smoking marijuana, taking prescription medication and consuming alcohol.
To continue a sobriety investigation, the officer asked Ballard to exit the truck.
Ballard refused and the officer asked him to exit again, at which time, Ballard leaned forward, his right hand reaching behind his back, and began bracing himself against the truck’s interior.
Both officers attempted to remove Ballard from the truck by grabbing his left arm, while Ballard continued to reach behind him.
During the struggle, one officer saw a gun and attempted to pin Ballard’s right arm to the seat, however, Ballard got the gun in his right hand, his finger on the trigger and pointed the gun at the officer.
Another officer, who arrived on scene, unholstered his weapon, placing it in Ballard’s upper chest and ordered Ballard to “drop the gun.”
The officer also stated, “don’t make me kill you.”
Groseclose said the officer was holding Ballard at gunpoint for everyone else’s safety around him, while other officers were trying to manually disarm Ballard.
Officers are trained to use their firearms in a suspect’s center mass of available space, which is dependent on circumstances like the position of the officer and suspect, as well as the surroundings, Groseclose said.
“You don’t confront a gun without another gun,” Groseclose said. “We react to the actions of others.”
The officer and Ballard yelled at each other for several minutes, Ballard saying, “just kill me, man, just shoot me.”
Another officer ran to the truck’s passenger side to deploy a Taser; however, a different officer deployed a Taser into Ballard’s chest before he could do so.
The report said the Taser had little to no effect on Ballard.
The officer who initially spoke with Ballard was energized from the Taser, as well.
His report said he then heard gunfire, was pulled from the truck and noticed he was covered in blood, unsure if it was his own or Ballard’s.
Another officer took position in front of the truck, who saw Ballard with the gun through the windshield.
The officer discharged his weapon through the windshield, as Ballard exited the truck with the gun in his right hand.
While Ballard exited the truck, the officer saw the officer who had blood on him stumble backward and fall.
The officer thought he had been shot by Ballard.
Another officer discharged his weapon as Ballard exited the truck, as well.
This officer’s report stated he suffered from a temporary loss of hearing due to extreme stress, and did not hear any of the weapons fire.
He also said he was unsure how many times he fired his weapon, but didn’t stop until he felt the threat was gone.
Groseclose said the officers are trained to shoot until a threat is gone.
Ballard died at the scene.
The autopsy report confirmed the cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds.
The medical examiner found seven gunshot wounds: one that perforated Ballard’s neck, one that penetrated the left upper chest, one that penetrated the right upper chest, one that penetrated the left lower chest, one that perforated the left upper back, one that perforated the right upper back and one that grazed the right upper back.
Groseclose said there were nine shots fired by the officers.
Other autopsy findings included a bullet casing recovered from Ballard’s shirt and two Taser probes.
One officer, who took pictures at the scene, found two .40 caliber casings on the sidewalk where the officer who was in front of the truck stood, and three .45 caliber casings around the driver’s side, where the officer was who was near Ballard as he exited the truck.
The lab report found there was phentermine, an amphetamine-like prescription medication used to suppress appetite in Ballard’s blood.
There was also an opened liquor bottle on the floorboard beside the driver’s seat.
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation found the officers’ deadly use of force was justified, Groseclose said.

MINDSET THE SAME
He also said there is not a difference in officer mindset regarding lethal use of force and other use of force situations that aren’t deadly.
“The difference isn’t necessarily controlled by the officer, as much as it’s controlled by the suspect,” Groseclose said.

ONGOING TRAINING
Mustang officers typically participate in two firearms trainings per year.
The department’s Taser training occurs annually.
Groseclose said officers are tased themselves with the thought of being taken into custody with the least amount of force.
About three months ago, some officers went to crisis-intervention training, where they learned de-escalation techniques when situations involving mentally disabled people arise.
Groseclose said some officers also tour mental illness facilities to learn from experts about what the best practices are to enact, as well.
“These (officers) are constantly in training,” Groseclose said.
The department has 26 sworn officers and the most recent hire is officer Erika Jaquez, who started in March.
“We are charged with a duty from society, and (using deadly force) is not something we enjoy doing. This is part of our job that we train, prepare and practice for, and we hope we never do it,” Groseclose said.

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