FROM CHIEF SKINNER
When I heard the news about Daunte Wright’s death at the hands of a Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, police officer on Sunday, like many in our community, I was shocked, angry, and sad at the loss of this young man’s life. This is painful for all of us, especially for our BIPOC communities. I want to acknowledge the fear and deepening frustration many people in our community and others around the nation are feeling. As a police chief, I have been on high alert because of this incident to search for answers as details come out in the case. Our department will use what we learn to inform our training and practices here in Eugene but also recognize that this conversation should not be solely focused on training but on the character and quality of our police officers.
According to a national expert, there have been about 18 discharges of firearms instead of tasers since 2001. This recent incident may cause some people to wonder about the risk of something similar happening in Eugene. I want to provide you with information about the existing Eugene Police Department’s taser protocols and steps we have taken and will take to prevent such a tragedy.
EPD began to use tasers in 2008. To mitigate risks, we engaged the community and the Police Commission to review our training and policy associated with the use of this tool. EPD officers are mandated to carry tasers on their non-dominant side, opposite of their firearms. The action of deploying a taser is completely different from deploying a firearm. EPD uses a lighter and bright yellow taser model to distinguish it from a firearm by color and weight. EPD policy forbids officers from holding a taser and a firearm at the same time.
Currently, our defensive tactics sergeant is working with our training team on information neuroscientists have shared about the brain and human performance, especially when it involves the use of weapons. This type of information, along with de-escalation techniques, are being reinforced in our training and annual recertification.
Moving forward, we will work to adopt the guidance Eugene City Council will provide after our city councilors review the recommendations the City of Eugene Ad Hoc Committee on Police Policy has been working on.
We will learn more in the weeks ahead about what happened in Brooklyn Center, and we will consider changes to our policies, procedures, and training as appropriate.