YPD brass says use of force training working
Officers used force 117 times in 2017 while answering more than 69,000 calls
By Joe Gorman
Police say statistics for 2017 show the training that officers receive for using force is working.
The department used force 117 times in 2017 while answering 69,895 calls, a percentage of 0.17 percent, said Capt. Kevin Mercer, in charge of planning and training for the department.
The department measures force by five categories, ranging from the first category – verbal direction – to the fifth – deadly force.
Police did not use deadly force in 2017.
The department also received only three complaints for use of force in 2017, and all three were unfounded.
Mercer said the low percentage of force being used as well as the low number of complaints show that officers are taking the department’s training to heart. Each year, all officers undergo 10 weeks of training, in which use of force is focused on. During that training, officers must also take a written test and receive a grade of at least 90 percent on the test to pass.
The reason for the high score is because officers must be well educated in using force, Mercer said.
“Use of force is so serious that we want them to score very high so they thoroughly understand our use of force policy,” Mercer said.
Canton police, who work in a city similar to Youngstown, answered 66,768 calls in 2017 and used force 158 times, said departmental spokesman Lt. John Gabbard.
Closer to home, Warren police answered 33,068 calls in 2017 and used force 68 times.
In Youngstown, whenever force is used, officers must fill out a report detailing what actions were taken. The report is reviewed by supervisors to see if the officer acted properly.
The department measures force five ways: Level 1 is voice direction; level 2 is activity such as using pressure points; level 3 is wrestling with a suspect, or using chemical spray or an electronic stun weapon; level 4 is actually striking a person such as a fight; and level 5 is deadly force.
In 2017, officers used voice direction 6 percent of the time before they used force; they used level 2 force 15.4 percent of the time; level 3 force 69.8 percent of the time; and level 4 force 7.8 percent of the time.
Mercer said that in 85 percent of cases where force was used, officers first tried to use voice commands or verbal direction to get a suspect to comply before having to escalate to using another level of force.
“They’re trying to get people to comply without using a high level of force,” Mercer said.