Anaheim Police Chief Refuses to Adopt New Use-of-Force Policy

Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada pushed back against recommendations by an outside use-of-force consultant, telling the city’s Public Safety board Thursday night he would not implement a policy on chasing suspects on foot, among other broad reforms.

“Policy is very black and white,” Quezada said. “You shall do this or you shall not do that. It restricts our officers ability to have that discretion.”

He was responding to a report, by Michael Gennaco, released earlier this month. It also also recommends Anaheim police clarify policy to note that head strikes using a flashlight, baton or other hard object are considered deadly force.

Anaheim Police Chief

Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada

Quezada said he’s not doing that either, complaining it would require him to include an exhaustive list of other types of deadly force such as boots and patrol cars.

Another major recommendation Quezada said he does not support is asking officers involved in shootings to provide a voluntary statement to criminal investigators with the Orange County District Attorney the same day of the police shooting or within 48 hours.

Gennaco, who was also at the meeting, defended his recommendations.

“I’m not coming up with these things on my own,” Gennaco said. “Other departments define deadly force as using a flashlight to the head, using a baton to the head and they don’t feel like they need to include … other things.”

Gennaco was hired to review the department’s policies and procedures after a pair of fatal police shootings sparked riots in downtown Anaheim in 2012.

Anaheim police shot and killed two Latino men – Manuel Diaz, 25, and Joel Acevedo, 21 – during a single weekend in 2012, both during foot chases. Diaz was shot in the back of the head and was found to be unarmed. At the time, the number of officer-involved shootings were increasing.

The police department has made changes since the unrest in 2012: officers are wearing body cameras, a civilian public safety board was created, more officers are being hired, an officer homeless task force was established and it has increased the number of community policing officers from four to 12.

After reviewing 23 officer-involved shootings, Gennaco’s Office of Independent Review Group made 20 recommendations for how the Anaheim Police Department could change its policies to improve officer safety, accountability, and transparency when a police shooting occurs.

The report states Anaheim police’s policy of delaying interviewing officers for 48 hours is inconsistent with best practices – and could contribute to an officer’s inability to remember details of the shooting.

But Quezada said officers have the right to decline to give a voluntary statement to criminal investigators who determine whether a shooting was justified or not.

“That is your right,” he said. “Who am I to say, if you are involved in a shooting: ‘I would like for you to give a statement in 48 hours?’ ”

Another major recommendations involved the foot pursuit policy. Gennaco said officers need a strong policy guiding when officers are allowed to chase suspects on foot, how they should do that and under what circumstances when that chase should end.

Quezada said the department instead recently issued a training bulletin that emphasizes the dangers of foot pursuits, when and how long to chase a suspect on foot.

But in his report, Gennaco warned it’s more difficult to hold officers accountable to standards in a training bulletin.

Quezada said he’s still considering is whether it is better for officers to shoot in bursts of two or three rounds before firing again, instead of continuous fire – another of Gennaco’s recommendations.

“We train to shoot until the threat is over,” he said. “We are always receptive to considering alternative methods.”

Gennco’s firm could review the police department’s response to the report and come up with a counterargument.

The city of Anaheim has hired the firm to conduct quarterly updates and annual reviews of the police department and to respond to officer-involved shooting scenes.