'The sanctity of life:' RPD unveils draft de-escalation policy at first community listening session

Joel Brown Image
Thursday, June 9, 2022
RPD unveils draft de-escalation policy community listening session
Raleigh Police Department says it wants to start looking at de-escalation through the lens of saving people's lives in its first-ever de-escalation policy.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Community members who turned out for tonight's listening session at Millbrook Exchange Community Center were handed a copy of the three page de-escalation policy. It's only a draft. But when it's finalized, it will be Raleigh Police Department's first-ever de-escalation policy.

Currently, de-escalation is only addressed within the department's rules on use-of-force. RPD says it wants to start looking at de-escalation through the lens of saving people's lives.

"The Raleigh Police Department affirms the sanctity of life," said RPD Lieutenant Eric Goodwin, reading to the crowd from the draft language.

The draft goes on to say, not just the lives of the department's officers but the lives of citizens officers encounter on Raleigh streets.

"The process of de-escalation may minimize the likelihood that an employee uses physical force, beyond touch, during an encounter," Goodwin told the crowd.

The new policy acknowledges officers face situations that are challenging, dynamic, and evolving. It commits to required training and equipment to effectively slow down an incident; allowing more time and flexibility to create a safe resolution.

And perhaps a non-lethal ending like what happened on the Raleigh Beltline in January: Daniel Turcios crashed his car and later wielded a knife. Officers deemed Turcios a threat. His family insisted he was traumatized by the crash and didn't understand the English-speaking officers' commands to drop the weapon. Officers opened fire. Turcios was killed.

"There are going to be moments when people's mental health are not visible to the human eye. And so the question I'd ask is how is RPD prepared to respond and what does that training look like," said one audience member.

The draft policy requires officers to consider if issues including medical condition, mental impairment and language barrier when deciding if a citizen is not complying with commands.

Criminal justice reform advocate Dawn Blagrove did not attend the listening session.

"These listening sessions are a deflection," Blagrove said. Blagrove who is executive director of Emancipate NC was skeptical the meetings will lead to change.

She says she remains unnerved about the deadly incident last month outside RPD's southeast substation when officers shot and killed Ruel Nunez who was hurling Molotov cocktails. Blagrove asks, where was the de-escalation then?

"It was clear that you had a man who was in mental distress," Blagrove said. "You had an officer who yelled at this man to do it, go ahead and do it. And then begged for permission to open fire on him. Suicide by cop is a real phenomenon. But it is not an excuse for law enforcement officers to just kill people with mental health issues."

Diana Powell, executive director of Justice Served NC did attend the meeting and hopes more community members will join her. She said everyone needs to be at the table for these conversations that the community has been asking to have as ways build back trust between police and underserved neighborhoods.

"We're gonna have to band together and support every area that we can and get the safety and the service that our community needs," Powell said.

The next listening session is June 14 at Marsh Creek Community Center on New Hope Rd. at 6:30 p.m.

RPD says to expect a finalized de-escalation policy by the end of the summer.