Use of Force FAQ

badgeThe Lane County Sheriff’s Office has received multiple questions about actions taken to prevent inappropriate use of force by employees. We believe our responsibility begins during the recruitment process and continues throughout an employee’s career by providing appropriate training and guidance to ensure that local, state, and federal laws are followed, community members’ rights are being preserved and respected, and that services to the community are provided with the highest level of professionalism. Below are some frequently asked questions about how we hire and train deputy sheriffs, and our expectations regarding the use of force.

Do you screen and background deputy sheriff applicants before hiring them?

The Sheriff’s Office recruits for the position of deputy sheriff in a wide variety of places including academic institutions, job fairs, and on social media to reach a diverse group of potential future employees. The Lane County Sheriff’s Office takes pride in maintaining high hiring standards despite the continual need to fill positions due to attrition. Approximately 5% of applicants for the positon of deputy sheriff in 2018 and 2019 were hired.  


The hiring process begins with a screening of the application to ensure the applicant meets the minimum qualifications for the position. Applicants are then invited to complete the Oregon Physical Abilities Test (ORPAT), which is standardized for law enforcement agencies in the State of Oregon. Applicants who successfully complete the ORPAT are invited to take a written test. Successful applicants are then invited to an interview.

All deputy sheriff applicants go through a rigorous background process which includes a lengthy personal history questionnaire. Each applicant is assigned a Background Investigator who contacts previous and current employers, co-workers, friends, relatives, and roommates to help determine if the applicant has the character qualities and high level of integrity required by the Sheriff’s Office and the communities we serve. A criminal background check is also performed, along with other inquiries that lend information to the applicant’s honesty, integrity, and suitability for the position of deputy sheriff. If the applicant passes the background, they are then scheduled for a psychological examination to determine if they have the characteristics and abilities to fulfill the duties of a deputy sheriff.  The final step is a medical examination, including a drug test, to ensure they are physically able to do the job.

 

Do deputies receive training on de-escalation, working with individuals with mental health issues, diversity, and appropriate use of force?

Yes, deputies receive training at the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST) in Salem which is required for certification, several months of on the job training with a Field Training Officer, and ongoing training required for state certification, and as required by Lane County and the Sheriff’s Office.

Academy Training

Deputy sheriffs generally start their careers working in the Lane County Jail which provides a unique opportunity to develop and practice effective communication and de-escalation skills. Deputies assigned to work at the Lane County Jail attend the Corrections academy for 6 weeks (240 hours) at DPSST and receive training including (but not limited to):

  • Problem Solving
  • Ethics and Professionalism
  • Cultural Awareness and Diversity
  • Civil Rights, Use of Force Law
  • Inmate Rights
  • Use of Force Application
  • Conflict Resolution and De-escalation
  • Communication
  • Mental Health
  • Decision Making
  • Defensive Tactics

After completing the Corrections academy, deputies may later apply to attend the Police academy at DPSST which is 16 weeks (640 hours) of training including (but not limited to):

  • Problem Solving
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Communication
  • Community Competency
  • Civil Rights and Liabilities
  • Ethics
  • Supporting Victims of Crime
  • Behavioral Health Awareness
  • Implicit Bias
  • Use of Force Law
  • Bias Lab
  • Problem Oriented Policing
  • Defensive Tactics

On the Job Training with Field Training Officers

In addition to training received at the academy, deputies spend several months with a Field Training Officer prior to working a post independently. During this time, and throughout their careers, they are evaluated on their knowledge, skills, and interactions.

Ongoing Training

DPSST requires both police and corrections certified deputies to receive regular training in Use of Force, Ethics, and Mental Health Awareness/ Crisis Intervention Training, and CPR. Proof of training must be submitted to DPSST for deputies to maintain certification.

Training continues throughout the deputy’s career and involves both mandatory training on topics chosen by the Sheriff’s Office (including De-escalation, Cultural Awareness, and Diversity) as well as elective courses through two training databases. 

All police services deputies are required to attend a 40 hour Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) designed to provide deputies with valuable information and skills on working effectively with individuals experiencing a mental health crisis. This training focuses on de-escalation techniques that have shown to be successful with those in crisis. Additionally, in the last three years, the Sheriff’s Office has six deputies qualified to instruct Verbal De-escalation training, allowing this training to occur at an individual level as well as in a classroom setting more frequently.

Lane County also requires all employees to attend Diversity training annually.

What is your policy on use of force?

Employees are expected, when acting within the scope of their duties, to use only the force which is objectively reasonable to bring an incident under control, prevent an escape, protect themselves or others from physical harm, to effect or overcome resistance to an arrest and in correctional settings, to restore or maintain correctional security, order and control.

What is “excessive force?”

Excessive force is defined as any control or physical force that is not justified at the time or is not objectively reasonable, (i.e. reasonable officer standard) at the time of its use given the information known to the deputy at the time of use. Excessive force is never authorized.  Employees who use excessive force, or who witness and fail to report excessive force, will be subject to discipline up to and including termination.

Do deputies have to document when they use force?

Yes, employees are required to document all use of force incidents. The use of force report is then reviewed by a Sergeant, a Lieutenant, a Captain and the Chief Deputy, individually, to ensure the force used was appropriate and justified given the circumstances. Excessive force is not permitted. Employees who use excessive force, or who witness and fail to report excessive force, will be subject to discipline up to and including termination.

How are officer involved shootings and other uses of deadly force reviewed?

Lane County has a Deadly Physical Force Plan created under Senate Bill 111 to establish procedures for deadly force incidents. Under that plan, an Interagency Deadly Force Investigations Team (comprised of members from multiple agencies) investigates all uses of deadly force (in Lane County), and the Lane County District Attorney reviews the investigation to determine whether the use of force was justified or not. Additionally, law enforcement officers that are involved in the discharge of their firearm that results in serious physical injury or death are placed on administrative leave until the investigation is complete and attend a mental health counseling session resulting in a finding of no issues that would preclude the officer from performing their duties as a police officer.

Does the Sheriff’s Office report use of force incidents to any external agency?

Use of deadly force is investigated by the Interagency Deadly Force Investigations Team comprised of members from multiple agencies, and the Lane County District Attorney reviews each use of deadly force to determine if the force use was justified.

The Lane County Sheriff’s Office also voluntarily participates in the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) National Use of Force Data Collection and submits a monthly report. The Sheriff’s Office also reports deadly use of force to the Oregon Department of Justice

Are deputies required to give warning before using force?

Yes, part of the verbal de-escalation training deputies receive includes warning of potential use of force.  However, though rare, some situations escalate so quickly that a deputy must act immediately to protect a community member or themselves from harm and there is simply not enough time to issue a warning, for example, an active shooter scenario.

How can I file a complaint about a deputy regarding use or force or any other issue?

The Sheriff’s Office investigates all complaints, and expects all employees to perform their duties to the best of their ability and is dedicated to creating an environment which encourages the highest standards of integrity. The Lane County Sheriff has a well-defined procedure for the investigation of complaints against personnel.

Employees of the Sheriff's Office are carefully selected and highly trained. However, as in any large organization, deviations from ideal performance can occur. Allegations of misconduct against personnel are investigated thoroughly and objectively, while retaining the integrity of the Sheriff's Office and maintaining the confidence of the public.

Procedure

Citizens have the right to make a complaint against any employee of the Sheriff's Office. The complaint may be made to any supervisor, shift commander, division commander, or to the Administrative Division. A complaint may be made in person, by telephone, by mail, or email.

Complaints should be made by using the complaint investigation form
. The form can then be emailed or mailed to the address below. Please include as much information as possible about the incident. All complaints will be reviewed and reporting parties will be advised of disposition.

Lane County Sheriff's Office
Office of Professional Standards
125 East 8th Avenue
Eugene, Oregon 97401

Additional information about the complaint process can be found by visiting the Lane County Sheriff's Office website commendations and complaints page.

 

 

 

 

 

Does unincorporated Lane County have a non-police response team like CAHOOTS in Eugene?

The CAHOOTS service is not available County wide, though we wish it was.  The Eugene CAHOOTS van has historically been funded through the City of Eugene taxpayer dollars thus limiting their services to the City limits of Eugene.  There is a CAHOOTS van that serves the Springfield population that is funded through Lane County Health and Human Services, partially with a grant.  The Sheriff’s Office does request the assistance of the CAHOOTS van if the call is within the urban growth boundary of Springfield. 

The Lane County Sheriff’s Office has recently partnered with Lane County Health and Human Services, Siuslaw Valley Fire and Rescue, PeaceHealth Harbor Vista Hospital, Florence Police Department and the Oregon State Police on a Mobile Crisis Response (MCR) project based in Florence.  This program is designed to provide services and resources to people needing mental health intervention, much like CAHOOTS. Under this model, mental health workers can be called out to respond to calls for service that involved individuals suffering from mental health issues.  This model is currently up and running in the Florence area, and strategies are being developed to expand the service area from the Florence City limits out into unincorporated Western Lane County.  

The biggest barrier to expanding this program to rural Lane County is ensuring the safety of the MCR crisis worker. When they respond to a call inside the city limits, like CAHOOTS in Eugene and Springfield, a police officer is generally in close proximity to respond if the situation escalates and becomes unsafe.  In unincorporated Lane County, response time for a deputy to a rural part of the County could take 30 minutes or more depending on where the deputy was coming from in the County.  With the Sheriff’s Office having very few deputies (about 3 deputies and a sergeant on at a time for County emergency response) covering such a large geographical area (~4,600 square miles) it simply isn’t safe. Having a mental health worker respond on their own several miles up Hwy 36, when it would take the closest deputy sheriff at least thirty minutes to respond, is a situation that most are not comfortable with. Unfortunately there are times when folks who are struggling with mental health do take violent action, sometimes because their mental health condition causes them to perceive a threat that doesn’t actually exist.  We are working through how to increase the services provided to unincorporated Lane County without putting our crisis response workers at greater risk. 

Does the Sheriff’s Office allow "chokeholds"?

What is commonly referred to as a “chokehold” or Lateral Vascular Neck Restraint (LVNR) has not been used at the Sheriff’s Office for at least the last 15 years.  In our training courses we teach our deputies that they would only be justified in using it if they were trying to save the life of themselves or another.  In other words, they have to reach the same level of justification that they would have to reach to use their firearm.

What does “defund the police” mean, and how would that impact public safety in Lane County?

The phrase “defund the police” has been defined in many different ways, but the most common definition is to reduce funding for law enforcement and use those dollars to fund mental health and social services and response. 

First, it is important to recognize that community resources vary greatly from one community to another, and from one part of the United States to another.  We are fortunate that our community has long recognized the need for, and has supported funding for mental health and social services. Lane County and the Sheriff’s Office have been on cutting edge of the development of mental health programs, but there is still work to be done. 


In 2008, Sheriff’s Office funding was drastically reduced, resulting in the elimination of 200 positions and the loss of 100 employees.  The graphic at the bottom of this page illustrates the 93 percent decline in federal funding since 2001 that has resulted in fewer deputies to respond to emergency calls for service, which impacts the quality of life for Lane County residents and visitors.  Today, the Sheriff’s Office has 25 deputy sheriff positions to respond to emergency calls in unincorporated Lane County, which includes over 100,000 residents spread out over 4,600 square miles (from the coast to the Middle Sister).  This equates to about three deputies and a supervisor on at a time, and often means that priority calls for service do not get responded to in a timely manner. The current 25 deputy sheriff positions is about 57% of the 2003 budgeted positions for this purpose. 

At the Sheriff’s Office, we recognize the need for comprehensive mental health and social services in our community and know there is additional work that can be done for those in crisis, but reducing already inadequate emergency response services would only hurt our community.  We believe that community members deserve adequate emergency law enforcement response for law enforcement calls for service AND non-law enforcement response for non-criminal calls involving those in mental health crisis.  To accomplish this, we will continue to work with our community partners to provide resources to those we come in contact with who are in mental health crisis.

 

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