WMBF Investigates: Review of Grand Strand police departments’ policies on use of force following Trump’s executive order

WMBF Investigates: Review of Grand Strand police departments’ policies on use of force following Trump’s executive order
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - On Tuesday, President Trump signed an executive order on policing as a response to nationwide protests calling for an end to police brutality and racial discrimination following the death of George Floyd and other black Americans.

The order prohibits the use of choke holds by police officers except in instances where deadly force is allowed by law and calls for information sharing between departments to create a national database to track excessive use of force.

WMBF News reached out to the county and city law enforcement agencies in Horry County - specifically, Horry County Police, Conway Police, Myrtle Beach Police and North Myrtle Beach Police - to see what policies and guidelines those agencies already have in place.

Each agency has policies and guidelines for use of force, many of them similar with slight variations in wording.

President Trump’s executive order specifically refers to prohibiting the use of choke holds except where deadly force is allowed by law. A review of these departmental guidelines show the agencies already have such policies in place.

The departments consider choke holds “deadly force.” In line with the president’s order, the policies for these agencies allow for deadly force in specific situations allowed by law. To use Myrtle Beach Police Departments Policy 206 as an example, “if an officer reasonably believes there is an immediate threat of serious injury or death to themselves or another person, and lethal force may be employed, this is the only time this type of restraint may be used.”

Floyd’s death was caused in part by asphyxia, but not because of a choke hold. Reports have shown an officer knelt on his neck, as Floyd lied face down on his stomach, for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

For the most part the policies reviewed by WMBF News did not specifically address restraining someone in this manner. However, just this month the Horry County Police Department amended its policy to state “Absent justified deadly force situations, the HCPD prohibits the application of all physical restraint maneuvers that restrict the flow of blood or oxygen to the brain.”

The North Myrtle Beach Department of Public Safety’s Policy & Procedures Manual states: “in a situation where deadly force is not justified and the officer is utilizing ground tactics (using the officer’s body weight and/or any combination of hand controls to control the subject) and the subject reasonably complains that he/she is having difficulty breaking or the officer reasonably believes and/or observes others hindering the subject’s ability to breath, action shall be taken immediately to modify the tactics utilized to remedy the breathing concern.”

While not written in policy, Cpl. Tom Vest with the Myrtle Beach Police Department said officers are trained to place subjects in an upright position once detained.

Each policy WMBF reviewed also addresses an officer’s duty to intervene to protect a suspect from another officer misusing force. Department guidelines for the City of Conway states it “shall be the duty of every sworn officer present at the scene where physical force is being applied to either stop or attempt to stop another sworn officer when force is being inappropriate applied or is no longer needed.”

The Horry County Police Department, Conway Police Department, Myrtle Beach Police Department and North Myrtle Beach Police Department all require either the police chief or a review board to conduct annual reviews of instances where excessive use of force was reported, according to each department’s policies and guidelines.

Most departments conduct their reviews in January, according to their policies. Links to those individual department polices can be found below:

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