Oregon police get refresher on use of force, choke holds

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Officers from across the area attended the training

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — With police use of force in the local and national headlines, law enforcement across the state received a refresher after recent changes to Oregon law, which includes addressing choke holds.

At a use of force training in The Dalles last week, Oregon State Police, Hood River Sheriff’s Office and other agencies learned about the changes due to Oregon House Bill 4301.

Oregon police received use of force training by reviewing body camera video of officers needing some improvement during arrests. Those videos also showed when officers did well in high stress situations. (KOIN)

The bill states police may not use force that impedes normal breathing or circulation of blood of another person by applying pressure on throat or neck, except in specified situations. It requires an officer to give “verbal warning” and reasonable opportunity to comply before using physical or deadly force.

A training available to officers covers federal and Oregon law, commands, verbal de-escalation and the type and amount of force officers can use.

“We needed to make sure that all of the officers understood what the law forbids them from doing and what the law allows them to do,” said Scott Willadsen with the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training. “So, there just needed to be a conversation about what the differences are.”

The bill was passed to try and prevent a situation similar to what happened in the murder of George Floyd. Floyd, a Black man, was murdered by a white police officer after using a choke hold.

Willadsen said choke holds used by law enforcement are rare in Oregon but added that training allows for less confusion in high stress situations.

“In Oregon, at the police academy, we haven’t taught choke holds in any fashion for over 15 years. Choke holds, depending on the state you’re from or the agency you’re from, may be more used,” he said.

Scott Willadsen with the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training. (KOIN)

A total of 12 law enforcement officers attended the refresher training.

Willadsen, who helped write the bill as part of a committee, taught the training by using video examples of officers who could have done better during arrest. Those videos – mostly from body cameras — also showed examples of officers who did well in similar situations.

Participants were able to ask questions or refer back to a handout for more information.

According to Willadsen, the solution to better officers is more training, which can sometimes cost more money. However, he notes that it’s worth it.

“Officers aren’t going to get better at things they don’t practice, and they don’t learn about or they don’t talk about,” he said. “We just wish officers could get more of that in order to make better decisions in the field, and they have less opportunities for situations to go bad on them.”

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