With Liberty And Justice For All

To Our Community,

We share the outrage and frustration felt over recent events, the death of George Floyd, and countless other victims of racism.  Mason’s law enforcement personnel share these same sentiments.  Nobody should be judged by the actions of others.  All of us deserve the respect of self-determination.  We live in communities rooted in trust that we each will honor these principles and that our communities will protect them.  We believe that the vast majority of law enforcement officers daily uphold their commitment to protect everyone in the communities they serve.  Public servants that fail in that charge weaken all of us and the communities we build.

Mason police officers are sickened by behavior that demeans the Code of Ethics that officers commit to uphold.  The City of Mason holds officers to these standards and fosters a culture where everyone has the courage to do the right thing while protecting our community.

We hear the anger and hurt being expressed in the world.  We’ve spent time listening specifically to our residents and the concerns and questions they have.  Mason is a blessed community – diversity, idealism, optimism, and compassion are some of the cornerstones.  We can’t heal all the anger and hurt from the world around us, but we can set an example.  We will continue listening and learning.  Individual dialogue and relationships take more time, but are key to maintaining the trust our communities are built upon.

Mason Police Officers will continue to serve everyone with honor, integrity and compassion.  We believe our residents should be proud of the standards we set, the work we do, and should keep us accountable.  We also aren’t afraid of doing better.

Respectfully,

Todd Carter                                        Eric Hansen
Police Chief                                        City Manager

Attached is the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics and responses to many of the questions we’ve received specific to police work and the standards the City sets.  Please call with questions, interest in learning more, or to help build the dialogue. We would love to hear from you!

 

Law Enforcement Code of Ethics

As a law enforcement officer, my fundamental duty is to serve the community; to safeguard lives and property; to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation and the peaceful against violence or disorder; and to respect the constitutional rights of all to liberty, equality, and justice.

I will keep my private life unsullied as an example to all and will behave in a manner that does not bring discredit to me or to my agency. I will maintain courageous calm in the face of danger, scorn or ridicule; develop self-restraint; and be constantly mindful of the welfare of others. Honest in thought and deed both in my personal and official life, I will be exemplary in obeying the law and the regulations of my department. Whatever I see or hear of a confidential nature or that is confided to me in my official capacity will be kept ever secret unless revelation is necessary in the performance of my duty. 

I will never act officiously or permit personal feelings, prejudices, political beliefs, aspirations, animosities or friendships to influence my decisions. With no compromise for crime and with relentless prosecution of criminals, I will enforce the law courteously and appropriately without fear or favor, malice or ill will, never employing unnecessary force or violence and never accepting gratuities.

I recognize the badge of my office as a symbol of public faith, and I accept it as a public trust to be held so long as I am true to the ethics of police service. I will never engage in acts of corruption or bribery, nor will I condone such acts by other police officers. I will cooperate with all legally authorized agencies and their representatives in the pursuit of justice.

I know that I alone am responsible for my own standard of professional performance and will take every reasonable opportunity to enhance and improve my level of knowledge and competence.

I will constantly strive to achieve these objectives and ideals, dedicating myself before God to my chosen profession… law enforcement.

Evaluation and training for Mason Police officers begins as early as the hiring process.  Officers must undergo an intensive evaluation and testing process.  That process includes written exam, physical fitness assessment along with administrative and community panel interviews.  Community panel interviews often include residents, business owners, school officials and local law enforcement personnel.  Successful candidates then undergo an extensive background check that includes visits and interviews with employers, family and friends and finally a psychological examination.

Candidates who do not hold an Ohio Peace Officer certificate must attend and graduate from the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy.  This is a 20 week program covers all curriculum covered by the Ohio Revised Code including bias based policing, de-escalation, use of force and use-of-force continuum (allowing only the minimum amount of force necessary and reasonable to control the situation), crisis management, procedures for dealing with mental incapacities and disabilities.

After receiving their diploma from the Academy, officers return to Mason and are assigned a Field Training Officer (FTO).  For 15 weeks, the FTO oversees the officer’s education, training and onboarding as a Mason Police Officer.  This training not only reinforces lessons learned at the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy but introduces the officer to Mason’s community policing culture and the high expectations for providing services to the residents of Mason.

An officer working for a commissioned agency (Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA)) must meet standards for ongoing training.  Training includes but not limited to annual use of force training-including hands on tactics, use of force continuum, firearms qualifications including decision to shoot situational analysis, bias based training and de-escalation training.

General Orders are the Police Department’s policies governing every aspect of their day-to-day operations and actions. General Orders are the culmination of laws, legal decisions, best practices and community input. They serve as a daily guide for police personnel and are one of the many ways we ensure that we maintain a professional workforce and act in a way that is consistent with training and national standards.

In 2016 the Mason Police Department began participating in the Bridge of Life Program.  Directed by Mr. Hasani Gillispie, the program’s goal is to develop dialogue and improve relations between law enforcement and the African American community to help prevent violent encounters and loss of life.   The Mason Police department was an original participant helping initiate this unique community-led program.

The program pairs members of the African American community with Officers from law enforcement in a fully immersive program.  In addition to structured meetings, the paired teams have family meetings, outings and events to promote dialogue and understanding of the other’s perspective.   As of now, the Mason Police Department has sent 24 Officers through the program.  That number is over half the department with more Officers on a waiting list to attend.  This fall, the Bridge of Life will begin a new session with three additional Mason Officer’s scheduled to attend.

Mason – Accredited Agency

The Mason Police Department is an internationally accredited agency since 1997.  We are accredited through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA).  There are only 57 accredited agencies out of a total 877 agencies in Ohio.  The purpose of the CALEA  accreditation process is to help improve the delivery of public safety services by maintaining a uniform body of standards and best practices.  There are roughly 200 standards that an agency must adopt and conform to in order to be recognized as an accredited agency.  These standards include areas of roles and responsibility, organization, management, administration, police operations, traffic enforcement, court related services, and relationships with other agencies.  CALEA has guidelines, recommendations, and policies on best practices in use of force policy, pursuit policy, firearms policy and a number of other policies related to police operations.  Although the CALEA audit process is changing, every 3 years the City hosts a team of assessors, typically active or retired local, state, or federal law enforcement officials from outside the area.  This team conducts an extensive review of our policies, procedures, and operational activities to insure that we are doing what we say we are doing and meeting their standards of operation.  The assessment process includes opportunity for community input, which is advertised well in advance and members of the community are invited to participate.

Ask the Chief?

Are officers trained to de-escalate altercations by using peaceful conflict resolution strategies?

Mason Officers receive continual training in de-escalation and similar conflict resolution areas.   We began that process back in the 1980’s with a national program called “Verbal Judo”.   That program and many like it have evolved into today’s current de-escalation training courses.   Today’s police officer must be trained to handle a multitude of different and often complex situations.  To that end, our Officers receive continuing training in critical incident response, policing a diverse community, responding to the needs of the mentally ill, and many other training courses that most of our residents probably don’t consider.

Are officers forbidden from using carotid restraints (chokeholds, strangleholds, etc.) and hog-tying methods? Furthermore, are they forbidden from transporting civilians in uncomfortable positions, such as face down in a vehicle?

Yes, our Officers are forbidden from using any technique or restraint system that is not in the use of force continuum.  This includes choke holds, strangle holds, hog tying and any similar maneuver.  In addition, Officers are required to “gap check” the handcuffs placed on any individual to insure that they are not too tight to prevent proper circulation to the hands.   For most of the police cruisers a person must be transported in the normal, upright, seated position.  Mason Police Department’s General Orders state:  “The use of neck restraints or similar weaponless control techniques with a potential for serious injury are prohibited.”

Are officers required to intervene if they witness another officer using excessive force? Will officers be reprimanded if they fail to intervene?

Yes.  Failure to intervene and / or failure to report such an incident would subject an Officer to discipline.

Are officers forbidden from shooting at moving vehicles?

Mason Police Department’s General Orders state: “officers will not discharge a firearm at or from a moving vehicle, except when all other reasonable means have been exhausted and it is necessary for the defense of the Officer’s life or the life of another person…”

Is there a clear and enforced use-of-force continuum that details what weapons and force are acceptable in a wide variety of civilian-police interactions?

Yes.  Our Use of Force policy is based on the use-of-force continuum, allowing only the minimum amount of force necessary and reasonable to conduct the lawful public safety activities and missions of the Police Department.

Are officers required to exhaust every other possible option before using excessive force?

Officers are never permitted to use excessive force.  They are permitted to use only the minimal amount of force necessary to overcome any threat or achieve their lawful objective.

Are officers required to give a verbal warning to civilians before drawing their weapon or using excessive force?

Officers are never permitted to use excessive force.  Mason’s General Orders state: “when Officers are about to invoke deadly force, they will, when possible or practical, issue a verbal warning to the suspect.”

Are officers required to report each time they threaten to or use force on civilians?

Officers are not required to report the use of verbal commands.  They are required to report, in writing, any time they draw their weapon or use any type of force, including bodily force, against a suspect or an individual.

Are officers thoroughly vetted to ensure that they do not have a history with abuse, racism, xenophobia, homophobia / transphobia, or discrimination?

Officers must undergo an intensive evaluation and testing process.  That process includes written exam, physical fitness assessment along with administrative and community panel interviews.  Community panel interviews often include residents, business owners, school officials and local law enforcement personnel.  Successful candidates then undergo an extensive background check that includes visits and interviews with employers, family and friends and finally a psychological examination.  Any issues or concerns discovered as part of that process are discussed with the Psychologist to determine whether the candidate should remain or be removed from the hiring process.  If, at any point in their career, an Officer displays cause for concern, they may be subject to a re-evaluation.

Are officers trained to perform and seek necessary medical action after using excessive force?

Officers are never permitted to use excessive force.  They are trained in basic first aid and our General Orders require them to render necessary first aid.  Those General Orders state: “Any time a lethal or non-lethal weapon is used to effect an arrest, the person against whom the weapon is used will be checked for claimed, obvious, or other injuries.  If necessary, Emergency Medical Services shall be contacted for treatment and / or transport to a medical facility.”

Is there an early intervention system enforced to correct officers who use excessive force? Additionally, how many complaints does an officer have to receive before they are reprimanded? Before they are terminated? More than three complaints are unacceptable.

Yes.  We have an early warning system built in to our reporting database.  It is not based on complaints but based on the number of use of force incidents that the Officer has, whether they were justified or not justified.  That allows us to review all the use of force incidents and determine whether there is a distinct pattern of behavior.  Our Officers are never permitted to use excessive force.  They receive discipline after any use of what is determined to be excessive force.

The Mason Police Department works hard to maintain a high level of trust with the community.  We are required and do collect data on deaths and injury of any sort arising from the actions of our Police Officers.  We also conform to all public record laws to help us maintain that level of trust and transparency.

Do Police Officers wear body cameras?

The Mason Police Department does not currently employ the use of body worn cameras.  It is something we have not dismissed off hand and we continually re-evaluate the need.  While we do receive a very small number of citizen complaints each year, they do not reach the level, either in nature or number, to the point where we feel body worn cameras are necessary.   At this time, I am unaware of any Warren County Agency that uses body worn cameras.  We take the spending of tax payer dollars very seriously.  When such a time arrives that we see a clear need for employing body worn cameras, we will certainly re-examine the issue.

When and what type of Racial Bias and Biased Based Policing training to officers receive?

  • While attending the Police Academy (OHSP Academy) each Officer receives a training block of Biased Based Policing.
  • Issues of racial bias and biased based policing are covered and reinforced in the Field Training Process
  • Annual training in biased based police areas are reinforced annually in roll call training that includes but aren’t limited to gender and racial concerns.
    • Examples of this are “Effective Traffic Stops” and “Successful Outcomes When Dealing with people on the Autism Spectrum.”
  • Officers annually receive electronic training via’ the E-OPOTA website on Ethics and Professionalism as well as Civil Liability issues.
  • OPTOA and the Attorney General’s Office send Legal Updates on Bias Based Policing
  • Our incident reporting system (PAMET) and the NIBRS (National Incident Based Reporting System) keeps and reports required demographic information from arrests and traffic stops.