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New insight on police conduct from Jackson

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JACKSON, WY (KIFI/KIDK) - Jackson law enforcement agencies invited community members to participate in a dialogue designed to share thoughts and answer questions today.

Police Chief Todd Smith says life is complicated for police right now due to the death of George Floyd. It affects all people in uniform because some community members see all police as the same.

When speaking of his fellow Teton County law divisions, Smith said, “The one thing we do have in common though, maybe beyond a uniform, is that we serve you.”

Smith said Teton County law enforcement is constantly updating policies to follow best practices as they pertain to the safety of the community.

Jackson Police have rewritten model policies from the International Association of Chiefs of Police to fit the community’s needs and values, cover to cover three times. The force updates policies monthly with new industry changes to keep their standards current.

In accordance with state statute, the hiring process includes many tiered steps that few applicants pass through to the end. The process starts with an application, followed by an oral board of interviews to find a match. The applicant must then pass a physical fitness test.

The biggest challenge in hiring is to pass the polygraph and psychological evaluation. A police psychologist out of Denver runs a series of analysis to interpret the individual’s traits and tendencies that may predict the individual’s reactions on the job. Some can be up to 15 pages and the agency says they are very thorough and helpful.

Smith said the Jackson Police handle complaints through an internal investigation or administrative review based on the seriousness of the complaint. The availability of these complaints to the public is based on the gravity of the offense.  Violations of state statue are public. The files do follow the offending officer. The punishment is meant to fit the crime. 

When complaints are centered around a communication issue, the police chief prefers to gather people for a discussion to find where the officer went wrong and what can be done to make the situation better. In Smith’s 29 years with the police force, he says he has made six recommendations for fire.

Usually, the complaints are caused by a lack of training or experience. The force aims to use each complaint as an experience to teach professionalism to the officer.

Sheriff Matt Carr says all officers have body and dash cams.

"We find it an invaluable tool. Not only for the public but for the officers as well," Carr said. "It helps capture evidence that officers may not see. It helps track what’s going on with the public and how the officers are performing.”

Police Chief Smith says nine times out of ten, cams help resolve complaints and act as a great training tool. They encourage the complaining party and the officer to review the cam footage together in an attempt to resolve communication issues.

Teton County Law Enforcement is working through the budget process to provide body cams to jail personnel as well. Currently, there aren’t enough body cams for all jail staff to use cams all of the time. However, Sheriff Carr says it will be worth it for the officers and the public if the process of providing body cams to all jail staff is approved.

The Teton County Police divisions discussed the "8 Can't Wait" campaign, saying they have followed these policies long before the campaign took hold. The movement mandated the law must follow eight procedures to reduce the percentage of cases that result in police force and/or death in police custody.

In accordance with "8 Can't Wait", Teton County law enforcement says chokeholds are banned. They require de-escalation practices. When feasible, the police must exhaust all other means first and give warning before shooting. Shooting at moving vehicles is against policy unless deadly force is authorized. Jackson Police must act on the duty to intervene, meaning they are required by policy to stop any member from violating the law, including use of excessive force. They are also required to practice comprehensive reporting.

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Chelsea Briar

Chelsea is a reporter and producer for Local News 8 and KIDK Eyewitness News 3.

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