MARIETTA — The city's police department has been following the guidance outlined in a new presidential executive order on policing for years, according to Chief Dan Flynn.
Under the executive order signed by President Donald Trump earlier this month, policing agencies are to adopt certification by an independent accrediting agency certified by the U.S. attorney general and prohibit chokeholds except in cases where the use of deadly force is legally permissible, in order to receive Justice Department discretionary grant funding. The order does not mandate, but suggests all officers should be trained to encounter individuals dealing with mental health issues, addiction and homelessness.
"Very much to our delight, we were able to find that we were already 100% in compliance with everything we could do," Flynn recently told the Marietta City Council.
The chief said the Marietta Police Department is certified nationally by the Commission for the Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies, which he said was the "gold standard" of accrediting agencies, and state certified through the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police.
Chokeholds, Flynn said, have been banned in the police department "for as long as anybody in the department can remember."
"It’s right there in our policies. They are prohibited and we’re glad that they are. We agree; it's just too dangerous for police officers to use," he said.
Flynn said for the past five years, the department has incorporated a philosophy of "procedural justice" in its policing, including transparency, giving citizens a voice, impartiality and fairness.
Around the same time Marietta Police started that, the agency developed a "bill of rights" for citizens on policing, which lays out expectations the community should have for police, including transparency, thoroughness in investigations of misconduct and urgency in investigating, communicating and acting on the results, the chief said.
The police department also has programs that send trained teams to intervene when police respond to calls involving addiction, and has a similar approach to homelessness-related calls, Flynn said.
Councilwoman Michelle Cooper Kelly asked the chief questions about the department, including how it approaches diversity.
"How are we recruiting women and then officers of color? Because I do think it's important for officers to have a frame of reference, and to be able to look like a community that they serve," she said.
Flynn said the department had "made a lot of progress" and done well in hiring a diverse group of officers by recruiting veterans, though he observed that many African American recruits move on to federal agencies and Marietta Police has a hard time retaining such officers.
Kelly asked if the department offers bias training, and the chief answered that officers have access to bias training as part of a citywide online program.
The councilwoman also asked what can be done when officers have multiple complaints against them.
Flynn, who prior to Marietta worked for the Miami and Savannah police departments, said earlier in his career he developed an early warning system, which Marietta and other departments use across the country.
"Even if an officer has not sustained, but you have a combination of things like complaints against the officer, police-involved shootings involving the officer, discipline, any combination of those, even if the individual cases are not sustained or exonerated or justified, you’re required, supervisors are required to bring that person in and conduct a full evaluation," he said.