Wyoming Highway Patrol talk use of force following death of George Floyd


(File Photo; Trevor T. Trujillo, Oil City News)

CASPER, Wyo. — The Wyoming Highway Patrol released a statement on Monday, June 15 from Colonel Kebin Haller regarding the May 25 death of George Floyd.

Floyd died after Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck and back for nearly nine minutes.

“This was a horrific tragedy and my thoughts and prayers go out to the Floyd family,” Haller said in his address to the people of Wyoming.

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Two autopsies have been conducted and found that Floyd’s death was a homicide, “citing ‘complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint and neck compression’, ‘a cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by law enforcement officer(s)’, as well as “homicide caused by asphyxia due to neck and back compression that led to a lack of blood flow
to the brain,’” Haller said.

Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter and three other officers at the scene of Floyd’s death have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.

Haller said that what happened to Floyd “is not at all a representation of your Wyoming Highway Patrol (WHP).”

“Your troopers recognize that our behavior and actions define us and we are accountable to you,” he wrote. “This agency will continue to hold troopers to a high standard and expects them to conduct themselves in a professional manner at all times.”

Haller described some of the training which WHP troopers undergo and discussed how the WHP views law enforcement’s use of force, saying that the WHP “recognizes and respects the value of all human life and dignity without prejudice to anyone.”

He said that troopers who observe other officers “using force that is beyond that which is objectively reasonable under the circumstance shall intercede to prevent the use of unreasonable force.”

“A trooper who observes another officer use force that exceeds the degree of force permitted by law will promptly report these observations to a supervisor,” Haller added. “Troopers will use only the amount of force which is objectively reasonable under the circumstances to effectively bring an incident or person under control or to accomplish a legitimate law enforcement purpose while protecting the lives of the trooper and others.”

He said that troopers are to use “advisement, warnings and verbal persuasion” whenever possible prior to resorting to any use of force.

“A verbal warning is not required in circumstances where the Trooper has to make a split-second decision,” Haller added. “Troopers should allow individuals an opportunity to comply with the trooper’s verbal commands or with an arrest before physical force is used, whenever possible. Force will be de-escalated as resistance decreases. Immediately following a use of force, Troopers will follow up on necessary medical care in the event injury occurs.”

Troopers are also to inform their lieutenants as soon as possible anytime force is used.

“Troopers who use excessive or unjustified force degrade the confidence of the community that they serve, undermine the legitimacy of a police officer’s authority, and hinder the agency’s ability to provide effective law enforcement services to the community,” Haller continued. “Therefore, Troopers who use excessive or unauthorized force could be subject to discipline, possible criminal prosecution, and/or civil liability.”

“Troopers must understand and truly appreciate their authority and its
limitations. This is especially true with respect to overcoming resistance while engaged in the performance of law enforcement duties.”

Haller said the WHP set up a “Professional Standards and Conduct” unit in 2017 which aims to help investigate complaints, which can be made anonymously, in a neutral manner.

“This unit is prepared to perform administrative/internal investigations on employees for allegations including, but not limited to biased policing, improper or excessive use of force, inappropriate language, criminal activity, abuse of authority and deadly force,” he said. “Should criminal violations be identified, the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation is contacted to perform a criminal investigation.”

The process to become a trooper is described as follows:

  • an application is submitted
  • written tests, interviews, physical fitness test, deception tests and a psychological evaluation are performed
  • an in-depth background investigation into a person who passes the evaluations is performed
    • includes interviews of co-workers, supervisors, neighbors and family members
    • personnel records are reviewed
    • credit history is reviewed
    • a candidate’s social media activity is checked
  • a final interview is conducted

“Of note, racial and ethnic bias is specifically investigated for all candidates,
throughout this process,” Haller adds.

Once a person is hired, they undergo the WHP’s training programs. The first two weeks are spent at the Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy in Douglas. Trainees undergo 605 hours of certified instruction which includes:

  • Constitutional Law
  • Search and Seizure
  • Laws of Arrest
  • Firearms
  • Custody & Control
  • Emergency Vehicle Operations
  • Building Searches
  • Traffic Stops
  • Investigations
  • Physical fitness

“Individuals who successfully complete this training receive Wyoming Peace Officer Certification that includes Human Diversity, Interaction with the Mentally Ill, Ethical Issues in Policing, Introduction to Community Policing, Professional Development, and Interpersonal Communications,” Haller said.

Troopers then move to the WHP Basic Trooper Training Academy in Cheyenne for two more weeks of training. That includes 551 hours of classroom training, practical exercises and scenario training in the following areas:

  • Constitutional Law
  • Search and Seizure
  • Traffic Law
  • Arrests
  • Firearms
  • Custody & Control
  • Emergency Vehicle Operations
  • Traffic Stops
  • Investigations
  • Ethics
  • Verbal De-escalation
  • Mental Health
  • First Aid
  • Physical fitness

Troopers then begin field training. A minimum of 50 shifts with the oversight of field training troopers is required. These field training troopers are “veteran selected troopers,” Haller says.

“After successfully completing field training with adequate performance, Troopers are then released to work alone and independently,” Haller said. “Less than three percent of those who apply to become WHP Trooper actually earn this title.”

He added that the WHP has eight core values which troopers are required to adhere to:

Conviction; Approach day-to-day activities with confidence, passion, and sincerity

Humility; Have compassion, good listening skills, and be a servant leader. Recognize weaknesses in myself and strengths in others.

Integrity; Be truthful, ethical, accountable, consistent, fair, and predictable.

Loyalty; Have allegiance and trust to: ourselves, each other, and to the public; submit to authority; and use difficult times to demonstrate my commitment to those I serve. Submission equates to “being under authority grants authority.”

Diligence; Pursue excellence through hard work, dedication, and perseverance. Stay the course. Be committed. Invest the time and energy to complete each task assigned to me.

Courage; Overcome fear, have administrative fortitude, remember principle over expediency, do what is right, and demonstrate self-initiative.

Optimism; Focus on the future with a clear understanding of responsibilities to achieve agency goals, maintain a positive outlook, demonstrate patience and understanding, and recognize others.

Discipline; Display self-control, be respectful, and maintain objectivity.

Col. Haller

Haller says the WHP has other policies in place aimed to maintain the trust and respect of the public.

“Irrespective of race or other distinctions, all persons shall be treated in the same basic manner under the same or similar circumstances,” he said. “Any WHP Member who witness or who are aware of instances of biased policing shall immediately report the incident to a supervisor. All employees shall intervene at the time the biased policing incident occurs.”

“The WHP is committed to providing law enforcement services that are fair, effective, and impartially applied. Toward that end, your troopers are held to the highest standards of official conduct and are expected to respect the rights of all individuals. Your troopers are expected to conduct themselves, whether on-or off-duty, in such a manner as to reflect favorably upon themselves and the agency.”

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