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Director’s Report on Act 180 (Conducted Electrical Weapons)

The Electronic Control Device Bill

Conducted electrical weapon (CEW) use by Vermont law enforcement officers was a very hotly debated issue during the 2014 legislative session, and Act 180, which started life as H.225, contained a number of requirements for VT law enforcement agencies.  To help agency heads understand their obligations under this law, we’ve prepared the following list of bullet points and frequently asked questions:

Do we have to adopt a CEW policy?

On or before January 1, 2016, every law enforcement agency and constable exercising law enforcement authority shall adopt the statewide CEW policy established by the Law Enforcement Advisory Board (LEAB); Download the Policy. By statute, the policy included the following:

  1. Electronic control devices are less-lethal, but not necessarily nonlethal, alternatives to lethal force.
  2. Officers may deploy an electronic control device only:
    • (A) against subjects who are exhibiting active aggression or who are actively resisting in a manner that, in the officer’s judgment, is likely to result in injuries to others or themselves; or
    • (B) if, without further action or intervention by the officer, injuriy to the subject or others will likely occur.
  3. Neither an officer, a subject, or a third party has actually to suffer an injury before an officer is permitted to use an electronic control device, and officers are not required to use alternatives that increase the danger to the public or themselves.
  4. When it is safe to do so, officers shall attempt to de-escalate situations and shall provide a warning prior to deploying an electronic control device.
  5. Electronic control devices shall not be used in a punitive or coercive manner and shall not be used to awaken, escort, or gain compliance from passively resisting subjects. The act of fleeing or of destroying evidence, in and of itself, does not justify the use of an electronic control device.
  6. The use of electronic control devices shall comply with all recommendations by manufacturers for the reduction of risk of injury to subjects, including situations where a subject’s physical susceptibilities are known.
  7. Electronic control devices shall be used in a manner that recognizes the potential additional risks that can result from situations:
    • (A) involving persons who are in an emotional crisis that may interfere with their ability to understand the consequences of their actions or to follow directions;
    • (B) involving persons with disabilities whose disability may impact their ability to communicate with an officer, or respond to an officer’s directions; and
    • (C) involving higher risk populations that may be more susceptible to injury as a result of electronic control devices.
  8. Electronic control devices shall not be used on animals unless necessary to deter vicious or aggressive behavior that threatens the safety of officers or others.

Do we have to adopt this policy even if we don’t issue CEW’s?

The statutory language reads as such:

“On or before January 1, 2016, every State, local, county, and municipal law enforcement agency and every constable who is not employed by a law enforcement agency shall adopt this policy.”  This would require all agencies to adopt this policy even if it doesn’t issue CEW’s.

What are the training requirements in the LEAB policy?

The training requirements in the LEAB policy are as follows:

Training for officers authorized to carry CEWs shall be conducted annually.

Training shall not be restricted solely to training conducted by the manufacturer of the CEW. However, training shall include the recommendation by manufacturers for the reduction of risk of injury to subjects, including situations where a subject’s physical susceptibilities are known.

Training shall emphasize that CEWs may be less-lethal, but are not non or less-than lethal.

Training shall also incorporate, at a minimum:

  • Instruction on the use of force continuum.
    • Techniques to avoid or deescalate confrontations.
    • The underlying technology and operation of CEWs. 
  • The physiological effects upon an individual against whom such a CEW is deployed.
  • The proper use of the weapon, including both the proper mechanical use of the weapon and the circumstances under which it is appropriate to use the weapon.
  • Scenario-based training.
  • Proper removal of CEW probes.
  • The potential medical needs of a subject who has been subjected to a CEW 
  • The post-deployment reporting requirements.
  • Instruction on interacting with individuals experiencing a mental health crisis, emotional crisis or other type of crisis, as recommended by the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council.

Act 180 also required that the Council adopt rules and develop training to ensure that the training standards were met.  To that end, the Council has prepared a post-basic training that is intended to supplement the manufacturer’s training.  This training will be offered beginning in 2016, but nothing in the Council training is intended to or should be considered as a substitute for the manufacturer’s course.

What is the status of officers already certified?

The Council will ‘grandfather’ those officers currently certified to carry CEW’s, with the proviso that if they have not already had the training on interacting with individuals experiencing a mental health crisis, it will be a mandatory training for them in 2016.  CEW instructors will also be grandfathered.

In order to facilitate this process and add CEW certification to an officer’s training record, we’re asking that agencies let us know by December 31st which officers are CEW certified, and whether or not they’re also certified as instructors.

Do CEW’s have to be tested/calibrated annually?

The LEAB policy requires testing of CEW’s upon receipt by an agency and annual testing if testing equipment is available in-state.  If the CEW is used and an incident has a critical outcome, it will also need to be tested at that time, regardless of any other time it might have been tested.  CEW’s that self-calibrate are exempt from this requirement.

The Council is currently attempting to purchase testing equipment that will be made available to agencies needing to test their units—if this equipment does become available, then, because there will be an in-state option, all units that do not self-calibrate must be tested annually.

Does CEW use need to be reported to the Council?

There is a CEW Use Report Form as required by the Council subsequent to the legislative mandate.  Download the form and instructions.