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Many law enforcement agencies are feeling their way when it comes to determining how much force to use to subdue suspects.

But both the McClain County Sheriff’s Department and Purcell Police Department rely on training and policy that strictly curtails use of deadly force.

“Right now the carotid artery restraint is not used unless life is in extreme jeopardy,” McClain County Sheriff Don Hewett said.

That type of chokehold has been cited in numerous suspect deaths at the hands of police.

In fact, the use of all chokeholds by McClain County deputies is strongly discouraged.

Det. Sgt. Scott Stephens, public information officer at the police department, said chokeholds have never been used in his 21 years at the department.

Instead, Purcell police officers have less lethal means of ensuring compliance, including tasers, pepper spray and batons.

“We use the force necessary to accomplish the arrest,” Stephens said. “And we don’t use excessive force. That’s the way it’s been the whole time I’ve been here.

“I guess you could look at it as common sense.”

The police department has a written “force continuum” gleaned from policy provided by Lexipol.

The company is recognized as America’s leading provider of public safety policy and training solutions for law enforcement, fire and rescue, and corrections.

“We adjust that to what we need,” he said, adding the chief has final approval of the written policy.

Stephens said new hires must complete the CLEET academy unless they are already certified through another department.

The academy is followed by the department’s 16-week field training program.

The five-phase training program pairs the new officer with three different training officers. The final month is spent with the original training officer.

“No one goes right from the academy to the street,” he said.

Hewett said the department’s policy and procedures are closely aligned with those of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

Deputies are instructed to use only the level of force that is reasonable to restrain someone who is resisting or who becomes combative.

And once a suspect is restrained, Hewett’s deputies are “not to use any type of deadly force whatsoever.”

Hewett said the Oklahoma Sheriffs Association is in the process of addressing law enforcement’s use of deadly force.

“We are working with them,” he said. 

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