Police Department

Leading Change

Policy Updates

Use of Force Policy 300 



CFS: 100,766, UOF Incidents: 158, UOF vs CFS: .15%

Arrests-Adult and Juvenile: 3502.  In those UOF used 4.5%

The Duluth Police Department takes pride in engaging with our community and being leaders in policing. We lead from how we do character-based recruiting and hiring, policy development (at times, with our community and Citizen Review Board), and providing realistic scenario-based training to best replicate and prepare our officers for the dynamic and difficult police responses they will encounter. We embrace an environment of change and seek continuous improvement.

At DPD, we believe the community is our strength. Our relationships form partnerships and these partnerships create safer communities that allow each of us to enjoy a greater quality of life. We believe in the importance of upholding our social contract with our community. The community has a voice and grants us the authority to do this work of protecting and serving with them.

After the tragic death of George Floyd, our community requested we audit our policies and assure them we are aligned with best practices in the policing industry. We responded by doing a comprehensive review of our use of force policy. We found that DPD followed best practices, however, we recognized the opportunity to add and clarify policy language which will provide clearer direction to our officers about our expectations and foster better community understanding.

Ban chokeholds & strangleholds

A tactic that limits or prohibits either air or blood flow from passing through the neck of a person. We stopped training these types of neck restraints as a tactic over 20 years ago. Chokeholds and strangleholds are not an approved use of force at DPD and are considered deadly force.

Require de-escalation

Communication is the number one tool our officers use when out in the field. We know the critical importance of using de-escalation, crisis intervention, and verbal defense and influence trainings that can effectively and dramatically change outcomes in generating voluntary compliance. We train extensively on de-escalation; not only as a stand-alone subject, but it’s also incorporated into defensive tactics, firearms, and use of force trainings. De-escalation is a fundamental piece of the work we do.

Require warning before shooting

Officers are required to warn suspects before shooting if feasible. However, some incidents may develop rapidly and dynamically, and giving a warning before discharging a firearm may not be possible. Our officers have extensive training in managing dynamic situations and people who are in crisis. We train officers to consider how their approach and actions can escalate or de-escalate an incident. We have added a provision we have trained upon for years to include tactical retreat in circumstances where responding creates a greater risk to life and safety.

Exhaust all alternatives before shooting

Alternatives to using force begin by having robust responses to problems such as mental illness and substance abuse. Our mental health unit, pairing social workers and police officers is groundbreaking and innovative. More importantly, this program is improving the lives of people in our community. In 2019, DPD responded to more than 4100 calls involving mental health. Additionally, DPD responded to more than 7,400 calls where substance abuse was a factor. Additionally, the Duluth Police Department Mental Health Unit has had more than 400 proactive responses to address people in the community who struggle with mental health and/or substance abuse issues. We are a lifesaving organization that values the sanctity of every life. We seek to generate voluntary compliance and use less-lethal alternatives to deadly force. We have added less-lethal alternatives to deadly force that enhance our ability to save lives.

Duty to intervene

We currently have a duty to intervene language in the policy. We added language that states regardless of tenure or rank, officers must intervene verbally or physically if another officer is using force outside of policy and training. It is more important to prevent the need to intervene. To do so, we are taking steps towards a holistic approach to enhance officer health, wellness, and resiliency. Last year, the City invested in the health and wellness of our officers by funding mandatory annual mental health check-ins with a mental health professional. We are also in the process of working with the College of St. Scholastica to create an annual physical wellness program to encourage greater health. Together, these initiatives will help officers gain greater resiliency from the trauma and stress of police work.

Ban Shooting at Moving Vehicles

Our policy states:  Shots fired at or from a moving vehicle are rarely effective. Officers should move out of the path of an approaching vehicle instead of discharging their firearm at the vehicle or any of its occupants. An officer should only discharge a firearm at a moving vehicle or its occupants when the officer reasonably believes there are no other reasonable means available to avert the threat of the vehicle, or if deadly force other than the vehicle is directed at the officer or others. Officers should not shoot at any part of a vehicle in an attempt to disable the vehicle.

Require Use of Force Continuum

The progression of force is not linear. An officer adapts their use of force response to overcome resistance and generate compliance with what tools and tactics are reasonable and appropriate. In using any tools and tactics in the list of options an officer has, an officer may go from one to the other that governs the objectively reasonable standard as the situation unfolds.

The critical importance of using de-escalation, crisis intervention training or verbal defense and influence can effectively and dramatically change outcomes in generating voluntary compliance. Having the capacity to use less-lethal tools to resolve potentially lethal encounters is another way we are poised to save the lives of people who are experiencing a crisis today but through good tactics, training and tools can live tomorrow.   

Require Comprehensive Reporting

Officers are required to report any use of force above putting someone into handcuffs. All use of force incidents is reviewed by a supervisor to determine if the force used was reasonable, appropriate, and within policy. We have a dedicated Training Sergeant with significant training and experience who will also evaluate our use of force for consistency with our policies and training. We also have early intervention systems in place to track officer uses of force and complaints. We do body-worn camera audits to review incidents for the purposes of coaching, guiding, mentoring, and training. If the force is outside our policy and training, we follow our complaint process.