Critical Incident Review Process

The Use of Force Board and Tactical Review Board, LVMPD Policy 5/109.02

Many of you have never experienced the Critical Incident Review Process, which consists of the Use of Force Board and Tactical Review Board. You have all heard stories from other officers’ experiences, and even from the media about how the boards are just a rubber-stamp process. But folks, let’s be real. This is no rubber-stamp process, even back to my first OIS in 2001. The process and the boards are thorough and have a purpose: to present the facts and a portrayal of what occurred, ask tough questions of the officers involved, hear firsthand the officers’ answers, and make a ruling on the use of force and tactics used during the event. The Critical Incident Review Process takes place after the district attorney has issued a written review of the officer involved shooting. Right now this process
takes about a year to be completed.

The Use of Force Board consists of four civilian members who are picked randomly from a pool of citizens. These citizens receive training as to their role in the Critical Incident Review Process. The board also includes a peer member of the same rank as the officer involved, the captain of ODB/Training, a deputy
chief, and the chair, who is an assistant sheriff. The chair has a non-voting role in the process and acts as the moderator. Also present is PEAP, someone from the Critical Incident Review Team (CIRT), members from OIO, your captain or someone from your chain of command, and a PPA representative. Currently, the standing members of the board are ODB/Training Captain Kelly, Deputy Chief Schofield and Assistant Sheriff Primas.

Typically, a week prior to the Use of Force Board, you will be called in by CIRT to review the use of force presentation and PowerPoint that they have prepared. Once you are called by CIRT to come in for your review, you should call the PPA and ask for a representative to go with you. Your review of this presentation is important: You are afforded the opportunity to see the presentation and make sure it is an accurate portrayal of the event and is consistent with your recollection of the event and the timeline. It also helps because you will have seen and heard the presentation prior to the Use of Force Board. If things need to be corrected at this point, CIRT does a good job in making these corrections if they are able to. If CIRT believes, based on their case work, that the information needs to stay as
it is presented, you will have a chance to speak on that topic in the board.

Once you arrive for the board, we will meet and walk into the boardroom together. We will point out where everyone is sitting and explain their roles. We will walk you through the process again and explain what to expect. Seeing the large room and number of people involved in the process can make you nervous; however, rest assured we will be by your side and guide you through it. You will have to sign several internal documents requiring you to testify during the process, which provides you Garrity protections. With regard to your testimony, LVMPD policy requires you to be truthful at all times. By signing the documents, you are acknowledging that you are being provided Garrity protections; that you understand the requirement to be truthful and that if you aren’t truthful you could be terminated; and lastly, that if you refuse to answer questions, you are considered insubordinate and could be terminated.

The board will then be called to the table by the chair. Everyone will take their seats and the proceeding will begin to be recorded. Everyone will announce and introduce themselves into the record. The admonishments, truthfulness policy and Garrity protections will all be read into the record, and you will be asked if you understand all of them.

The case agent from CIRT will then present the case to the Use of Force Board. CIRT utilizes PowerPoint presentations, video surveillance, audio recordings, maps and photographs in their presentation. After the presentation, you will be asked if the presentation by CIRT was accurate. The citizens will then have a
chance to ask CIRT any questions about the case and the presentation. After CIRT has answered all the citizens’ questions, the commissioned members of the board can ask CIRT questions about the case and the presentation.

At this point, the chair will allow the citizens to ask you any questions they have regarding your use of deadly force. They are not allowed to ask you any tactics or decision-making questions. The sole focus of these questions should be merely on the application of deadly force. After the citizens have asked all of their questions, the chair will open it up for the commissioned members of the board to ask you questions about your use of deadly force. Once all questions have been asked, the PPA has an opportunity to ask you any clarifying questions or make a statement on your behalf. The chair will then adjourn the board and dismiss all members so that voting may take place.

Once the deliberations on the actual use of deadly force have been completed, everyone will be called back into the room. The chair will then inform you of how the board voted on your use of deadly force. This board can vote and find four different conclusions as to the use of force:

  • Administrative approval: Objectively reasonable force was used under the circumstances, based on the information available to the officer at the time. This disposition acknowledges that the use of force was within departmental policy. There are no concerns surrounding the tactics employed. Within policy/good-to-excellent performance.
  • Tactics/decision-making: This disposition considers that even though the use of deadly force was lawful and within policy, the tactics and/or decision-making employed were flawed and worked to limit alternatives that may have otherwise been available to the officer. A different approach may have reduced or eliminated the need for the officer to employ deadly force.
  • Policy/training failure: A deadly force outcome was undesirable but did not stem from a violation of policy or failure to follow current training protocols. A Department policy and/or specific training protocol is inadequate, ineffective or deficient; the officer followed existing policy and/or training; or there is no existing policy and/or training protocol that addresses the action taken or performance demonstrated. Global policy or training deficiencies.
  • Administrative disapproval: The UFRB has concluded through this disposition that the force used was a violation of Department policy. This outcome is reserved for the most serious failures in adherence to policy, decision-making and/or performance. A violation of the use-of-force policy.

After the findings are disclosed, the Use of Force Board concludes, and we move directly into the Tactical Review Board. The citizens will remain in the room and only observe the Tactical Review Board. The commissioned members who sat on the Use of Force Board remain in place for the Tactical Review Board. There is one new additional member added for the board, and that person is a commissioned member of any rank considered to be a tactical expert.

CIRT will present its findings and conclusion to the Tactical Review Board. The findings and conclusion are based on CIRT’s review of the entire event from beginning to end. It focuses on every aspect of the critical event. CIRT’s conclusion can be based on training guidelines, policy, Academy lesson plans, search and seizure, and NRS. The conclusion could be positive and/or negative.

After CIRT presents its findings, the chair will allow questions from the board. The board members in some cases will ask many tough and direct questions as to your actions and thoughts. At no point is this questioning to be adversarial, and if it becomes that way, it is to be stopped. The purpose of this process is to ensure that every member acted within policy, the law, and training standards set forth by the Department. If your performance exceeds standards, the board will recognize this. If your performance was below standards or it violated policy or training standards, then the board has an obligation to recognize this and provide discipline and/or training to ensure that every member meets standards.

After all the questions have been asked, the chair will excuse all the members and deliberate on the conclusion that CIRT proposed to the Tactical Review Board. Once the deliberations are done, the board will call everyone back in and announce its decision. The board can approve, deny or modify the conclusion that CIRT presented.

In preparation for writing this article, I sat down and talked with Assistant Sheriff Primas, the board chair. I asked him some questions brought up recently by officers who have appeared before the board. Assistant Sheriff Primas stated the process is not intended to change culture by discipline, but rather, to train and educate the individual officers, squads or the entire Department. He stated that if policies are broken and a situation fits the criteria for discipline, it must be administered, but the process is designed to improve the entire Department by ensuring everyone’s performance of their duties falls within standards and guidelines. Through a lot of hard work, the Department, the PPA and the PMSA have made the Critical Incident Review Process better. It will continue to evolve, and concerns will always be there. Hopefully, you will not have to be involved in the Critical Incident Review Process, but if you are, you will be very prepared to go before the board — and we will be standing beside you, helping you through the process.