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Chokehold not used by Sierra Vista Police in over 24 years, chief says
New details on policies revealed after councilwoman calls for end to chokeholds

SIERRA VISTA — Sierra Vista's police chief shared information Thursday on his department's use of several techniques after a Sierra Vista councilwoman said earlier in the week that she wants to see an end to police chokeholds, knee holds and officers shooting at moving vehicles in the city.

The procedures are currently banned at the Sierra Vista Police Department, unless the officer’s life or the life of another person are in peril, Police Chief Adam Thrasher said Thursday.

Earlier this week, Councilwoman Kristine Wolfe sent Thrasher a “council inquiry” asking the police chief if the agency has a de-escalation policy, whether recruits are trained on de-escalation procedures, how long are they trained, and if the policy — if one exists — is given to recruits.

At the City Council’s work session Tuesday, Wolfe praised Thrasher’s responses, and said the City Council should address chokeholds, knee holds and shooting at moving vehicles.

“...The use of chokeholds and knee holds, I’m willing to listen to more on that,” Wolfe said Tuesday. “But I think it’s something as a policy that we don’t like and we don’t agree with.”

“And I would also agree and say that we should discuss the policy of being able to shoot at moving vehicles — I don’t think we should (shoot at moving vehicles,)” she said. “And this is something I think we should discuss as a council, as a policy issue.”

While he explained to Wolfe in his response that all three procedures are used only in “deadly force situations,” Thrasher also said, “SVPD believes banning this technique in situations when officers face potential death or serious physical injury places them in undue risk.”

Thrasher also said the choke and knee hold are known as the carotid control technique.

“In law enforcement, the technique used to subdue a suspect that is commonly referred to as a “neck restraint or chokehold” is technically called the Carotid Control Technique,” Thrasher said in his response. “Applied properly, this technique does not ‘choke’ the suspect, but limits blood flow to and from the head rendering the subject unconscious.”

“Unfortunately, the situations where this technique is typically used are high-stress, dynamic situations and the technique can be applied improperly causing choking of the suspect. As a result, SVPD banned the use of this technique in the late 1980s except in situations when officers are faced with deadly force situations. This means it can only be used to save their or someone else’s life.”

The chief told the Herald/Review on Thursday that the last time Sierra Vista officers had to use the carotid control technique was more than 24 years ago.

Wolfe said it doesn’t matter what the circumstances are — law enforcement’s use of chokeholds, knee holds and shooting at moving cars should stop.

“If they haven’t used a choke hold in 24 years, then why have it at all? “ Wolfe said in an interview with the herald/Review on Thursday.

Wolfe also said that shooting at moving cars creates too much room for error because other people could be hurt.

But like the carotid control technique, an officer would only shoot at a moving car if the suspect is using the vehicle as a weapon to run down an officer or others, Thrasher said.

“In such a case, the shots shall be directed at the perpetrator(s) and not at the structure of the vehicle itself,” Thrasher said in his response.

Mayor Rick Mueller said the City Council will hold a work session with Thrasher and other police department heads so that the issues brought up by Wolfe can be discussed.

THE GREAT UNKNOWN: BUSD faces uncertainty as new school year approaches

BISBEE — Students attending Bisbee Unified School District will have to wait two more weeks to find out just exactly when school will be starting.

School is currently scheduled to start on July 28, but Superintendent Tom Woody, administration and faculty are wary of going back to a normal classroom setting with the continued increase of COVID-19 diagnoses within the county and state.

During the June 9 school board meeting, members Ann Littrell, Carol Loy, Scott Hall, Erin Rhodes and Brian Ott asked Woody to present three different plans for school reopening, one of which would include starting at a later date in August.

Woody said there is a state issue which needs to be cleared up considering funding. Right now, brick and mortar schools do not receive money for students who participate in online studies. This problem needs to be remedied by the state legislators, as some parents may not feel safe sending their children back to school, making online courses a necessity.

“It would be nice if the state legislators recognized that school districts need to be given flexibility,” he added.

He is not sure how maintaining social distancing would work in the common areas like the cafeterias.

“We can try to add an extra lunch period and try to control the movements of students, and make masks mandatory. We may have to provide them for the students,” Woody said.

He told the board members he did not see any problems with intermittent classroom cleaning.

Transportation, however, may be problematic as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends limiting the number of students on a bus to just 12 and having all students and drivers wear masks. This would require more buses, more drivers and possibly different school schedules.

“Transportation may be tricky,” he told them. “I’ve been reluctant to put out options due to all the unknowns. I can say, we will not be back to normal.”

Ott said, “These are exceptional times. The large districts need to pressure the legislature for funding.”

Hall, on the other hand, said, “I don’t care what other districts are doing. We should have three different, quantifiable plans. I want to see actual plans.”

Rhodes said parent input on the subject was essential, and the rest agreed.

Woody said a survey was being prepared to be sent to parents to gain their suggestions and concerns, and phone calls would be made as well.

Fall sports may also be canceled for Lowell Junior High and Bisbee High School, or they may have shortened schedules, Woody added.

Darin Giltner, BHS principal, said, “I would be surprised to see all the schools on schedule. I’m not at all optimistic we’ll see sports this fall.”

The plan is to have the surveys back and digested, as well as devise three optional plans for reopening the schools in time for a special meeting to be held June 23 at 5:45 p.m.

Mural projectThe Copper Queen Library’s San Jose Annex at the district administration facility is now decorated with a mural, but is not what Woody and the board members expected.

The idea was to have local volunteer artists sketch a story idea set in Bisbee, developed by the children enrolled in the summer reading program, and then they would then paint the mural.

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the library closed the annex and the main library to the public. “They have no immediate plans for the kids to come in and work on it,” Woody said. “The project was at a standstill.”

Litrell said, “I was disconcerted to find the mural up. From my point of view, it should have been a board decision.”

Loy agreed and noted art was “subjective.” She, too, was told the children would be providing the idea for the mural and would paint it as a project. “But, there was no student participation.”

Woody told them the artists did not communicate with the library about it and he was surprised to see it finished. “Volunteers are eager and things closing down contributed to the lack of communication. We may have to paint over some of what they did.”

STEM workshopThe board members agreed to lease space indoors and outdoors to the Bisbee Science Lab for a children and youth three week summer science, technology, engineering and mathematics workshop from July 6 to the 24.

Temperatures will be checked daily and the children will need to wear the provided masks, said Woody.

Hall was the only board member in opposition to the lease agreement.