The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office is dedicated to keeping our communities safe and its citizens informed. Community events, agency updates, and information will be posted here and updated as needed.
Community Update from Hamilton County Sheriff, Dennis Quakenbush
Sheriff Dennis Quakenbush and the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office are proud to announce their recent certification with the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). “Keeping Hamilton County Safe is our top priority. Collecting more, reliable and accurate data is foundational to this effort.” NIBRS reporting is a system of reporting more detailed information within an incident. This reporting system has allowed the Sheriff’s Office to move away from the traditional Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) system that did not collect as many pieces of data within an individual crime. NIBRS primary objective is to generate reliable information for use within law enforcement administration, operation, and management.
“Originally, the UCR Program was designed as a summary system to collect only the most serious offense within an incident. However, the program began using incident-based reporting (i.e., NIBRS) in 1989 to capture all offenses within an incident—up to ten crime occurrences. Through NIBRS, LEAs [law enforcement agencies] report data on each offense and arrest within 28 offense categories made up of 71 specific crimes called Group A offenses. For each of the Group A offenses coming to their attention, the LE collects administrative, offense, property, victim, offender, and arrestee information. LEAs report only arrest data for an additional 13 Group B offense categories” (U.S Department of Justice, CJIS, 2019).
Leading this transition from UCR crime reporting to NIBRS crime reporting is Deputy Clerk Melissa Nickel. Melissa Nickel has worked for the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office for over 15 years and has taken the initiative, with the help of other Sheriff’s Office employees, to ensure this agency becomes fully compliant with NIBRS high standards. This transition has not come easy, with NIBRS expecting near perfect error rates in all reports being filed. Melissa and her team worked diligently to allow the error rate to be at a perfect 0% for three consecutive months. This not only allowed our agency to become certified with the Indiana State Police, but also helps provide excellent data and statistics to the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Melissa Nickel stated, “NIBRS could potentially help Hamilton County to target specific crimes in certain areas to help continue to reduce crime across the county.”
By design, law enforcement agencies generate NIBRS data as a by-product of their respective records management systems. Therefore, an agency builds its system to suit its own individual needs. This includes all the information required for administration and operation, then forwards only the data required by NIBRS to the national UCR Program. As more agencies report via NIBRS, the data collected will provide a clearer assessment of the nation’s crime experience. It will provide accurate data to criminologists, sociologists, legislators, municipal planners, the media and other various research and planning groups.
The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office is an accredited department through CALEA (Commission of Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc.). CALEA is a credentialing authority through the joint efforts of law enforcement’s major executive associations: International Association of Chiefs of Police, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, National Sheriff’s Association and Police Executive Research Forum (calea.org). This accreditation ensures that the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office adheres to a strict set of professional standards that are reviewed and assessed by CALEA annually. CALEA accreditation requires comprehensive and uniform written directives that clearly define authority, performance and responsibilities, report and analyses to make fact-based and informed management decisions, continuous pursuit of excellence through annual reviews and other assessment measures including independent review by subject matter experts and more. The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office has been proudly accredited since 2010.
Full-time Sheriff’s Deputies must complete a 40-hour pre-basic course prior to attending the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy. Deputies then successfully complete over 600 hours of training through the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy. Training includes Criminal and Traffic Law, Firearms Training, Emergency Vehicle Operations, Physical Tactics, Domestic Violence, Sex assaults as well as Criminal and Traffic Crash Investigation. Our Reserve Deputies all complete certified Reserve Academies with similar standards and training topics provided to our full-time deputies.
Each year the State of Indiana mandates deputies complete a minimum of 24 hours of in-service training. Full-time Deputies of The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office averaged 99 hours of in-service training; Reserve deputies averaged 83 hours of in-service training in 2019. The Sheriff’s Office ensured the following training was incorporated into the agency:
Critical Incident Training, Ethics Training, Biased Based Policing Training, Mental Illness, Autism Awareness Training, One Breath Training (Prevention of in-custody death & recognizing agonal breathing), Addiction Awareness Training, Ethical Intervention Training (trains deputies to intervene in unethical behaviors witnessed when displayed by other deputies), Law Enforcement and the Transgender Community Training, Cultural Diversity Training (How Police Can Get to Know their Communities), Crisis Intervention Training and Columbia Protocol (Suicide Severity Rating Scale), Firearms Training, Physical Tactics Training, Emergency Vehicle Operations Training, and Active Shooter Training.
We recently received specific inquiries about the 8CantWait initiative. In an effort to remain transparent, we would like to address this concern with our community. The 8CantWait initiative is a project initiated by Campaign Zero in 2016. The project involved developing 8 standards from a report called “Police Use of Force Policy Analysis” that authors encouraged police departments to adopt. The report was written by the Campaign Zero planning team and a copy of the report can be found at their website 8cantwait.org. Below are the 8 recommended policies from the report and how the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office addresses each of the points:
1. Require deputies to de-escalate situations, when possible, before using force.
HCSO Response: Deputies are trained and required to attempt to de-escalate situations, when possible, before using force. De-escalation training is mandatory for all Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office sworn personnel. All deputies train annually on de-escalation as part of their mandatory training. The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office also regularly sends deputies to Crisis Intervention Training to become certified CIT Deputies, a training which relies heavily on de-escalation. As of June 2020, 55% of our merit deputies are CIT certified. We firmly believe de-escalation is not one training event, de-escalation is a component that is woven into multiple trainings we provide to our deputies annually.
2. Use a Force Continuum or Matrix.
HCSO Response: The concept of a Use of Force Continuum is no longer considered an industry “best practice” and so our department departed from its use over a decade ago. This is primarily because a Use of Force Continuum is linear, while most Use of Force encounters are not. Locking deputies into a continuum with a step-by-step protocol to address a use of force situation often leads to more applications of force, as the deputy walks down a prescribed path, trying different levels of force before arriving at one that overcomes the person’s ability to resist.
A better practice involves assessing the suspect’s level of resistance and only using that force which is necessary to accomplish lawful objectives when effecting control and protecting themselves, others, or property. This leads to fewer applications of force and results in fewer injuries to offenders and our deputies. Our use of force training and policies conform to both Indiana Code and federal case law.
3. Restrict Choke Holds and Strangle Holds (including carotid restraints) to situations where deadly force is authorized or prohibiting them all together.
HCSO Response: Choke holds and strangle holds are not authorized unless deadly force is authorized.
4. Require deputies to give a verbal warning, when possible, before using deadly force.
HCSO Response: Indiana Code 35-41-3-3 requires a warning be given, if feasible, to the person against whom deadly force is to be used. Hamilton County Sheriff’s deputies are trained to provide verbal warning prior to the application of force whenever feasible. This applies to multiple levels of force including: Taser deployments and K9 applications up through uses of deadly force. The overarching principle is to provide the offender the opportunity to cease their actions and comply with the deputy, and thereby eliminate the necessity for any use of force against them. This is where our deputies combined training on de-escalation techniques, less than lethal force and situational awareness work together.
5. Prohibit Deputies from Shooting at People in Moving Vehicles unless the person poses a deadly threat by means other than the vehicle (for example, shooting at people from the vehicle).
HCSO Response: Discharging a firearm at a moving vehicle is justified in deadly force situations only. Where deadly force is not authorized, deputies may only use that level of force that is objectively reasonable to bring any incident under control. The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office also utilizes STOPS (Strategies and Tactics of Patrol Stops) training to teach deputies to constantly assess and reassess their interactions with motorists.
6. Require deputies to exhaust all other reasonable alternatives before resorting to deadly force.
HCSO Response: While the dynamics of each critical incident are somewhat unique, we train our deputies to utilize appropriate, reasonable levels of force. Deputies are trained to understand their options within the context of a volatile situation and appropriately apply the level of force reasonably necessary to safely bring resolution. This has been accomplished via realistic, relevant and on-going scenario-based training to improve decision-making skills.
The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office places the highest value on human life. In accordance with this principle, deputies are also trained in the use and deployment of less lethal options. This concept of planning and force application meets operational objectives, with less potential for causing death or serious physical injury than conventional police tactics/equipment. If anyone becomes sick, injured, or complains of injury incidental to arrest or any other action by a deputy or employee of the Sheriff’s Office, the deputy or employee shall immediately summon medical assistance, provide necessary first aid as per training and notify his/her supervisor.
7. Require deputy to intervene.
HCSO Response: Hamilton County Sheriff’s deputies are trained to intercede if they observe another deputy using force that is clearly beyond that which is objectively reasonable, or permitted by law. While recognizing the need to demonstrate authority and control over criminal suspects and prisoners, employees shall adhere to the agency’s response to resistance policy and shall observe the civil rights and protect the well-being of those in their charge.
Such response shall not proceed past the point of the subject’s willingness to submit and the deputy’s need to maintain adequate control.
8. Require comprehensive reporting that includes both the uses of force and threats of force (for example, reporting instances where a deputy threatens a civilian with a firearm).
HCSO Response: Deputies are required to complete Response to Resistance reports (RTR) to document when a weapon was displayed or anytime force was applied. All RTR reports are reviewed by supervisory and command level staff to ensure that it is in line with training, policy and best practices. Procedure requires additional review by supervisory and command level staff if a deputy is involved in four use of force incidents in less than 180 days. All use of force incidents are subject to be reviewed by the Response to Resistance Board, which is made up supervisors as well as highly trained instructors.
As always, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office remains steadfast in our duty to honorably serve the citizens of Hamilton County with professionalism and accountability. We are committed to continuing to build relationships with the community, to build trust and to maintain the highest levels of training for our personnel. We hope this information has been helpful to better understand the processes that are in place when responding to a critical incident, as well as the standards and training the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office upholds.