Police use of force: trend or anomaly?

The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office said deputies and corrections staff used potentially lethal force three times in September. That’s more in one month than in most years. Trend or anomaly? Probably the latter, data suggest.

Lethal-force incidents in September

Sept. 2: Robert Endrizzi, 60, was fatally shot after he fired at deputies and his neighbors near Arlington.

Sept. 14: Bill Williams, 59, of Everett, died at the Snohomish County Jail, shortly after he was shocked twice with an electrical stun gun by custody staff.

Sept. 25: Todd Kirkpatrick, 54, was shot multiple times after being interrupted by a deputy while allegedly robbing a bank in Stanwood. He was still hospitalized last week and hasn’t been charged.

All three situations involved a complicated set of circumstances and remain under investigation. It likely will be months before we know much more.

Still, how often does the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office use force, and how?

The department tracks applications of force to monitor whether policies are being followed. Training is modeled on the “continuum of force,” a national law enforcement standard for how to respond to people who resist arrest or are combative.

The sheriff’s office report for 2011 details 405 incidents involving 60 types of force. More than half of the times force was applied, it was limited to an officer using holds, hands and feet.

Electric stun guns were used about three times more often than pepper spray. Only a couple of the incidents involved vehicles.

Two incidents ended with deputies fatally shooting suspects.

Kinds of force employed by Snohomish County officers in 2011

Firearm 86
Weapon drawn, aimed or fired 86
Stun gun 109
Prongs fired 105
Contact stun, no prongs 4
Spray 38
Chemical spray 28
Pepper spray 10
Hands/feet 487
Pushing, tackling, other contact 299
“Escort hold” 56
Basic arm hold 49
Physically restrained 48
Joint locks/pressure 35
Other 196
Restraint chair used 84
Miscellaneous 83
Cell extraction 26
Vehicle pursuit immobilization 3
Total 916

SOURCE: Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office. Data are for deputies and corrections staff.

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