Over the past week, I have received several emails from members of our community voicing their concerns about the tragedy in Minneapolis and asking what the Burlingame Police Department has done, or is doing, to prevent a similar event from happening here. First, let me say that I am appalled by the death of George Floyd and the actions of the involved officers in Minneapolis, and I support the calls for change. The Burlingame Police Department strives to treat all members of the community with dignity and respect and provide everyone with equal treatment under the law, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, economic status, background, age, or culture. To this end, our officers receive a tremendous amount of training to ensure this happens. Some examples of our officer training courses include:
- Force Options: Designed to increase awareness of current laws and departmental policy regarding the use of force, and to increase proficiency in selecting the appropriate type of force to use, including de-escalation by verbal means only. Required every two years. Burlingame officers last received this training in January of 2020.
- Tactical Communications: Designed to train officers in advanced levels of tactical communication and de-escalation techniques in an effort to generate voluntary compliance, as well as foster a professional relationship with the public. Required every two years. Burlingame officers last received this training in April of 2019.
- Defensive Tactics: Designed to give officers instruction in the proper use of self-defense techniques and arrest controls, including the prohibition of techniques such as choke holds. Required every two years. Burlingame officers last received this training in March of 2020.
- Bias-Based Policing (Racial Profiling): Designed to teach skills needed to overcome, reduce, and manage hidden biases. Required every five years. Burlingame officers last received this training in April of 2020.
- Hate Crimes: Designed to train officers in the investigation of hate crimes as well as sensitivity towards victims. Not a requirement; however, all Burlingame officers received this training in October of 2019.
We are fortunate to have a small department (40 officers total). This makes officer oversight much easier than in bigger cities with larger numbers of personnel.
Our patrol shifts are relatively small with a sergeant/supervisor assigned to each shift, and the sergeant provides direct oversight of these officers. This allows for a very small span of control and enables sergeants to monitor their officers closely. Sergeants respond to calls to ensure proper handling, monitor traffic and pedestrian stops, monitor arrests, review reports, review citations issued, etc. This is done for reasons such as quality control, but also to ensure people’s rights are not being infringed upon (e.g. racial profiling, etc.). In addition, every use of force (however slight) is reviewed and investigated. The review and investigation is not only reviewed through the chain of command at the Police Department, but it is also reviewed by our City Attorney’s Office as an added set of checks and balances.
Our officers are also all outfitted with body worn cameras (BWC) which must be activated on every call for service or self-initiated citizen contact. The BWC footage is saved and reviewed as needed.
Ranked above the sergeants in the chain of command are two Lieutenants, one Captain, and the Chief of Police. The Lieutenants and Captain directly supervise the Sergeants. They review the daily log and read all reports to ensure proper police conduct.
We also have a citizen complaint policy in place that allows the public to file a complaint with our Department in a variety of different and convenient ways, if needed.
Again, I want to thank the members of our community who emailed me for taking the time to voice their concerns. Please know that the Burlingame Police Department takes your concerns seriously and supports people everywhere in their peaceful calls for change.
Chief of Police