OPINION: Mesa PD's new use of force policy could 'create environment where officers may get hurt'

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Retired Mesa police officer and cop columnist Bill Richardson weighed in on the Mesa Police Department's new use of force policy.

Thursday, Mesa Police Chief Ramon Batista issued a special order banning officers from hitting a suspect in the face, head or neck unless the suspect shows active aggression which is defined as "assault with non-deadly physical force" towards officers.

That means taking a fighting stance, punching, kicking, striking, or any action that could hurt the officer.

[RELATED: Mesa police investigate use of force policy]

If an officer does strike someone in the face, head, or neck, the new policy also requires a supervisor to get involved.

The new rule went into effect immediately and expires June 7, 2019.

[RELATED: Another officer on leave, use-of-force policy updated after Mesa police beating ]

"Things happen very rapidly and Monday-morning-quarterbacking in law enforcement has become a daily occurrence so it creates an environment where officers may get hurt because you're going to hesitate," said Richardson.

At the time of his retirement, he was a supervisor in the criminal intelligence unit and I instructed officers and officer safety and advance officer training.

He called Chief Batista's decision to change the use of force policy an "overreaction" and should wait until the investigation is complete.

"If they're going to bring in the police executive research board to do an examination on the police department's past use of force, and have Romley conduct and internal investigation for officers at the scene, it's too early to jump to the conclusion that they need another policy or new policy as far as use of force."

[SPECIAL SECTION: Mesa police use of force]

Benjamin Taylor, the attorney in the high-profile Robert Johnson's case disagrees. Johnson was the man seen in surveillance video and officer body camera video getting beaten by Mesa police officers at a Mesa apartment building. 

"We can't wait. The time is now for the police department to step up and take action," said Taylor. "I like this policy. It's a step in the right direction."

“The one concern is if someone violates the policy, the community is going to wonder whether or not the chief or an independent investigation will follow through and make sure the office is punished,” continued Taylor.

The Mesa Police Association's president has said the old use of force policy was in line with other departments across the Valley and under it, an officer didn't have to wait to be assaulted to use reasonable force.

[RELATED: Mesa man punched by police on video speaks out about incident]

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Maria HechanovaMaria’s last name is pronounced HETCH-UH-NO-VAH. She joined the 3TV/CBS 5 News team in July 2017, but is no stranger to Arizona.

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Maria Hechanova

Prior to moving to Phoenix, she spent four years in Tucson reporting for KOLD News 13 and KMSB FOX 11 covering wildfires, VA transportation issues, and Southern Arizona's largest school district.

Before that, she worked for WLNS-TV, the CBS affiliate in Lansing, Michigan where she learned a lot about the auto industry and almost never took off her parka.

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