Plymouth Township’s Chief of Police releases statement on policies and procedures

Plymouth Township’s Chief of Police John C. Myrsiades issued a statement via Facebook yesterday that addresses policies and procedures that the police department had put in place prior to the death of George Floyd while being arrested in Minneapolis. Myrsiades has been the chief of police in the township since June of 2019.

The township police force came under some scrutiny in 2018 after a Philadelphia Inquirer article on traffic stops on marijuana arrests that had a section focused on traffic stops in the township. This was followed up with the local chapter of the NAACP attending a council meeting and expressing concern about traffic stops and unequal enforcement of marijuana laws.

Below is the statement from Myrsiades:

Over the last few weeks, there has been an ongoing debate in this country about the current state of law enforcement, how we interact with our citizens, as well as the policies and practices that we employ. Police Departments around this nation are also being asked to re-examine how their agencies will evolve as we head into the future.

This week I would like to discuss the practices and procedures that the Plymouth Township Police Department already has in place. All of the following have been in effect long before the tragedy that occurred in Minneapolis.

As many of you already know, I have been the Chief of Police for a little over a year. One of my first priorities was to foster a better relationship with local leaders that represent the racially diverse community in which we live. I held private meetings and together we built the foundation for a better relationship that continues to this day. I started hosting a series of town hall style meetings with the community at large. I then began to hold similar type meetings based more on specific groups that each have their own particular concerns as it pertains to law enforcement. These groups included not only racially diverse members, but also the LGBT community, women’s’ groups as well as seniors and families with special needs considerations. Several meetings have already taken place, but others had to be postponed due to the Covid-19 epidemic.

Another priority of my administration has been the implementation of body worn cameras for all officers in the patrol division. The Plymouth Township Police Department was one of the first agencies in this region to enact such a program, which works in conjunction with the in-car camera system that has been in effect for over a decade. I have also upgraded the camera system within the police department to better capture all actions taken by my officers while handling persons under arrest or in our custody.

Another point of emphasis was the process of a top to bottom review of all Plymouth Township Police Department policies and procedures. I have been working with an outside risk management service, Lexipol, on a comprehensive overhaul and review that is expected to take up to eighteen months. Of particular note, is an updated use of force policy that has been in effect since early May. This policy specifically requires all officers to intercede and act in order to prevent another officer from using any force that is unreasonable or unnecessary. The use of force policy also prohibits the use of “any technique that restricts blood flow to the head, restricts respiration, or which creates a reasonable likelihood that blood flow to the head or respiration would be restricted” unless deadly force is justified and legal.

In an effort to remain transparent, I have linked the Plymouth Township Police Department annual report to both the Township website and the Police Department’s Facebook page. I have also included, for the first time, a breakdown of vehicle stops based on ethnicity and the dispositions of these car stops.

Finally, training has always been a cornerstone of the Plymouth Township Police Department. In the last few years, many of our officers have attended de-escalation training; training that was temporarily postponed due to Covid-19. The Department also had every member, sworn and civilian, attend anti-bias training hosted by the Anti-Defamation League in 2019. An intensive exercise wherein we all explored our inherent biases, as well as those approaches intended to combat them.

I sincerely hope that the information provided gives you some insight and confidence into the ongoing efforts being made by the Plymouth Township Police Department, as we strive to remain a professional and trustworthy community partner.

Chief John C. Myrsiades

The annual report referenced in the statement can be found here.

Photo: Chief Myrsiades making a presentation at a community meeting. Plymouth Township.