WARRENTON — The Warrenton Police Department has updated a use-of-force policy to include deescalation and other alternative tactics when approaching suspects who resist.
Police Chief Mathew Workman said the update and other additions to the policy were made because of state legislation.
The policy change was described in the police department’s administrative final review of use of force during the arrest of Alexander Jimenez, a Warrenton man who died in police custody in April.
The review, completed in October and obtained by The Astorian through the state’s public records law, determined that the actions by officers during Jimenez’s arrest were within the department’s policy.
Workman said the officers’ actions would also have been considered appropriate and justified under the updated policy.
Even though there were no policy violations, Workman wrote in the administrative review, “we would be remiss if we didn’t do an evaluation of the incident.
“Any time a person dies while in law enforcement custody we owe it to them, their family, the officers and the public to review processes, policies, procedures and actions to see if things can be done differently or better.”
Jimenez, 34, was arrested by Warrenton police on April 17 for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest after he was seen walking into the street on S. Main Avenue.
An investigative report into Jimenez’s death conducted by Oregon State Police, which was reviewed by The Astorian, described Jimenez as a veteran with mental health and drug abuse issues who was homeless before finding a Warrenton apartment last year through a social service agency.
His file with the Warrenton police cautioned that Jimenez could have violent tendencies. Jimenez had several previous interactions with local police, none of which ended in arrest.
Jimenez was under the influence of methamphetamine when two officers saw him on S. Main Avenue in April. The investigative report indicated police believed Jimenez was experiencing a mental breakdown and was high on drugs.
Body camera footage, reviewed by The Astorian, shows an officer shouting at Jimenez to get on his knees after he did not react to the officer’s command to get out of the road.
Jimenez resisted when police began to take him into custody and the officer used a Taser to subdue him.
Jimenez was screened by a doctor at Columbia Memorial Hospital in Astoria from the police SUV because of coronavirus restrictions and medically cleared to go to the Clatsop County Jail.
During a struggle at the sally port of the jail, sheriff’s deputies placed spit hoods over Jimenez’s head and deputies and an officer held him down while applying leg and ankle restraints. Jimenez lost consciousness and was taken back to Columbia Memorial, where he died.
The state medical examiner’s forensic report concluded the cause of Jimenez’s death was the toxic effects of methamphetamine and the manner of death was accidental. The report listed fatty liver disease and the application of the Taser as other significant conditions.
District Attorney Ron Brown ruled that Warrenton police had probable cause to arrest Jimenez and that none of the officers and sheriff’s deputies involved used excessive force.
Workman questioned the medical examiner’s finding that the Taser was a factor in Jimenez’s death, but acknowledged he is not a medical expert.
The police chief said he plans to meet with Columbia Memorial, the Astoria Police Department and the sheriff’s office to discuss procedures when taking suspects to the hospital for treatment or medical screening.
Workman said he is also looking for more training for officers when interacting with people experiencing a mental health crisis or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
“One of the more promising approaches I am looking into is a ‘crisis team’ that uses multiple disciplines to respond as a team,” he said in an email. “Because of our limited resources I am not sure we could create (a) working team here in Clatsop County but I do believe we could do training with the officers on a team approach and give them the ability to call in pieces of a team to assist them.
“One of the components of this team is already in place and that is the crisis response team from Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare. I want to do more training/education with the CRT so all officers can work in unison with them and not assigning one or two officers to a designated team.”