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Cornelius News

Chief outlines use of force, chemical agents, choke holds

Protest and march June 2 in Cornelius. Photo by Dan Ahlers Photography

By Dave Yochum. As turmoil and unrest continue around the country, the Cornelius Police Dept., appears to be an oasis of calm in a small town. This, after a peaceful protest that drew some 400 people to the steps of the police station unaware that one of the last Confederate statues in Mecklenburg County stood nearby on private property.

Police Chief Kevin Black says the department has completed a thorough review of its “Use of Force” policy in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the knee of a now former Minneapolis police officer.


The department has added clarifying language requiring officers intervene to stop wrongdoing and prevent excessive use of force by another officer. The topic is covered under the “Rules of Conduct” policy but has been added to the “Use of Force” policy as well.

Police forces are adding clearer standards around use of force as well as chemical agents after protests erupted around the country. A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 95 percent of Americans believe that police reform — in some capacity — is necessary. The NORC is a non-partisan research organization at the University of Chicago.

Charges of excessive use of force against law enforcement officials are extremely rare in North Mecklenburg, where the dynamics of policing are not the same as an urban environment. In fact, Cornelius police officers, including the chief himself, provided a courteous escort for those who marched west from the Police Station June 3 during the Black Lives Matter rally.

Still, Chief Black explains chemical agents can be used to disperse a crowd to “gain order and public safety.” If they were not available the police would have to rely on physical force to clear an area.

Choke holds are also considered a deadly force option and Cornelius officers are forbidden from using them except in situations where an “officer reasonably believes that this is the only reasonable means” of protecting him- or herself and/or a third party from an imminent threat of serious physical injury or death if they do not do so.


The reality is that anything can happen in police work, regardless of location.

Mayor Woody Washam said the department continues to be “diligent with their efforts to review all policies related” to the current policing environment. “Our philosophies related to the excellent job the PD does regarding Community Policing directives continues to serve our town well in times like this,” he said.