We hear your concerns...
Here’s what we want you to know about us
The Gaithersburg Police Department (GPD) will always strive to maintain excellence and professionalism in our service to the residents and businesses of our community. We know that it is not just our words but our deeds that allow us to earn your trust and respect. Our organizational culture embraces the principles of extreme ownership and the values of:
- Service – Providing quality service and protection to all people in an efficient and competent manner, tempered with courtesy, compassion, and understanding
- Integrity – Upholding the public trust through honest, consistent, and forthright interaction with all people, fostering an atmosphere of mutual trust and cooperation
- Respect – Treating all persons with dignity and respect, by promoting equality and fairness, in upholding the constitutional rights of all people
With recent nationwide events involving the use of force bringing about a needed dialog about conduct and accountability, we want to use this opportunity to let you know what your Gaithersburg Police will and will not do to ensure safety in this community. The General Orders by which all GPD officers are held accountable to can be found here.
The Gaithersburg Police Department is here to serve all members of our community. We want to hear and address your concerns. We want to learn what’s important to you. We need to work with you as a partner to keep Gaithersburg a safe and desirable place in which to live.
Chief Mark Sroka
One of the most important traits of a GPD officer is his or her discretion and judgment when it comes to de-escalating a situation. Annual de-escalation training, and the incorporation of de-escalation techniques in all other aspects of law enforcement training, both at the Academy and during Field Training, reinforce the importance of this skill. We’ve been conducting scenario-based training exercises for years, allowing our officers to simulate real-life situations and conditions in order to prevent or reduce the use of force to the extent possible. Gaithersburg Police Officers also receive at least 40 hours of training in Crisis Intervention.
The need to use force, whether deadly or less-lethal, is one of the most demanding and critical decisions in law enforcement. Gaithersburg Police Officers are required and trained to only use a level of force that is reasonable and necessary to accomplish lawful objectives. Officers need to evaluate each situation in light of its unique facts and circumstances to make those decisions. If the officer decides that force is necessary, the degree must always be in direct relationship to the amount of resistance exerted, or based on the immediate threat posed to the officers or others.
We require that our officers, to the extent feasible, use non-deadly force, presuming it is reasonably safe to do so without endangering the officer’s life or the lives of others.
We have many tools at our disposable to reduce the need for force in a given situation. Based on the circumstances, and where practicable, officers can disengage, they can use area containment, surveillance, and summons reinforcements, and they can request specialized units to help increase civilian and officer safety.
Gaithersburg Police Officers are not trained on the use of “chokeholds" or "strangleholds" and their use is not authorized unless the use of deadly force would be objectively reasonable.
We require an officer to identify him or herself as a police officer and issue verbal commands and warnings prior to any use of force. However, we recognize that there are times when this might not be possible. Verbal warnings are not required when urgent circumstances necessitate immediate action, or when the officer reasonably believes that issuing the warning would place others or the officer in jeopardy. For example, in an active shooter situation, an officer would not likely be able to give a warning prior to using lethal force to save innocent lives.
Gaithersburg Police Officers are prohibited from shooting at or from a moving vehicle unless he or she reasonably believes that deadly force is necessary to defend another person or the officer from the use, or imminent use, of deadly force.
Through the use of scenario-based training exercises each year, officers learn to avoid situations that could place them in a position where a vehicle could be used against them. They are taught that they must move out of an oncoming vehicle’s path to the extent possible. To lessen the likelihood that they will discharge their firearm, they are taught not to position themselves in front of a vehicle with their gun drawn.
The GPD has a history of organizational culture concerning the duty to intervene, which has been reinforced with specific training scenarios to test our officers’ understanding and willingness to do so. While this has long been our practice, recent events led us to reexamine our policy documents. We have updated our General Orders to mandate that a member knowing of other members violating laws, directives, ordinances or rules of the Department, must intervene and then report their observations to the Chief of Police through official channels.
GPD officers are required to properly document all Use of Force incidents. Reports are required when the officer:
- Points a firearm at an individual
- Displays a Conducted Electrical Weapon (CEW)
- Uses a hand control technique that forces a resisting/aggressive person to the ground or against an object
- Uses any personal weapons
- Uses any less-lethal weapons
- Is involved in an incident with a canine bite
- Uses deadly force
- Is involved in a shooting
- Is part of an incident that involves the in-custody death of an individual following any officer’s use of force
Every Use of Force report is reviewed by the officer’s supervisor, then reviewed again for policy and legal sufficiency by a committee of bureau commanders. The committee reviews both the report and Body-Worn Camera footage to determine whether or not the officer’s actions were within Department policy. The committee also looks for training or policy issues that may need to be corrected, focusing on furthering our officers’ knowledge and skills rather than simply maintaining minimum standards.