Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs: Use of Force, Police Accountability, Officer Training and Community Outreach


Does your department allow officers to use chokehold techniques?

NO, chokeholds are NOT permitted. Intentional strikes or pressure to the throat with the hands, feet, legs, elbows, knees, or any implement are strictly prohibited.

Does your department require officers to intervene and stop excessive force used by other officers and report these incidents immediately to a supervisor?

Yes. An officer has the duty to intervene to prevent or stop another officer’s use of force if he or she knows or reasonably believes the use of force to be excessive, and to report this action to his or her supervisor. Failure to do so is a direct policy violation.

Does your department train and require de-escalation techniques?

Yes, de-escalation is taught in the recruit academy and in annual trainings for ALL officers. The goal is to verbally diffuse situations before there is ever a need to engage in physical contact or force.

How do officers determine the appropriate use of force in any situation?

Officers are permitted only to use the minimal level of force that is necessary to effect lawful purposes – no more, and for no other reason. Officers are required to constantly evaluate the situation to determine what, if any, level of force is needed and to stop immediately when the threat is over. This is taught in a Use of Force Continuum in the police academy, ongoing guidance through departmental policy as well as ongoing changes in both legislative and case law establishments.

EVERY use-of-force is documented in a departmental use of force report and the results are submitted for supervisory approval. Uses of force that result in death or serious injury are turned to an outside law enforcement agency to ensure impartiality, which is The Allegheny County Police Department and The Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office.  

Does your department require exhausting all alternatives before using force, particularly deadly force?

Yes, officers are trained and expected to use verbal techniques first, and then if necessary, the minimal amount of force needed to maintain safety and only in direct reactive response to the actions of another. Officers are taught to only use or escalate force as necessary to ensure safety and affect an arrest, not to inflict intentional harm or injury, and stop IMMEDIATELY when the threat is over. Deadly force may ONLY be used when an officer’s life or the lives of others are in imminent danger.

Does your department require a warning before using a firearm?

Yes, officers are required to give a verbal warning prior to the use of deadly force except in articulable exigent circumstances, such as being fired upon. A verbal warning also is required before an officer deploys a TASER.

Does your department ban shooting at moving vehicles?

The discharge of firearms at or from motor vehicles, either stopped or in motion, is strictly prohibited unless necessary to protect the officer’s life or the life of another.



All Ohio Township Police officers are certified by The Pennsylvania Municipal Officers Education and Training Commission (MPOETC.) The maintain these standards, all officers across the commonwealth receive the same mandatory standardized legal updates every year, such as new laws, new methods in enforcing laws, and recent court decisions. Additionally, all officers are required to attend additional training beyond this in an area of study they wish to pursue, though the courses must be approved by MPOETC. Failure to attend or maintain these standards will result in the officer being de-certified.  

Who investigates complaints from residents or other officers?

All complaints, including allegations of bias and inappropriate levels of force, are reviewed by Township Officials, The Chief of Police, and investigated by detectives assigned to The Criminal Investigation Division. If the allegation is of a criminal nature, The Allegheny County Police and The Allegheny County District Attorney's Office will be notified. 

How do I file a complaint against an officer?

Complaints against officers may be filed in-person, over the phone, or by submitting a written notification. Each shift has an officer in charge, typically a corporal or sergeant who may be contacted to report the allegation. The contact information is below.

Ohio Township Police

126 Lenzner Court

Sewickley Pa 15143

(412) 259-8304

or submit online here


What happens to an officer if he or she uses deadly force?

When an officer’s actions result in death or serious physical injury, he or she is placed into an administrative assignment pending the outcome of the investigation. The Allegheny County Police and The Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office are immediately notified and requested to the scene. This is to ensure a fair and thorough independent determination if criminal charges against the officer are appropriate. The case is also reviewed by Ohio Township Police command staff to assure adherence to all required policies. 

How does your department take proactive steps to identify race-based issues?

Command staff takes proactive steps to ensure impartial enforcement, including reviewing traffic stop data; practices, and training; and citizen concerns.



 How much training do new officers receive?

All entry-level officers must complete a 1000 hour police academy and must meet the standards of the Municipal Police Officers Education and Training Commission to graduate from the academy. The cadets must complete 27 written exams covering 5 modules of training, including classroom, physical fitness, firearms, and are required to maintain a minimum score of 80% on all exams. Failure to do so will result in expulsion of the training.

Upon hiring with our agency, probationary officers, regardless of previous experience are paired with a trained, field training officer. The probationary officer must show proficiency in a myriad of law enforcement skills before being permitted to begin their career as an officer. Such skillsets include street familiarization, demonstrative ability to maintain a professional demeanor in varied situations, analytical thinking, training in cultural diversity, and a thorough understanding of laws and departmental policies and procedures.

Are officers trained in implicit bias, impartial policing, and de-escalation?

YES, all officers are trained in the academy and throughout their careers in bias-based policing, impartial enforcement, and de-escalation. They also are trained in cultural awareness; LGBTQ+ awareness; helping individuals with developmental disorders; autism awareness; communicating with the deaf and hard of hearing; and mental health awareness.

How are officers trained to use physical force?

Departmental policies and procedures emphasize using the least amount of force necessary to control a situation. Furthermore, as laws change either through legislative statute or case law, officers are update in the newest methods and how any changes apply to the standardized use of force policies and procedures 

How are officers trained to help people with mental health issues or those who are in crisis?

Officers are aware with mental health treatments that have traditionally been in an institutional setting becoming more home based in nature, they are likely to meet people needing mental health help more frequently than ever.  The officers receive mental health and crisis training in the police academy and throughout their careers that is focused on active listening and de-escalation. Additionally, officers work with Allegheny County Mental Health as well as RESOLVE Crisis to develop the most appropriate method to assist those in need of mental health assistance.

We are an active participant in The Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) program, which is an innovative, community-based approach to improve the outcomes of encounters with those suffering from mental health issues. The CIT program create connections between law enforcement, mental health providers, hospital emergency services and individuals with mental illness and their families. Through collaborative community partnerships and intensive training, CIT improves communication, identifies mental health resources for those in crisis and ensures officer and community safety.

The department also has the ability to “flag” specific addresses thereby alerting responding officers if a particular residence for residents with developmental, intellectual, degenerative or physical disorders, disability who  wander off, go missing, or are in a state of crisis. Residents can contact the police department for the 911 flagging program so police can be alerted immediately that their loved one has a certain condition, which provides responding officers with valuable information and ways to help before they even arrive.



 In what ways does the department focus on community policing?

Community policing is engrained in our department. Every officer is trained and encouraged to work with the people they serve and form relationships with those on their beat. Several officers live int he community and recently volunteered their time in feeding hungry families during the COVID-19 lockdown. Additionally, several officers volunteer with local athletics, the local volunteer fire company, and the local community day events throughout the year. We have officers assigned to The Avonworth School District not necessarily for enforcement, but to interact with the children, form relationships, as well as work with the school and families to solve quality-of-life issues.