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Annual Report Documents Use of Force by State College Police

State College police made 1,075 arrests in 2020 and threatened the use of deadly force against five people but did not fire their guns in any of the incidents, according to the department’s annual use of force report released on Monday.

In three incidents where deadly force was threatened, more than one officer unholstered their firearms and pointed it at the subject, resulting in a total of eight threats of deadly force. Six times guns were pointed at a white male and two times at an African-American male. One incident involved a male under the age of 18.

Assistant Chief Matt Wilson told State College Borough Council that one incident was a report of a white male driving while waving a handgun in the air. Officers drew their firearms after they stopped the vehicle.

Another came in July after a York County man allegedly stole two vehicles by force in Patton and Ferguson townships, led police on a high-speed chase through Centre County and was ultimately stopped by State College police after spike strips were deployed.

A third incident involved an individual who was at Mount Nittany Medical Center for mental health reasons, escaped from the hospital and stole a landscaping truck and trailer. At the end of a pursuit, officers drew their firearms before taking the individual into custody.

An officer unholstered his gun during a traffic stop when an individual who was outside his vehicle suddenly dove back inside. In the fifth incident, an officer pointed a gun at a suspect during a burglary in progress.

In 2019, officers threatened deadly force 11 times and fatally shot one person — Osaze Osagie, who is the only person to be shot and killed by a State College police officer in the department’s history.

State College officers also threatened use of Tasers three times in 2020 but did not deploy them. Those threats were made against two white men and one African-American man. A year earlier, police used Tasers three times.

Out of of 17,751 calls for service last year — 3,906 of which were for criminal offenses or borough ordinance violations — police used nonlethal force against 34 people. Among those, 29 were white, four were African-American and one was Asian.

Because officers used more than one type of force in some incidents, the department documented a total of 48 uses of force. All but six of those were against males.

Mechanical compliance — which includes wrist locks, arm bars and other techniques when a subject resists or pulls away — accounted for 43 of the uses of force.

Pepper spray was used four times. On one occasion, an officer used a knee strike against a white male.

The department also reported no major injuries to civilians or officers during calls for service and had one founded complaint about use of force that resulted in an officer being disciplined. In that case, the Conduct and Procedures Review Board found an officer’s use of pepper spray during a traffic stop in which a white male attempted to flee was not within department policy.

Of the 1,075 incidents classified as arrests in the report, 750 were for summary offenses, 247 for misdemeanors, 78 for felonies, and 97 for service of mental health warrants.

Most of those numbers were down from 2019, when police responded to 20,528 calls for service (4,122 for criminal offenses and ordinance violations) made 1,541 arrests and used force 64 times against 52 people. Only mental health warrants remained virtually unchanged, with 98 served in 2019.

“Last year was an anomaly due to COVID,” Wilson said.