I Will Support the PERF Report

imagesI am a life member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and also a member of the Police Executive Research Forum. I have read both statements and I, for one, support the PERF report.

Not to move to a higher standard for police use of deadly force will be a disastrous move and one from which police may never recover. 

UnknownFrom the IACP to members dated 2/3/2016:

“For decades, the IACP has played a central role in the research, development, and implementation of model polices and best practices regarding the use of force by law enforcement officers.  Clearly, this issue is a critical one for both the law enforcement profession and the communities they serve.  The IACP is committed to ensuring that officers respond to situations with the appropriate level of force. To that end, the IACP will examine all aspects of the use of force in order to identify potential areas of change.

“However, even as these efforts are underway, it is imperative that we remember that threats come in many forms, not just from firearms.  Automobiles, ‘edged weapons’, clubs, and even unarmed physical assaults, can and do injure and kill law enforcement officers and citizens every day.

“It is for these reasons that the IACP is extremely concerned about calls to require law enforcement agencies to unilaterally, and haphazardly, establish use of force guidelines that exceed the ‘objectively reasonable’ standard set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court nearly 30 years ago (Graham v. Connor) (my emphasis).  The creation of a multitude of differing policies and use of force standards throughout the United States would, undoubtedly, lead to both confusion and hesitation on behalf of law enforcement officers which in turn would threaten both their safety and that of the citizens they are sworn to protect.

“As we move forward in examining law enforcement’s policies and training procedures regarding use of force it is imperative that any reforms be carefully researched and evidence-based.  Only by proceeding in a careful and thoughtful manner can we ensure that both community and officer safety will be enhanced.” (The above is the full text.)    


UnknownFrom PERF: “Police Recommendation #2: Departments should adopt policies that hold themselves to a higher standard than the legal requirements of Graham v. Connor (my emphasis).  

“Agency use-of-force policies should go beyond the legal standard of ‘objective reasonableness’ outlined in the 1989 U.S. Supreme Court decision Graham v. Connor. This landmark decision should be seen as ‘necessary but not sufficient,’ because it does not provide police with sufficient guidance on use of force. As a result, prosecutors and grand juries often find that a fatal shooting by an officer is not a crime, even though they may not consider the use of force proportional or necessary. Agencies should adopt policies and training to hold themselves to a higher standard, based on sound tactics, consideration of whether the use of force was proportional to the threat, and the sanctity of human life…” [Read their full report HERE.]

The IACP seems to be pushing back against PERF’s guidelines for police use of force.

  • It will be a terrible mistake for police to stay with the “objective reasonableness” standard of the USSC decision Graham v. Connor because it will not reduced the amount of questionable shootings by police nor will it restore trust in black and brown communities.

6 Comments

  1. I too support the PERF position, although I think that many of the objections voiced by the IACP are important. Policy, training, and practice should help achieve just policing, but we simply don’t have much evidence to validate the best path to that goal.

    Most professions operate outside the government sphere. One of the roles of a profession is to establish professional jurisdiction. In other words that profession develops and controls its body of knowledge. Policing is still a technical occupation, and has yet to establish professional jurisdiction. Everyone in America thinks they know how to do police work. That is the case largely because we have failed to do the hard work to become a profession. How long would the line be to have open heart surgery if the local city council dictated how that heart surgery was conducted?

    If policing is to become a profession we must hold ourselves to a higher standard than the uninformed are willing to apply. The tension comes from from the undecided role of professions in government. The IACP’s concern about the uninformed applying too stringent a standard is as valid as a concern that the uninformed will apply too weak a standard.

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    1. Mark, well said. We are often our own worst enemies and the lack of a sufficient and evidence-based body of knowledge is where we all have dropped the ball. Thanks for continuing to jump in on these important topics.

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  2. Lou Hayes on his Twitter account made good comments on each objective.

    https://twitter.com/LouHayesJr

    A number of the objectives in the PERF are good. Yet, they are nothing new. These have been implemented by departments already. Perhaps the PERF is just emphasizing their importance. Some of the objectives place too much validation on popular opinion from the untrained and inexperienced.

    A good counterpoint to the PERF:

    http://calibrepress.com/2016/02/30-guiding-principles-not-a-peep-about-officer-safety/

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  3. This is a frightening prospect to
    Law enforcement officers nationwide. A loud minority does not qualify as a policing crisis. PERF has forgotten, or they have never experienced in the first place, how quickly real world violence can happen. To judge officers with 20/20 hindsight will effectively ruin officer confidence to make split second decisions in the field, leading to an increase of officer injuries, murders, and suspect injuries due to innapriopriate force options employed. It must be easy to second guess police officers from the safety of a mohagany desk or from retirement from years of administrative work. That is what PERF represents.

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    1. Let’s hope not. The question (and it is a very loud one) what are the things we can do as police officers to reduce the number of “unarmed” people shot and killed? I believe we have within the field of policing today the knowledge and experience to tackle this problem (which is mentally ill or highly emotionally disturbed people carrying a weapon [not a firearm] and fail to respond to police commands. I was a street officer for nearly a decade and taught defensive tactics — I have to tell you that I would simply never think of replacing the baton in my hand with a firearm. We need to find, develop, train and lead less-than-deadly force methods in these situations if we are to regain the trust of those whom we serve. Period!

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