Police Use of Force: Proposed Legislation

images-1Legislation on Police Standards: What do you think?

This has been a multi-generational discussion: At what level should police standards be set?

We have one federal government, 50 state governments, over 31K counties, and 18K+ local units of government with a police agency. Who should set standards such as educational requirements, length of training and topics to be covered, use of force requirements, and requirements for top leaders?

In my fantasy life, I think one entity should set those standards, but then do I want the federal government (and most likely FBI) to do it? Probably not.

Recently some state lawmakers are moving into the area of setting police standards through legislation. Here’s a draft of one state’s thinking on this:

  1.  Add a set number of hours of use-of-force de-escalation training to state training requirements for police certification  (in addition to vehicle pursuit training and firearm training that are already included).
  • De-escalation: De-escalation tactics and techniques are actions used by officers which seek to minimize the likelihood of the need to use force during an incident. Officers shall attempt to slow down or stabilize the situation so that more time, options and resources are available for incident resolution.

2.  Additional items law enforcement agencies must include in their written policies:

  • Duty to Preserve Life: The primary duty of all members of the service is to preserve human life, including the lives of individuals being placed in police custody.
  • Necessity: Deadly force should only be used as a last resort. The necessity to use deadly force arises when all other available means of preventing immediate and grave danger to officers or other persons have failed or would be likely to fail.
  • Proportionality: It is this department’s policy to accomplish the police mission with the cooperation of the public, with minimum reliance upon the use of physical force. When force is needed, the force used shall be in proportion to the threat posed.
  • De-escalation: Prioritizing de-escalation tactics to reduce the use-of-force by officers.

3. Require the state law enforcement standards board to look at and develop best practices in the following areas:

  • Reducing the use-of-force by law enforcement officers while also increasing officer safety.
  • Treating the arrest of a subject exhibiting symptoms of a drug-induced psychosis or a psychotic episode as a medical emergency.
  • Encouraging officer intervention and accountability in excessive use-of-force incidents.
  • Requiring officers to reassess the situation after each discharge of their firearm.
  • Developing effective programming for officers who experience traumatic events.

4. Further: law enforcement agencies are to collect and report the following information to the state department of justice, who will release an annual report summarizing the incidents: 

  • Identifying the characteristics of the person, including race, gender, and age, who was the target of the use of force and the officer who used force;
  • Time, date, and location of the use of force;
  • Alleged criminal activity of the person who was the target of force;
  • Whether the person who was the target of force was armed;
  • Number of officers involved in the incident;
  • Nature of the force used, including the use of a firearm;
  • Explanation, if any, from the relevant law enforcement agency on why force was used;
  • Copy of force guidelines in effect at the time deadly force was used; and
  • Description of any efforts employed to apprehend or subdue the person who was the target of the use of force before force was used.

What do you think should be done?