What Needs To Be Done and Done Now!

unknownThe members of PERF (Police Executive Research Forum) proposed in their “30 Guidelines on Police Use of Force” that the central core of the police function be “sanctity of life.” This makes sense and puts into operation Robert Peel’s the fifth and sixth of his “Nine Principles of Policing.”

  1. To seek and to preserve public favour… by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law… by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing; by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humour; and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life. 
  1. To use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public cooperation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order; and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.

Our nation’s police could make a quantum jump in rebuilding trust and support in their diverse and often critical communities by engaging in the following public exercise.

  • Ask their communities to understand and support the concept that persons armed with a firearm whom their police officers engage will be expected to comply with orders and surrender their weapon. If they will not comply, and take an aggressive action that threatens police officers or other persons, they will be stopped with deadly force.
  • Stress that the police department wishes to reduce as much as possible any taking of life and its officers are grieved when deadly force must be used against a citizen. Whenever and wherever possible, the department is committed to attempt to de-escalate these situations and work towards a non-deadly solution.
  • However, while analyzing deadly encounters in the past, we have determined that a number of them could have been handled by less-than-deadly measures. These are situations in which a person, often disturbed or mentally ill, is not armed with a firearm but rather a sharp-edged or blunt weapon and will not comply with police directives to disarm.
  • In these situations we recognize there is less of an immediate threat to officers or the public and we wish to develop with your input, ways other than using deadly force to contain these incidents.
  • We, your police, are aware of the importance of training all our officers in the proper management of conflict and de-escalating these incidents. We are already committed to doing that.
  • We would like to have our leadership team, trainers and defensive tactics instructors along with community mental health professionals, educators, and interested members to come together to discuss and analyze the use of less-than-deadly control methods such as, but not limited to, electronic control devices (TASERS), bean bag projectiles, long batons/poles, nets, sticky foam, “traumatic” pistol rounds, and “less-than-deadly” firearms use as practiced in the Czech Republic.

I make this argument for immediate action because I believe it will go a long way toward building trust and support within a community.

Citizens primarily understand that when someone is running around with a gun, will not disarm when ordered, that police will be forced to stop that armed person with deadly force.

What is not readily understand or accepted is police use deadly force against persons who are NOT threatening others with firearms.

I believe the above proposal will go a long way to improving police-community relations.

Can we get on with it?


Some other posts I have written on the subject of using force:

  1. “Thinking About Less-than-deadly Force.”
  2. “Less Than Lethal Police Weaponry.”
  3. “Police Use of Deadly Force: Time For Discussion.”

And the other side of the argument as well:

5 Comments

  1. As I speak to police officers all around the country the overwhelming reaction to the “sanctity of human life” phrase is one of revulsion. It isn’t revulsion to the sanctity of human life but it is revulsion to the underlying assumption that police officers currently don’t believe in the sanctity of human life. Starting a conversation with an insult is not a good way to get someone to listen to you.

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    1. How might that concept be conveyed? In the Madison “glory years,” we said this: “We believe in the dignity and worth of all persons.” We thought of ourselves as peacekeepers and “protectors” — Saving lives was paramount in the behaviors we rewarded. Somehow… other factors dominate many departments and their officers. But underlaying all this, it needs to be continually reinforced that policing is a calling and a most noble profession.

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  2. Leaders make clear what their priorities are even if that message is unintended. If human life was a government’s first priority police organizations would be well highly educated, highly trained, adequately staffed, and well equipped. Read any municipal budget and you will discover that government’s priorities, and human life will likely not be high on the list. Everyone is hell bent on throwing cops under the bus when the problem can be found in the mirror. Until citizens are willing to elect leaders who make human life a priority, and tax accordingly, then we will continue to have these problems. Current police leaders need to be honest about what good policing costs. If people are unwilling to then provide for that level of policing then current police leaders need to tell people to quit complaining about mediocre results for paltry expenditures. Rant over……

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