Uses of Force: A Much-Needed Discussion

It’s about time cops sit down with each other and start a serious discussion about reducing the uses of deadly force– and proposing some less-than-deadly alternatives. The next step is to thoroughly discuss the findings with community leaders.

My sense is that communities throughout America are expecting their police to respond to the crisis in confidence that Ferguson generated. This pertains especially to communities of color!

Kudos for PERF and the LAPD to join in this effort as they proposed the following:


“This situation is familiar to most police officers.

“An unarmed individual, possibly in a mental health crisis or under the influence of narcotics, wanders into a busy street, disrupting traffic and endangering himself and others. Responding officers attempt to communicate with the subject, but he is not responsive and continues to move in and out of traffic. Going “hands on” with the subject might be too problematic, and use of a less-lethal device may be ineffective. In situations like this, officers often face a gap in the tools and tactics that are readily available to them.

“The PERF-LAPD conference will dissect challenging situations like this one and examine key questions such as:

  • What tools and tactics are agencies currently using, and how successful are they?
  • In an ideal world, what types of innovative, perhaps never-before-developed tools and tactics would help patrol officers safely and effectively resolve these situations?
  • In those instances in which an electronic control weapon (ECW) or other less-lethal tool is deployed but is not successful, how can an officer successfully transition to “Plan B?”
  • What devices or technology that are not intermediate force options (e.g. ECW, Baton, OC Spray, etc.) could work for a person who is non-compliant and not violent?
  • What are the policy considerations and evolving case law that govern the use of ECWs and other less-lethal tools in these types of encounters?

“This unique national conference will explore what leading police agencies are already doing with respect to use-of-force tools, tactics and training, including PERF’s ICAT (Integrating Communications, Assessment, and Tactics) curriculum. In addition, the conference will challenge participants to consider what may be possible in the future and brainstorm new ideas and approaches.

For more see:



  1. Finally someone has identified one of THE MOST CRUCIAL AND OBVIOUS CAUSES OF BAD LE ENCOUNTERS. An anecdotally huge (though little data) percent of people that get shot, arrested, or otherwise have unpleasant or dangerous encounters with police are mentally or chemically impaired. In your post you reference “under influence of narcotics.” A much greater portion are under the influence of alcohol, though stoned cases will certainly grow exponentially with legalization. In the case of mental crisis, much has been done on training with required CE. For narcotics and alcohol, however, nothing has been done because POLICE CONSIDER THESE PEOPLE AS CRIMINALS FIRST AND PATIENTS SECOND. As a result, police bark commands and expect rational responses to people who are incapable of such. Police feel like they are doing a good thing for public safety by getting them off the streets by shooting them or arresting them. This is absurd.

    As usual, the focus in the post above is on tools and technology–it needs to be on tactics and human communication. Here are some suggestions:

    1. Send medical personnel with police. Police should control the situation, i,e. traffic, peripheral threats, etc. MEDICAL or specialized personnel should interact with the subject. ANY TIME you have an officer in uniform, he or she carries WAY TOO MUCH BAGGAGE and is likely to have a negative impact on an impaired person. Police should focus first on delaying, and secondly on communicating with the person and telling them they are going to get them to a safe place, like home (if available), help is on the way etc., until other personnel arrive. They should ask for someone to call who can provide more info, help out, or supervise the person until they are grounded again. They should NOT ask for ID as this immediately implies criminal investigation to nearly every living human, which will result in a desire to run or fight, escalating the situation.

    2. Medical personnel also have large baggage in the form of very expensive transport and medical costs. Many people will refuse treatment or run because the can’t pay or fear they can’t. EMS or other specialized personnel should focus again on emphasizing they are getting the person to a safe place, making sure they do not get hurt or suffer bodily harm from substances ingested, offer to call family or friends, or COMMUNICATE taking them to a medical facility where free treatment or detox will be offered. Reasonable alternatives to jail and hospital care need to be developed.

    3. The American stereotype of jail as a place to sober up, along with associated fees, fines, and court appearances due to drunk or stoned in public charges needs to go away. Many people are dying on the street running, or in jail where there is little to no medical care or even basic supervision. Additionally, DIP lends itself to random and unequal enforcement by its nature… disorderly conduct is all that is required for people who impaired and causing disturbances (behind the wheel is a whole other matter and cannot be tolerated). Instead, the focus should be on getting people to a detox center, with FOLLOW UP COUNSELING THE NEXT DAY. This is particularly true for repeat offenders. These incidents should not generally be an area for “law enforcement,” but for medical or other help. If only police are available, they need to understand their role goes beyond just LE.

    In brief, these kind of “public safety” incidents are NOT A JOB FOR POLICE ALONE, unless perhaps if the are specially trained and specially uniformed. The wrong personnel and tools are being deployed. They need to discuss this “not with each other” but with community leaders, other first responders, social services, and the media to get the word out when changes are made.

    How to pay for all of this you ask? Tax the beverage, pharmaceutical, MJ, and other chemical suppliers with excises TIED DIRECTLY TO THE COST OF THESE ACTIVITIES. Have law enforcement spend its time on the big distributors, and legislators on getting antiquated laws off the books, and making the big corporations pay their fair share for crippling our citizens.


    1. It appears you have put a lot of thought into this. However, your basic premise that taxing a corporation for providing a service will provide funding for a specific activity is flawed.

      What you fail to realize is that almost every taxing authority already taxes alcohol. To the point that the purchase price is practically doubled in most places from the actual sale price of the item. This has led to $millions being provided to the general funds of these taxing authorities and yet every single one of them spends it on non-related and usually non-police related budget items.

      The big question is how do we force these locations to spend the money where they should?


      1. A most important question. Certainly alcohol plays a major role in policing. Back on the beat on a summer weekend I remember thinking almost everyone I have contacted so far on my shift had been drinking (alcohol). Who pays the piper is a good question.


  2. @shavri As I proposed in capital letters in my post, these costs should be born by excises tied directly to the activity. The way to accomplish that is through the political process. I am well aware that there already large existing taxes on alcohol–in fact in many states, states and counties not only tax but are actually in the business of selling alcohol–again through politics, make them assign the profits to the consequences. High prices for products that harm your health and cost society is also not necessarily a bad thing in order to dissuade excess consumption. Even despite the high taxes, alcohol production and distribution is still enormously profitable in most cases. As with everything from opioids/recreational drugs to environmental waste, we cannot allow corporations to sell products and reap oversize profits by passing on the costs of the mess to someone else to clean up.


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