Raise the Standard: Save Lives, Build Trust

“We will not have a trusted police until the standard for using deadly force by police is raised to that of the European Union: ‘ABSOLUTE NECESSITY.’”

Many of you know that I am a retired chief of police, served four municipal police departments, authored two books about improving our nation’s police, written numerous essays, and maintained this blog on police improvement for the past 8 years with over 1,500 entries.

The most important recommendation I can (and have continued to make) is this: We will not have a trusted police until the standard for using deadly force by police is raised to that of the European Union: “ABSOLUTE NECESSITY.”

There does not have to be a change in state law or the standard outlined in the USSC decision in Graham v. Connor. Instead, it can be accomplished by policy; by individual police agencies making a work rule and training their officers according to this new standard.

Now the law may say “reasonable objectiveness” (a very low standard) and police who violate it may not be charged with a crime, but they can be disciplined and discharged by their agencies for not adhering to department policy.

So, if you want your police to be better controlled in their use of force, engage in decentralization tactics, and have a higher respect for your lives, this standard is a good start.

Tomorrow morning, call the leader of your police agency and ask them to do this. A journey of a thousand miles always begins with one step. Then be persistent.

You also should be aware of what a professional organization of police leaders (The Police Executive Research Forum — PERF) has to say about these issues in 2016. This was in response to a growing number of police killings of young, black men which came to light after the death of Michael Brown in 2014..


Summary: Guiding Principles on Use of Force

In 2016, we released a set of 30 Guiding Principles on Use of Force, which we developed with the assistance of hundreds of police executives through a two-year process. Following are some of the most important “PERF 30”:

— The sanctity of human life should be at the heart of everything an agency does.

— Duty to intervene: Officers need to prevent other officers from using excessive force.

— Agencies should continue to develop best policies, practices, and training on use-of-force issues that go beyond the minimum requirements of Graham v. Connor.

— Police use of force must meet the test of proportionality.

— Adopt de-escalation as formal agency policy.

— Respect the sanctity of life by promptly rendering first aid.

— The Critical Decision-Making Model provides a new way to approach critical incidents.

— Shooting at vehicles must be prohibited, except when someone in the vehicle is using or threatening deadly force by means other than the vehicle itself, or the vehicle is being used as a weapon of mass destruction in an apparent act of terrorism.

— Prohibit use of deadly force against individuals who pose a danger only to themselves.

— Use Distance, Cover, and Time to replace outdated concepts such as the “21-foot rule” and “drawing a line in the sand.”

— Provide a prompt supervisory response to critical incidents to reduce the likelihood of unnecessary force.

PERF’s 127-page report can be found at:


It provides detailed explanations for each of the 30 guiding principles, information about how the principles have proved successful in many departments, legal analysis, commentary by the leading police officials who developed and vetted the principles, and other information.


(Note: We raised the deadly force standard in the early 1970s when many state laws (including Wisconsin) permitted police to use deadly for to apprehend any “fleeing felon.” At the time, too many teenagers were being shot in the back by police as they ran away from a burglary or stolen car. I, along with many other progressive police chiefs issued policies (work rules) which stated that deadly force can only be used to stop a DANGEROUS felon who was an immediate danger to others (no “you loot, we shoot”). In 1985, the law of the land was raised in the USSC decision on Tennessee v. Garner which stated police shall not use deadly force to stop non-violent offenders.)


  1. My thinking is we need to adopt the PERF recommended guidelines NOW and not wait for big changes, like abolishing PDs, which will be tied up in politics and courts for years……while the killing goes on……am I wrong?


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Can we acknowledge the percentage of officers who don’t wake up in the morning saying “I’m gonna be shooting someone today I hope.” I’m guessing 100 percent?

    Yours Sincerely,

    James Anthony Ellis Legacy Productions LegacyProductions.org (858) 518-5826

    Liked by 1 person

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