Police Use of Force: Improving Policies, Training, and Police “Culture”

In the past few years, the American law enforcement profession has been in the spotlight over controversial incidents involving the use of deadly force.  The incidents, and subsequent public reactions, received national and international coverage leading to calls for change in police tactics. In response, the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) conducted three national conferences in order to discuss the “implications of these critical moments in American policing” and published the results in it’s “Critical Issues in Policing Series.”

Re-Engineering Training on Police Use of Force” outlines the discussions by police leaders in the second conference held in May.  Following the initial article, titled “Defining Moments for Police Chiefs“, this report begins with the results of PERF’s Survey on Current Training Practices outlining the amount of de-escalation training officers receive as a recruit and while in-service.  It then moves to reactions of participants to screenings of recent encounters and their strategies of de-escalation without deadly force.  Strategies dealing with mentally ill subjects and the “21 foot rule” with “edged weapons” subjects were also debated.  Further issues related to officer recruiting and new approaches to training were also discussed.

The report further recommended that several issues needed to be addressed concerning police training:

  • “Training currently provided to new recruits and experienced officers in most departments is inadequate”
  • “Minimizing use of force requires changes in policy and training, but also in police culture”
  • “Lessons can be learned from other countries’ police departments”
  •  “Departments need to take a closer look at ‘suicide by cops’ scenarios and avoid putting officers in positions where no other alternatives but deadly force can be used”

Law Enforcement has and will continue to be a dangerous profession where split second decisions result in life altering consequences.  Even though the majority of these decisions are handled effectively by law enforcement professionals throughout the nation, improvements must be made in strategy and overall training. “Society has changed, our job has changed,” Chief Chitwood of the Daytona Beach Police Department stated. “Our young officers have to be able to deal with that and it’s our job as leaders to come up with a way to accomplish that mission.”

For more resources on the Police Executive Research Forum and law enforcement culture and training, visit the Homeland Security Digital Library (some resources may require HSDL login).

Article formerly posted at https://www.hsdl.org/blog/newpost/view/police-use-of-force-improving-policies-training-and-police-culture