Police should have the skills and cultural competence to protect and serve our communities without killing people - just as police do in England, Germany, Japan and other developed countries. In 2014, police killed at least 253 unarmed people and 91 people who were stopped for mere traffic violations. The following policy solutions can restrict the police from using excessive force in everyday interactions with civilians.
Establish standards and reporting of police use of deadly force
A. Authorize deadly force only when there is an imminent threat to an officer's life or the life of another person and such force is strictly unavoidable to protect life as required under International Law. Deadly force should only be authorized after all other reasonable means have been exhausted. (Ex: International Deadly Force Standard; Tennessee Deadly Force Law)
B. Require that an officer's tactical conduct and decisions leading up to using deadly force be considered in judgements of whether such force was reasonable. (Ex: LAPD Use of Force Policy)
C. Require officers give a verbal warning, when possible, before using deadly force and give subjects a reasonable amount of time to comply with the warning (Ex: Las Vegas Metro PD Policy)
E. Require the names of both the officer(s) involved and victim(s) to be released within 72 hours of a deadly force incident (Ex: Philadelphia PD Policy)
Revise and strengthen local police department use of force policies
Revised police use of force policies should protect human life and rights. Policies should include guidance on reporting, investigation, discipline, and accountability and increase transparency by making the policies available online. This use of force policy should require officers to:
- restrict officers from using deadly force unless all reasonable alternatives have been exhausted (Ex: Philadelphia PD Policy)
- use minimum amount of force to apprehend a subject, with specific guidelines for the types of force and tools authorized for a given level of resistance (Ex: Seattle PD Policy)
- de-escalate first (Ex: Seattle PD Policy)
- carry a less-lethal weapon (Ex: Seattle PD Policy)
- ban using force on a person for talking back or as punishment for running away (Ex: Cleveland PD Policy)
- ban chokeholds, strangleholds (i.e. carotid restraints), hog-tying and transporting people face down in a vehicle (Ex: NYPD Policy)
- intervene to stop other officers who are using excessive force and report them to a supervisor (Ex: Las Vegas Metro PD Policy)
- have first aid kits and immediately render medical assistance to anyone in police custody who is injured or who complains of an injury (Ex: New Baltimore PD Policy)
End traffic-related police killings and dangerous high-speed police chases
Prohibit police officers from:
Monitor how police use force and proactively hold officers accountable for excessive force
B. Establish an early intervention system to correct officers who use excessive force. These systems have been shown to reduce the average number of complaints against officers in a police department by more than 50%. This system should:
- report officers who receive two or more complaints in the past month
- report officers who have two or more use of force incidents or complaints in the past quarter
- require officers to attend re-training and be monitored by an immediate supervisor after their first quarterly report and terminate an officer following multiple reports
C. Require police departments to notify the state when an officer is found to have willfully violated department policy or the law, committed official misconduct, or resigned while under investigation for these offenses. Maintain this information in a database accessible to the public (Ex: Illinois Law) and prohibit these officers from serving as police officers, teachers or other governmental employees.
Police Use of Force Project
Campaign Zero reviewed police department use of force policies in 97 of the 100 largest U.S. cities. Eight use of force policies were found to be associated with fewer police-involved killings and killings of police officers. Learn more at UseofForceProject.org.
Model Use of Force Policy
We have developed this model use of force policy based on our review and analysis of effective use of force policies across the nation. The policy includes evidence-informed restrictions on police use of force that are designed to significantly reduce police violence in communities. It should be adopted by police chiefs and local elected officials without delay.
Read this Additional Research to Learn More About This Issue: