Change of Culture Police Reform Back to Menu Of Solutions

A comprehensive ‘use of force as a last resort’ police policy can have significant impact on police/community relations, especially when incentivized in promotion decisions.

Policing in our cities has a long, troubled and often violent history, while public safety is ordinarily identified as a major concern by residents and stakeholders in urban areas.  Recent studies have shown that implementing de-escalation training and adopting ‘use of force as a last resort’ policies by local police departments, have resulted in lowering the number of injuries and fatalities to citizens and police officers. At the same time, there is a cost-saving aspect to adopting such a policy – funding in municipal and police department budgets ordinarily dedicated to defending use of force legal cases and settlements, can be put to other uses as de-escalation policies lowers the costs of such litigation. In addition, keeping a public data base of use of force incidents, which tracks the location along with the gender, race and age of persons involved, ensures greater accountability of police departments to the public they serve.  Furthermore, factoring in ‘use of force’ incidents when considering promotions within a police department will result in long-term systemic and cultural change in the way our country exercises its national and local police power.

Law & Policy Task Force “Change of Culture” Comprehensive Reform Program expanding on City of Camden’s “Force as a Last Resort” Policy

Research Memo

RE:  De-escalation Training and Policy

This memo provides brief background on de-escalation training and policy for police, along with evidence that implementing a de-escalation approach to potentially violent situations, both reduces injuries and fatalities to police officers and civilians alike and drives down the number of excessive force complaints, which has the added advantage of saving cities money on costly legal settlements.


A 2015 study conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) of 280 law enforcement agencies, showed that there were 8 hours of training on uses of various kinds of force for every one hour of de-escalation training.  The result of this imbalance in training, according to law enforcement experts, is that police officers are primed to use force rather than de-escalation techniques, resulting in violence that could have been avoided in at least some cases.  These experts argue for stepped up implementation of de-escalation training, teaching “officers to slow down, create space, and use communication techniques to defuse potentially dangerous situations.  It gives officers strategies to more calmly deal with people who are experiencing mental and emotional crises.”

Evidence of Success of De-escalation Training and Policy

  • In 2009, 147 complaints for excessive force were filed against Dallas police officers.  By 2015, due in large measure to the implementation of de-escalation training only 13 complaints were filed. 
  • Richmond, Virginia went from 5 shootings in 2007 a year to less than one a year for the following 7 years after the implementation of de-escalation training.
  • An analysis of 5 cities by Police One– Cincinnati, Dallas, Louisville, New York, New Orleans– shows an over-all significant decline in police deaths and injuries after the implementation of de-escalation training and policy.