Have your city adopt a proven multi-pronged policy to foster de-escalation in policing and move from a warrior culture to a guardian culture
A DE-ESCALATION POLICY THAT INCENTIVIZES CULTURE CHANGE
The cold blooded killing of George Floyd, an unarmed African-American man, by a white police officer using excessive force while three other officers stood by has highlighted once again the need for better policing in which the use of “force as a last resort” and state of the art de-escalation practices becomes the accepted and adhered to standards. While some police departments have made progress in implementing certain elements of de-escalation, to be effective in changing the culture of police forces, a comprehensive policy of de-escalation tied to promotions needs to be implemented in local police departments throughout the nation.
The Citizens Campaign Comprehensive Police De-escalation Policy is centered around the implementation of the elements required to truly bring about de-escalation, including a specific and clear use of force policy, de-escalation training, tracking and review of use of force incidents and requiring promotion decisions be tied to the appropriate use of force. These measures are essential to dramatically reducing the number of incidents where force is used excessively, limiting avoidable injuries and deaths, and gaining the trust required from residents essential to effectively protecting public safety.
Taken together, the components of The Citizens Campaign Comprehensive Police De-escalation Policy are designed to bring about lasting culture changes in police departments that not only will ensure that all residents are treated fairly and equally but as evidence has shown, will also reduce police injuries and the cost of lawsuits alleging police brutality.
Outlined briefly below are the general plan elements, followed by specific examples of executive orders/resolutions where certain elements have been adopted and are working:
- Putting In Place ‘Use of Force as a Last Resort’ Policy: Use of force policies, provide specific and measurable guidance for use of force and contribute to significant reductions in excessive use of force incidents. These policies spell out that the first order of business is to work to “de-escalate confrontations with the goal of resolving encounters without force.” Implementation of de-escalation practices is enhanced when officers on the scene are held responsible to intervene when needed to prevent escalation and are required to report any incidence of the use of excessive force that they witness.
- Substantial De-Escalation Training: Police departments which have implemented serious and expanded de-escalation training, both for recruits and on an ongoing basis for all officers, show significant reductions in injuries and fatalities for both civilians and police officers and much lower payouts in excessive force legal suits. Tying the training to specific and measurable procedures makes use of “force as a last resort” policy even more potent. A 2015 study conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) of 280 law enforcement agencies, showed that there were, on average, eight 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 many cases. Serious de-escalation training teaches “officers to slow down, create space, and use communication techniques to defuse potentially dangerous situations.” In urban environments it is advisable to include input from one or more community residents in the development and/or review of the de-escalation training to ensure cultural sensitivity. Robust de-escalation training also gives officers strategies to more effectively deal with people who are experiencing mental and emotional crises. Nearly 1-in-10 of all law enforcement calls and up to 1-in-4 fatalities involve a person with mental illness. The Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Training, which is being piloted in some NJ cities, is one recommended training module in this area and can be incorporated in an overall de-escalation training approach.
- Tying Appropriate Use of Force to Promotions: Use of “force as a last resort” compliance should be given significant weight in promotions in order to incentivize “culture change.” In addition, superior officers who have officers reporting to them should have the records of their division or precincts on ‘use of force as a last resort’ incorporated into their over-all performance evaluations.
- Tracking Use of Force Incidents: Mandating the filling out and input of use of force reports to a data base, including the race and gender of suspects, is essential to prevent profiling and build the accountability necessary for implementing a comprehensive de-escalation policy. Incidents must be reviewed with the officers involved first by their immediate supervisor and then, in the case of incidents where excessive force may have been involved, by a review panel including one or more members of internal affairs and a civilian representative of a local organization devoted to racial justice, such as the NAACP. The review should be for both evaluation of de-escalation performance and lessons learned purposes. A comprehensive use of force report with race and gender data must be produced and published quarterly in order to measure progress on de-escalation and create public trust. Additionally, an annual de-escalation progress and policy implementation audit must be produced and made public by the police director (or by the chief of police if there is no police director) in order to better track all the de-escalation moving parts and to provide a foundation to better evaluate whether policy improvements are in order.
PUBLIC SAFETY CULTURE CHANGE solution adopted by the City of Perth Amboy, NJ:
The City adopted a three pronged solution via Executive Order and Ordinance. The solution focuses on increased de-escalation training and practices, and establishes a Citizens Advisory Board, all components designed to work to replace a warrior culture with a guardian culture.
Citizen Presentation Background Memo:
This memo provides evidence that a stepped up emphasis on de-escalation in police departments that will result from the establishment of a Citizens De-escalation Advisory Council will yield positive results both for the community and the police department alike. It 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 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 also equips officers’ strategies to more calmly deal with people who are experiencing mental and emotional crises.”
Evidence of Success of De-escalation Training and Policy
- Richmond, Virginia went from 5 civilian shootings a year in 2007 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.
- 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.
- In New Jersey there were at least 109 excessive force law suits filed against officers and police departments in the last 6 years alone, according to a Star Ledger analysis. De-escalation policies reduces the odds of being sued and of being forced to shell out big money on settlements