Archive for the ‘Use of Force’ Category

Renewed call to action

April 26, 2023

Members of the Obama-era 21st Century Task Force on Policing (2015) have issued a “Renewed Call to Action” with 8 recommendations and 56 action steps, available here. The report notes “The nation remains in a policing crisis, and too many poor communities of color face the adverse conditions of poverty and economic exclusion that aggravate the relationship between communities and police.” The recommendations include a focus on community safety, rebuilding police culture, establishing national standards, addressing gaps in accountability, and addressing underlying drivers of crime.

Austin protest fallout continues

October 31, 2022

In Austin, Texas, criminal cases have yet to go to trial against 21 officers indicted over their actions during the George Floyd protests in 2020. In the meantime, 8 civil cases against the city have been settled for $16.6 million, while 12 cases are still pending, as reported here. According to a recently released after-action report, “many officers lacked an understanding of crowd management, riot control techniques, tactics and protocols.” Officers are accused of shooting bean bag munitions “into crowds, at protesters’ heads and at protesters who were not threatening violence when they were shot.”

Back to chasing cars in New Jersey

May 31, 2022

Last December New Jersey revised its statewide use of force policy to prohibit car chases for auto theft and most drug offenses, citing the harm caused by crashes during pursuits. However, as reported here, the state has reversed its decision pertaining to auto thefts in the face of a significant increase in stolen vehicles — a 37% increase so far in 2022 over 2021, with an even bigger increase of 53% since 2020. Besides re-instituting pursuits, the state will invest an additional $10 million in license plate reader technology.

RAND report identifies research priorities on police killings

May 23, 2022

National-level research on killings by police continues to rely primarily on media reports. This new RAND report summarizes the literature on police use of deadly force, identifies knowledge gaps, and identifies research priorities in six focus areas — “foundational issues (such as racial inequities, police culture, and police unions), data and reporting, training, policies, technology, and consequences for officers.” An overarching theme is the need for more extensive and systematic data collection.

Evidence supports place-based policing strategies

April 12, 2022

A recent article in the Washington Post criticized place-based policing strategies, tying them to the police shooting of Breonna Taylor in Louisville in 2020. This column by several distinguished police scholars argues instead that what happened in Louisville was a botched no-knock warrant service, having nothing to do place-based policing. Noting that crime concentrates in a small number of locations in any jurisdiction, “Place-focused approaches in policing bring communities a more thoughtful and high-quality approach to policing than traditional policing approaches which are often unfocused across communities. The science supports police adopting place-based approaches. Ignoring the needs of these places would be irresponsible and contribute to higher victimization.”

Fallout from 2020 protests

April 5, 2022

A federal jury in Denver has awarded $14 million to 12 protesters who were “hit with pepper balls and a bag filled with lead” during post-George Floyd protests in 2020, as reported here. According to the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse, there are at least 29 other similar lawsuits pending, including ones in New York, Washington, and Rochester. Meanwhile, last month 19 Austin PD officers were indicted on two counts each of aggravated assault resulting in injuries to 11 protesters in May 2020, mainly from beanbag rounds, as reported here. One use-of-force expert cites the relative lack of training for police on handling protests, noting “it would be prohibitively expensive to have officers practice deploying equipment” such as rubber bullets, pepper balls, bean bag rounds, and gas cannisters.

Trust in police

January 10, 2022

The Pew Research Center has produced a short animated video summarizing information from recent public opinion surveys about trust in police, available here. Sharp differences by ethnicity and political affiliation stand out, although solid majorities across all groups support several proposed reform measures. Personal experience differs as well. When asked if they had ever been unfairly stopped by police, 45% of Black adults said yes, as did 19% and 16% of Hispanic and Asian adults, respectively, compared to only 9% of White adults.

Use of force & injuries by K-9s

December 21, 2021

An analysis of use of force incidents in Richmond, CA indicates that dog bites accounted for 60% of the department’s significant use of force injuries over a multi-year period, as reported here. In a 3-year comparison with 20 large cities, Richmond’s rate of 34 canine bites per 100,000 population easily topped the list, while three-quarters of the cities had rates below 10. The newly available data came as a complete surprise to the city’s Community Police Review Commission — “That wasn’t even on our radar. None of these cases made the light of day.” All of the K-9 activations were deemed justified, and despite the injuries, officers point out that dog bites do less harm than bullets.

DOJ reporting on police use of force falling short

December 10, 2021

The US Department of Justice failed to publish annual summaries of police use of excessive force between 2016 and 2020 as required by law, and the FBI’s new national data collection on police use of force has fallen short due to insufficient participation by law enforcement agencies, according to a new GAO report available here. The latter initiative was begun in 2016 with actual data collection starting in 2019. So far, agencies representing about 50% of sworn U.S. law enforcement officers have been submitting use of force data. Based on criteria established when the initiative was launched, the FBI has to reach a threshold of agencies accounting for 60% of all officers before the end of 2022 or end the data collection.

PBS documentary “Shots Fired”

November 29, 2021

The new PBS Frontline documentary “Shots Fired,” available here, examines police shootings in Utah, where the numbers have increased in recent years. Persons of color have been over-represented among those shot, and mental health crisis has been a factor in many of the incidents. Almost all the cases have been ruled justified, based on officers’ objectively reasonable perceptions of the violent threats they were facing. The film raises questions about the state’s 16-week police academy training program, especially the prevalence of no-win scenarios in which deadly force is inevitable, which may heighten new officers’ fears for their own safety.