Archive for the ‘Use of Force’ Category

Prospects for police reform

January 14, 2019

Noted police historian and accountability expert Sam Walker discusses the prospects for ongoing police reform in this law review article. Despite reduced pressure from the federal government since 2017, he sees encouraging efforts within policing, some state and local governments accepting greater responsibility, and continuing interest from activists and the general public. Still, the prospects for significant change “face a number of uncertainties, challenges, and obstacles” and “we have no real understanding of the conditions necessary for major reforms to be sustained over the long haul.”


Police shootings high in Phoenix

January 7, 2019

Phoenix PD had 38 officer-involved shootings in 2018 as of late October, with 19 fatalities. Per population, that rate was 10 times higher than Philadelphia’s, 5 times higher than Chicago’s, and more than 3 times higher than LA’s, as reported here. Activists blame the police while the officers’ union blames violent crime and suspect non-compliance. Both sides are so sure they know the reasons behind the high numbers that they criticized the city for funding an independent study, due to be completed this month.

K-9 audit in St. Paul

January 5, 2019

Following several accidental bites, an audit has concluded that “Systemic issues with training, supervision and record-keeping plagued the St. Paul police K-9 unit … and partly contributed to attacks on innocent bystanders,” as reported here. The review found that handlers often self-trained, scored their own training performance, and were inconsistent in issuing verbal warnings to suspects. Recommendations include closer supervision, better performance data, and “developing more arrest options officers can use instead of deploying a K-9 for human apprehension; using time, distance, cover and options to slow human-dog encounters; and emphasizing the canine’s primary purpose as a locating tool.”

New public records law in California

December 23, 2018

New legislation in California taking effect January 1 increases public access to “internal investigations of officer shootings and other major uses of force, along with confirmed cases of sexual assault and lying while on duty.” Existing law, though, only requires departments to retain such records for 5 years. This article reports city approval in Inglewood to destroy more than 100 older records before the new statute takes effect. Other cities are wrestling with what to do with their records.

Police suicide

December 21, 2018

This article recounts the heartbreaking circumstances surrounding an officer’s suicide in Wisconsin. His mother put some of the blame on “years and years of this drip, drip, drip of evil and unappreciation.” Nationally, police suicides outnumber felonious deaths by at least 3-1, with many unreported. One expert notes that police face “elevated risk of depression, substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder” while “shootings are the biggest stressors.” The work can affect officers’ mental health, but experts say police “are often particularly adept at hiding the warning signs. They are practiced at burying their emotions on the job.”

Use of Force in New Jersey

December 1, 2018

News media in New Jersey obtained over 72,000 documents from the state’s 469 police departments for the years 2012-2016 to compile what it calls a “comprehensive statewide database of police use of force.” According to the authors, “No one has ever seen data like this in New Jersey. Not the attorney general, not county prosecutors and not local police departments. And that’s because, though it was available for the taking, no one ever collected and digitized it as originally envisioned, rendering it nearly useless.” Initial findings are available here, along with a searchable database, and  a series of articles are forthcoming.

No answers from U.S. Park Police

November 18, 2018

This article reviews a year-old police shooting case just outside Washington, DC. The family of the deceased has gotten no information from the U.S. Park Police, who shot their son, or from the FBI, which took over the investigation. The Fairfax County police, who were on-scene, released their dashcam video two months after the shooting, frustrated by the lack of transparency in the federal investigation. The case illustrates the dramatic difference between local and federal law enforcement agencies in accountability to the public.

100 days atop LAPD

October 17, 2018

This article reports on the first 100 days for LAPD chief Michel Moore. Describing the period as listening and learning, he set a target of attending 90 community events in 90 days, but actually made it to 170. A union leader described him as open-minded and accessible and his chief of staff commented “I’m extraordinarily impressed at the speed he’s moving, the level of accountability, his willingness to listen on every level of the organization.”  The head of the police commission observed “Not only is he smart, but he’s so rooted in progressive community policing and so proactive about it and so creative about it.”

76 million police contacts in 2015

October 16, 2018

The Bureau of Justice Statistics has released its latest Police-Public Contact survey report. In 2015, 53.5 million people had a total of 76 million contacts with police. About 57% of contacts were reactive — persons reporting incidents or involved in traffic accidents. Of the remainder, 39% occurred in vehicle stops and 4% in street stops. Compared to 2011, both police-initiated and citizen-initiated contacts decreased substantially. Whites were most likely to have had police contact in 2015, but blacks and Hispanics were more likely to have experienced the threat or use of physical force by police.

Getting the facts out quickly

September 26, 2018

This article reports an incident in Prince George’s County, Maryland of a SWAT raid at a wrong apartment, resulting in two officers being shot (not critically) by the startled resident and one round being fired by police. Noteworthy is that the police chief held a full press conference in less than 24 hours, providing the facts, apologizing for the bungled operation, halting serving search warrants until the cause of the mistake is determined, and announcing that the resident would not be charged. The reporter comments on the rarity of such quick and full disclosure in the aftermath of a controversial incident.