Archive for the ‘Use of Force’ Category

When Tasers fail

May 13, 2019

This article and accompanying public radio podcast review the evolution of the Taser over the last 20 years. Data from several large departments indicate device success rates in the 55%-80% range, below the manufacturer’s claims. Effectiveness also seemed to decline after 2009 when the electrical charge was reduced. The latest model, the Taser 7, has a revised launch angle for better results at close range, since about 75% of deployments occur within 7 feet of the subject.


OIS protocol standardized in Charleston

May 3, 2019

South Carolina is one of many states that leaves decisions related to investigating and prosecuting officer-involved shootings to local authorities. Charleston-area agencies have established a standard policy and practice in coordination with their prosecutor, as reported here. The new protocol sets two 60-day deadlines, one to complete an independent investigation and one for prosecutorial review, and emphasizes the need for communication and transparency. Officials expect other regions of the state will look at the protocol for guidance.

Analysis of officer-involved shootings in Phoenix

April 21, 2019

This report by the National Police Foundation provides analysis of officer-involved shootings in Phoenix, which doubled in 2018 over the average for the past 9 years. Information was gathered from the community and from police records, and comparisons were made over time and with other big cities and Arizona cities. One factor in Phoenix was that assaults on officers increased, and more OIS incidents involved subjects armed with weapons, including guns. Another was that both police and community members pointed to lack of trust, leading to several recommendations aimed at transparency, accountability, and relationship building.

Accountability as the enemy of prevention

April 15, 2019

This paper argues that the current single-minded focus on legal and administrative accountability following police shootings ignores the equally important objective of preventing future shootings. It applies several concepts from the safety field — root cause analysis, organizational accidents, and sentinel event review — to illustrate how a stronger emphasis on prevention could be achieved. The author doesn’t suggest that “individual police officers should escape responsibility for their actions. But our current relentless focus on accountability – while an understandable human reaction – has become the enemy of prevention in the very communities that need it most.”

New approach to deescalation

April 12, 2019

The newest member of the Franklin, Massachusetts PD recently deescalated a tense situation involving a distraught student at a local school, as reported here. An officer and a teacher couldn’t calm the student, but upon the arrival of Ben, the department’s 5-month old therapy puppy, the youngster “looked at the officer and snapped out of it. He said ‘Can I pet him?’ and the officer said ‘Yes, if you’re good.’” Ben, whose grandfather won a title at the Westminster Dog Show, is one of only a few police therapy dogs in the state, but “the idea of a dog solely focused on community outreach is picking up steam.”

NYPD secret weapon

April 5, 2019

NYPD handled 180,000 “emotionally disturbed person” calls last year, often involving some kind of threat of violence. For those cases where the individual is inside an apartment, patrol officers are now being issued a length of rope and a door wedge, enabling them to secure the door so the person can’t suddenly burst out, forcing a snap decision about use of force. The equipment was recently used, successfully, to avert a confrontation with a man armed with what turned out to be an imitation pistol, as reported here.

Mixed results from body cams

March 26, 2019

Body-worn cameras have now been widely adopted by police agencies, likely passing the 50% mark in 2017. The results so far have been mixed, as summarized here based on the latest review of multiple studies. Body cams seem to reduce complaints against police, whether due to better police behavior or reduced frivolous complaints (or both). Also, police video footage is increasingly used by prosecutors, for example in domestic violence cases. But the studies have not found a consistent impact on police use of force, suspect resistance, or citizen satisfaction with police interactions.

Costly year in Chicago PD lawsuits

March 21, 2019

Chicago spent over $113 million on police misconduct lawsuits in 2018, including awards, settlements, and private attorney fees, as reported here. This was the most expensive year in recent history, although of course many of the cases originated years earlier. The 2018 bill “doesn’t include cases of property damage, minor car accidents, vehicle pursuits or employment-discrimination lawsuits” and brought “Chicago taxpayers’ tab for police misconduct to well over half a billion dollars in the past eight years.”

Details on NZ apprehension

March 18, 2019

This article provides information on the apprehension of the Christchurch, New Zealand mosque attacker. Two officers from an outlying area, who happened to be in the city for a training session, went operational, spotted the fleeing vehicle, made the decision to ram it, and took the shooter into custody. The officers have not been identified by name, but have been praised by the police commissioner and others. Their sergeant commented, “I was surprised how calm and collected they were.”

The tragedy of Baltimore

March 13, 2019

Baltimore has just confirmed the appointment of a new police commissioner, Michael Harrison, recently retired from New Orleans. This article reviews the last few years of crime and policing in the city, describing in detail the tension between residents’ critical need for more safety through engaged policing, and the social and economic factors fueling high levels of street crime. People attending recent community meetings “were not describing a trade-off between justice and order. They saw them as two parts of a whole and were daring to ask for both.”