For the first time, the New York City Police Department is establishing guidelines, backed by a sweeping new tracking system, for using and documenting force, reports the New York Times. Every police officer must detail virtually every instance when force is used not only in an arrest but also in other encounters with the public. That includes brief, violent detentions and releases that occur routinely on the street and, in cases like tennis star James Blake, is captured on video. Officers, who have long been required to intervene when they see other officers using excessive force, will face formal discipline if they fail to step in or report excessive force and if they fail to seek medical assistance for someone who requests it. The new rules are being announced today by Commissioner William Bratton. They coincide with a rollout of 900 Taser stun guns to patrol officers.
“What we're developing here could become the national template for how do you not only investigate all levels of use of force, but how do you report it in a way that it is transparent,” Bratton said. The new rules, to go into effect early next year, cover the range of police encounters with unarmed black men and women that have drawn widespread condemnation since last summer, from the death of Eric Garner in an arrest on Staten Island to the death of Freddie Gray in police custody in Baltimore. Those deaths focused national attention on the inconsistent and incomplete data collected on police killings and other use of force. New York, the nation’s largest police department with 35,000 officers, is now going further than most.