Major U.S. Police Groups Agree on De-Escalation Policy

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The nation’s leading law enforcement organizations today issued what they called a consensus policy on police use of force that emphasizes de-escalation. The groups said the policy “takes into account and reflects the broad views and experience of the field – ranging from a line officer to an executive.”  The groups agreed that, “An officer shall use de-escalation techniques and other alternatives to higher levels of force consistent with his or her training whenever possible and appropriate before resorting to force and to reduce the need for force.”

The groups added that, “Whenever possible and when such delay will not compromise the safety of the officer or another and will not result in the destruction of evidence, escape of a suspect, or commission of a crime, an officer shall allow an individual time and opportunity to submit to verbal commands before force is used.”

Because each of the nation’s estimated 18,000 law enforcement agencies uses its own policies on use of force, the new consensus will not be imposed on individual police departments. Still, it is expected to be consulted widely as police agencies review their policies and practices.

Under the consensus issued today, an officer is authorized to use deadly force “when it is objectively reasonable under the totality of the circumstances.” The groups said, “Use of deadly force is justified when one or both of the following apply: a. to protect the officer or others from what is reasonably believed to be an immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury (and) b. to prevent the escape of a fleeing subject when the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed, or intends to commit a felony involving serious bodily injury or death, and the officer reasonably believes that there is an imminent risk of serious bodily injury or death to the officer or another if the subject is not immediately apprehended.”

The statement is aimed at resolving many differences in policies or practice that have emerged in the national debate over use of force by police since the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014.

Organizations that agreed on today’s consensus statement were the Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies, the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, the Fraternal Order of Police, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association, the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training, the National Association of Police Organizations, the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, and the National Tactical Officers Association.

Ted Gest is president of Criminal Justice Journalists and Washington Bureau Chief of The Crime Report.

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