The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis shows the need for national norms for policing, say Charles Ramsey and Laurie Robinson, who headed President Barack Obama’s task force on 21st century policing. Writing in USA Today, Ramsey and Robinson say that with 18,000 state and local law enforcement agencies in the U.S., “we need consistent guidelines to set thresholds for what constitutes professional and acceptable conduct for police officers. Such standards could help rid the ranks of bad actors.” Ramsey and Robinson say there are “reasons for hope in the response to Floyd’s death,” including the firing of four police officers and condemnation of the incident by the International Association of Chiefs of Police and Major Cities Chiefs Association.
The neck restraint used on Floyd is a form of chokehold that was eliminated by many police agencies because of its potential to cause death. Minneapolis still sanctions the neck restraint. The case highlights “what has long been lacking in policing — research-backed training and tools that can help agencies improve practices to build trust, defuse situations and reduce use of force,” say Ramsey and Robinson. “While de-escalation training and body cameras have been widely adopted, evidence documenting how well these and other new interventions work … is slim at best.” Police academies emphasize technical training, but officers need strong interpersonal skills, and most get little instruction. One model called T3 seeks to close that gap is based on a Pentagon initiative. Social interaction training equips officers to navigate dynamic encounters before they mushroom into violent events. A federal grant has tested the method in Fayetteville, N.C. and Tucson. It’s naïve to believe that better training and revised policies would stop deaths like Floyd’s, but law enforcement agencies should help lead a conversation about national norms for policing, say Ramsey and Robinson.