Use Of Force Policy Guidelines

Developed for the Toolkit for Prosecutors and Communities to Address and Prevent Police-Involved Fatalities

Overview

The Policing Project’s Use Of Force Policy Guidelines outlines best practices on use of deadly force. The resource is designed to provide guidance to police departments, community members, municipal leaders, and prosecutors looking to incorporate best practices into police department policy and officer training. This document was developed as part of the Policing Project’s role in the Working Group on Officer-Involved Fatalities at the Institute for Innovation in Prosecution at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and was included in the Toolkit for Prosecutors and Communities to Address and Prevent Police-Involved Fatalities. The toolkit was the result of a year-long collaboration between family members, prosecutors, police chiefs, and law enforcement and policy experts, including the Policing Project.


USE OF FORCE PRINCIPLES, GENERALLY

  1. Do the Department’s policies emphasize necessity, de-escalation, and proportionality when using force?

  2. Do the Department’s policies require that each of an officer’s decisions leading up to a use of force be reasonable (not just the specific use of force at the particular moment that it was applied)?

  3. Do the Department’s policies require that officers consider a person’s specific characteristics, such as mental capacity, developmental disability, the influences of drugs or alcohol, and/or language barriers, when determining whether force is appropriate?

  4. Do the Department’s policies prohibit use force to subdue a subject(s) who is not suspected of any criminal conduct, unless necessary to protect an officer’s or another person’s safety?

  5. Do the Department’s policies prohibit use of force as retaliation?

  6. Do the Department’s policies prohibit use of force against a person who only verbally confront officers and is not involved in criminal conduct?

  7. Do the Department’s policies prohibit use of force against a person who is handcuffed or otherwise restrained (because that person does not present a threat)?

  8. Do the Department’s policies impose a duty to intervene on officers during improper force?

  9. Do the Department’s policies require officers to promptly render aid to injured subjects?

  10. Does the Department’s policy require all uses of deadly force, whether intentional or unintentional, to be immediately reported and investigated?

FIREARMS SPECIFIC POLICIES

  1. Do the Department’s policies consider each firearm discharge as a separate use of force that must be specifically justified?

  2. Do the Department’s policies require officers to give a verbal warning and identify themselves as police officers before discharging a firearm, when possible?

  3. Do the Department’s policies prohibit officers from firing warning shots?

  4. Do the Department’s policies prohibit officers from shooting at or from moving vehicles?

  5. Do the Department’s policies consider pointing a firearm at a person to be a use of force?

  6. Do the Department’s policies prohibit shooting through a door, window, or in other circumstances in which the target is not clearly in view?

POLICIES FOR NON-FIREARMS USES OF FORCE

  1. Do the Department’s policies prohibit maneuvers that may cut off blood or oxygen to a subject’s head (e.g., choke holds, strangleholds) except when lethal force is allowed?

  2. Do the Department’s policies prohibit techniques and modes of transport that run a substantial risk of positional asphyxia (e.g., putting a person prone on the ground while restrained)?

  3. Do the Department’s ECW (Taser) policies prohibit use against certain “high risk populations,” including those who are pregnant, infirm, elderly, or small in size?

  4. Do the Department’s policies limit intentional weapon strikes (such as with a baton) to the head to only those situations when lethal force is permitted?


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