The Citizens Campaign Unveils Comprehensive Police De-Escalation Policy

 

“Tying Promotions to Officers’ Use of Appropriate Force”

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The Citizens Campaign today unveiled a comprehensive de-escalation policy designed to bring about the culture change in police forces essential  to making ‘use of force as a last resort” and state-of-the-art de-escalation practices the accepted and adhered to standards.

The Citizens Campaign Comprehensive Police De-escalation Policy is centered around the incentivizing of state-of the art de-escalation practices, including a specific and measurable use of force policy, substantial and continuing de-escalation training, and tying use of force  as a last resort performance to officers promotions. . These measures, according to The Citizens Campaign’s Law and Policy Task Force, are proven to not only reduce excessive force incidents, but to also reduce police officer injuries and the costs of police abuse lawsuits.

Under the proposed policy, the Camden  County Police Department definition of de-escalation is employed: “Actions taken by an officer meant to stabilize a situation and reduce the immediacy of a potential threat so that a potentially dangerous situation can be resolved with voluntary compliance and without resorting to force”.

 “The cold-blooded killing of George Floyd is driving home the need for  fundamental culture change in our city police departments,” said Harry Pozycki, Founder of The Citizens Campaign.  This comprehensive police de-escalation policy provides the incentives and practices required to change the culture of police departments by prioritizing de-escalation in everything from hiring to promotions.”

Jiles H Ship, President of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives( NOBLE) Northern New Jersey Chapter, and member of The Citizens Campaign Law and Policy Task Force said, “We know that de-escalation works. Putting this comprehensive policy in place will ensure that police departments fully incorporate state-of-the-art de-escalation practices into the day-to-day work of policing.”

Civic Trusts, facilitated by The Citizens Campaign, are beginning to present the basic elements of this de-escalation policies to their local governments in 6 Civic Trust cities including : Newark, Paterson, Perth Amboy, Philadelphia, Plainfield and Trenton.  Plans will be adapted to factor in varying existing local police department policies and community needs.  Civic Trusts are comprised of about two dozen Civic Trustees per city who meet in monthly No-Blame Solution Sessions to find and import cost-effective, evidence-based policy solutions that have proven successful in cities similar to their own.

Outlined briefly below are the general plan elements:

Policy Elements:

1.      Putting In Place Use of Force as a Last Resort Policy:  Use of force policies , such as the one put in place by the Camden County Police Department, which has  primary law enforcement responsibility in Camden,  provide clear and specific guidance for use of force as a last resort,  contribute to significant reductions in excessive use of force incidents.  These policies spell out that the first order of business is to work to “de-escalate confrontations with the goal of resolving encounters without force.”  To have maximum impact, these policies should, as required in Camden, require officers on the scene to intervene when needed to prevent escalation as well as to report any incidence of the use of excessive force.

2.      Substantial De-Escalation Training: Police departments who have implemented serious and expanded de-escalation training show significant reductions in injuries and fatalities for both civilians and police officers and much lower payouts in excessive force legal suits.  Tying the training to the specific use of force as a last resort policy will make it even more potent.  A 2015 study conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) of 280 law enforcement agencies, showed that there were 8 hours of training on uses of various kinds of force for every one hour of de-escalation training.  The result of this imbalance in training, according to law enforcement experts, is that police officers are primed to use force rather than de-escalation techniques, resulting in violence that could have been avoided in at least some cases.  Serious de-escalation training, teaches “officers to slow down, create space, and use communication techniques to defuse potentially dangerous situations.  It also gives officers strategies to more effectively deal with people who are experiencing mental and emotional crises.

3.      Tying Appropriate Use of Force to Promotions:  Success in appropriate use of force should be given significant weight in promotions in order to incentivize the culture change needed.  In addition, superior officers who have officers reporting to them should have the records of their division or precincts on use of force as a last resort incorporated into their over-all performance evaluations as well.

4.      Requiring Body-Worn Cameras:   Body-worn cameras mounted on an officer’s eyeglasses or chest area provide a visual record of use of force incidents and other more positive interactions with community members.  Their required use provides the transparency that builds trust, deters the inappropriate use of force, and importantly, enhances evaluation and on-the-job learning.  Keeping the cameras turned-on must be strictly enforced with consequences for officers that don’t comply. Experience in the Phoenix Police Department as well as others shows that even if there is a policy in place to do so, it will often be ignored, if no enforced..

5.      Tracking Use of Force Incidents:  Mandating the filling out of use of force reports, including the race and ethnicity of suspects, is essential to building the accountability necessary for implementing a comprehensive de-escalation policy.  Incidents must be reviewed with the officers involved for both evaluation of de-escalation performance and lessons learned purposes. Additionally, a comprehensive use of force report for the police department must be produced quarterly in order to measure progress on de-escalation and made public to ensure accountability.

6.    Use Psychological Testing to identify police recruits who possess strong interpersonal skills.   Psychological testing has been used by police departments mainly at the tail-end of the hiring process to rule out someone with obvious red flags, such as a wanting to ‘join the force because they like guns or want to drive fast” or explicit racial biases.  It is better, as some police departments are beginning to do, to use the tests earlier in the hiring process to help identify candidates who have high executive control of impulses and strong interpersonal skills that would make them more likely to be interested in and skilled at de-escalation.  This kind of testing includes video of actual situations to gauge an applicant’s real time reactions

7.     Connect Police to the Community:  Research shows that regular contact with members of the community in non- law enforcement settings reduces implicit bias. Devising programs that bring police officers to high schools and junior high schools on a regular basis to meet with students to discuss their work and also to talk about careers in law enforcement--rather than employing them as enforcers of school discipline-- can help build mutual respect. Promoting regular contact with a broad-cross section of residents through a community policing approach is also essential.

 

Background:

The comprehensive police de-escalation policy was developed by The Citizens Campaign’s Law and Policy Task Force with input from Civic Trustees.  The Citizens Campaign and the Civic Trusts it facilitates have advanced police/community relations by developing best practices for creating volunteer auxiliary police forces and developing mutual respect programs to improve police/youth relations in Trenton and Newark.

The Citizens Campaign is a volunteer community of problem solvers – government law and policy experts, civic-minded business leaders, citizen journalists, civic leaders, students, teachers, veterans and more – dedicated to educating citizens to the fullness of their political power and developing citizen leaders through leadership raining in government problem solving. The Citizens Campaign is now building a new citizen-driven,community-based National Public Service to develop responsible leadership from the bottom up.  For more information, visit www.thecitizenscampaign.org