Civilian deaths at the hands of law enforcement officers have become so routine in the US that it risks becoming predictable. This has resulted in a growing movement of fearful, outraged citizens concerned with police violence–including the increasing militarization of police departments. However, a new report suggests that curbing police violence is quite possible, if police departments and local officials commit to it.
In the aftermath of the Ferguson protests, a citizen’s group—known as Campaign Zero (CZ)—came together to research and recommend solutions to end police brutality. In their “Police Use of Force Project,” Campaign Zero identified eight policies that greatly decrease the likelihood of police violence:
- Require officers to de-escalate situations before resorting to force.
- Limit the kinds of force that can be used to respond to specific forms of resistance.
- Restrict chokeholds.
- Require officers to give verbal warning before using force.
- Prohibit officers from shooting at moving vehicles.
- Require officers to exhaust all alternatives to deadly force.
- Require officers to stop colleagues from exercising excessive force.
- Require comprehensive reporting on use of force.
Researchers examined 91 of the 100 largest cities to see if police departments were using these policies, and found that none of the departments utilized all eight. The lowest rates of police killings were associated with those departments that implemented four or more policies—only about a third of the country’s largest departments. If all the policies were enforced, it’s estimated police killings would drop by 72%.
Why then are implementation rates so low? Historical precedence is partly to blame. In some cases, police unions claim that the policies would endanger officers. However, research findings show the opposite: better regulation of use of force is better for police, too—with the numbers of officers assaulted or killed in the line of duty decreasing in proportion to the number of policies adopted. It’s time to call for the implementation of “Use of Force” policies in every city and community across the country.
D McKesson, S Sinyangwe, J Elzie, B Packnett, “Police Use of Force Policy Analysis,” Campaign Zero, September 16, 2016, http://www.joincampaignzero.org/reports; https://static1.squarespace.com/static/56996151cbced68b170389f4/t/57e1b5cc2994ca4ac1d97700/1474409936835/Police+Use+of+Force+Report.pdf.
Alice Speri, “Here Are Eight Policies That Can Prevent Police Killings,” The Intercept, September 21, 2016, https://theintercept.com/2016/09/21/here-are-eight-policies-that-can-prevent-police-killings.
Student Researcher: Malcolm Pinson (San Francisco State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University)