U.S. Policing & Reforms

Police Executive Research Forum (Perf)

The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) believes that, though many use-of-force incidents have proven controversial, the police officers themselves are not at fault. Rather, the training these officers received is what is to blame. In order to overhaul this out-of-date police training, PERF has created 30 Guiding Principles on Use of Force, broken down into categories such as policy, training and tactics, equipment, and information exchange. The principles are:

  • The sanctity of human life should be at the heart of everything the agency does
  • Agencies should continue to develop best politics, practices, and training on use-of-force issues that go beyond the minimum requirements of Graham v. Connor
  • Police use of force must meet the test of proportionality
  • Adopt de-escalation as formal agency policy
  • The Critical Decision-Making Model provides a new way to approach critical incidents (collect information; assess the situation, threats, and risks; consider police powers and agency policy; identify options and determine the best course of action; and act, review, and re-assess the situation)
  • Duty to intervene: Officers need to prevent other officers from using excessive force
  • Respect the sanctity of life by promptly rendering first aid
  • Shooting at vehicles must be prohibited
  • Prohibit use of deadly force against individuals who pose a danger only to themselves
  • Document use-of-force incidents, and review data and enforcement practices to ensure that they are fair and non-discriminatory
  • To build understanding and trust, agencies should issue regular reports to the public on use of force
  • All critical police incidents resulting in death or serious bodily injury should be reviewed by specially trained personnel
  • Agencies need to be transparent in providing information following use-of-force incidents
  • Training academy content and culture must reflect agency values
  • Officers should be trained to use a Critical Decision-Making Model
  • Use distance, cover, and time to replace outdated concepts such as the “21-foot rule” and “drawing a line in the sand”
    • 21-foot-rule: Old tests show that an adult male, armed with a knife and charging at full speed, could cover 21 feet before a police officer has time to draw, aim, and shoot a firearm. PERF’s research into recent incidents revealed examples of the “rule” being cited by officers or their attorneys to justify shootings of suspects with edged weapons.
  • De-escalation should be a core theme of an agency’s training program
  • De-escalation starts with effective communications
  • Mental illness: implement a comprehensive agency training program on dealing with people with mental health issues
  • Tactical training and mental health training need to be interwoven to improve response to critical incidents
  • Community-based outreach teams can be a valuable component to agencies’ mental health response
  • Provide a prompt supervisory response to critical incidents to reduce the likelihood of unnecessary force
  • Training as teams can improve performance in the field
  • Scenario-based training should be prevalent, challenging, and realistic
  • Officers need access to and training in less-lethal options
  • Agencies should consider new options for chemical spray
  • An Electronic Control Weapon (ECW) deployment that is not effective does not mean that officers should automatically move to their firearms
  • Personal protection shields enhance officer safety and may support de-escalation efforts during critical incidents, including situations involving persons with knives, baseball bats, and other improvised weapons that are not firearms
  • Well trained call-takers and dispatchers are essential to the police response to critical incidents
  • Educate the families of persons with mental illness on communicating with call-takers

Police Executive Research Forum, Guiding Principles on Use of Force (Mar. 2016), http://www.policeforum.org/assets/guidingprinciples1.pdf.

Police Executive Research Forum, Integrating Communications, Assessment, and Tactics: Training Guide for Defusing Critical Incidents (Oct. 2016), http://www.policeforum.org/assets/icattrainingguide.pdf.

Police Executive Research Forum, Re-Engineering Training on Police Use of Force (Aug. 2015), http://www.policeforum.org/assets/reengineeringtraining1.pdf.