An exemplary policing agency ensures its effectiveness, earns public trust, and builds and sustains a high-quality workforce by ensuring that all interactions with the public and employees demonstrate fidelity to positive policing and moral values and are both lawful and ethical.

Procedural integrity, the first component of the EPA framework, focuses on process, HOW officers and police executives pursue their mission outcome goals. It is about doing the right things in the right ways. The components of procedural integrity – values fidelity, lawfulness, and ethics – are concerned with an agency’s duty to earn trust, respect, and support. In this context, phrasing, tone, timing, and demeanor are critical as well as credible and fair processes.

All actions of an exemplary policing agency demonstrate fidelity to positive policing and moral values as well as a commitment to complying with the law and adhering to high ethical standards. Police have a moral duty to act lawfully and ethically. This includes being honest and accountable, keeping commitments, and treating others fairly, respectfully, and with a genuine concern for their welfare. Such conduct also enhances the ability of the agency to meet its mission goals by engendering public trust and a sense of partnership with the police in pursuit of common goals. This sense of partnership yields cooperation and collaboration making police work safer and less stressful. It also helps the agency achieve each aspect of its mission. [13] Finally, an agency that honors procedural integrity generates pride in the organization and passion for its purpose, qualities that help the agency attract and retain high-quality personnel.

Values Fidelity

All interactions with the public and agency employees demonstrate fidelity to positive policing and moral values. Adherence to worthy values that both guide decisions and provide criteria to measure conduct, performance, and results are at the heart of exemplary policing.

What are Values?
Values are core beliefs that shape attitudes and drive decisions. Whether expressed as a single word, a sentence, or a whole paragraph, an agency’s or individual’s true values are revealed by actions, not rhetoric. Values can and should be aspirational, a goal to strive for, but in policing. the bottom line is operational – the beliefs that dictate conduct. The principle of values fidelity requires complete congruence between what the agency professes and what its officers practice.

Core values: The Six Pillars of Character. The values platform of an exemplary policing agency includes both basic moral principles (such as honesty, responsibility, and respect) as well as professionally specific beliefs concerning the proper and effective pursuit and achievement of mission goals. Examination of official values statements of policing agencies yields an extensive list of objectives, traits and behaviors that support the policing mission. To provide a memorable and practical structure to guide organizational and individual conduct, the EPA framework identifies six overarching principles that embrace both moral and policing values. Stated in single words for simplicity, these six overarching values include a cluster of more specific values: trustworthiness (including integrity, honesty, promise-keeping and loyalty), respect (including dignity, privacy, and autonomy – elements of human rights), responsibility (including duty, accountability, proficiency and professionalism, and honoring the badge), fairness (including justice, impartiality, equity and objectivity), caring (including compassion, empathy, charity and selfless service) and citizenship (including reverence for the letter and spirit of the law and playing by the rules). [14] This group of values is called the Six Pillars of Character. Thus, true values-based policing is shown when all conduct engenders trust, treats everyone with respect, and demonstrates responsibility, fairness, caring, and good citizenship. [15]


One of the most cherished qualities of our constitutionally based democracy is the notion that the United States is a government of laws, not of men. Laws inform members of a community what they must do (mandates) or must not do (prohibitions). Lawfulness is essentially about compliance.

Policing is a noble calling because in abiding by and enforcing the law, peace officers make the protection of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness a reality. This fact justifies not just compliance with, but reverence for, the rule of law. While it is a common pastime to grouse about too many laws or laws that seem ill-conceived or unwisely applied, and deficiencies in the administration of criminal justice, an exemplary agency actively discourages cynicism about the law itself or the essential wisdom of the system. Police are responsible to ensure that all members of the community, regardless of wealth or rank, obey the law or are held accountable for failing to do so. Policing professionals, however, have an added responsibility to enforce the law lawfully and to comply with all other laws and rules that apply to their policing activities. [16] This requires discipline, knowledge, and tactical proficiency.

  • Components of Lawfulness. The procedural integrity requirement of lawfulness embraces the duty to comply with five groups of laws and rules that regulate police actions: 1) constitutional mandates; 2) criminal laws contained in the state’s penal code (especially those dealing with homicide, battery, and false imprisonment); 3) civil law (including civil rights statutes and tort laws creating liability for intentional and negligent torts); 4) consent decrees and collaborative agreements, and 5) agency policies. [17]

  • Constitutional Mandates. The lawfulness dimension of procedural integrity begins with provisions of the U.S. Constitution that govern police activities. Unconstitutional actions can result in the exclusion of evidence and overturning convictions. In addition, violation of civil rights can form the basis of civil lawsuits. Thus, officers are taught and required to honor Constitutional guarantees with respect to providing equal protection of the laws, the rights to counsel and to remain silent, and legal standards regulating arrests, searches, seizures, interrogations and the use of force.

  • Criminal Laws. In addition to the duty to comply with constitutional mandates, policing employees are subject to criminal prosecution in certain cases where they exceeded their lawful authority. This comes up most frequently when the use of force results in death or serious injury and there is evidence that the officer either acted with criminal intent or was grossly negligent. Though the demand for criminal charges has increased dramatically based on dash cam, body cam, and citizen videos and increased militancy of those who claim that deadly force has systematically been employed improperly, especially with regard to African American males, criminal charges are, and should be, used only in rare and extreme cases. Not all imprudent, tactically improper or even careless conduct should result in criminal charges despite the demands from some segments of the community who seem to believe that the only way to hold policing agencies and its officers accountable is a criminal conviction.

    The standard for criminal convictions is a very high one for both civilians and peace officers. A defendant must be acquitted [18] if the prosecutor cannot prove all elements of the offense, including intent, beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Prosecuting agencies have a duty to closely review officer conduct that results in death or serious injury. And, where appropriate the facts justify it they should file charges. If a review results in a decision not to prosecute, they should provide a timely and detailed explanation. In the political environment dominating many communities, prosecutorial and grand jury decisions not to file criminal charges as well as acquittals where charges were filed, often results in increased hostility and decreased public trust. Credible alternatives to demonstrate officers will be fairly treated but held accountable where appropriate are essential to sustain positive police-community relations.

  • Civil Laws. Although police officers and their agencies benefit from certain privileges and immunities, both groups are highly vulnerable to civil lawsuits alleging civil rights violations and common torts including assault, battery and wrongful death. While criminal prosecutions are initiated by government attorneys and departmental discipline is controlled by agency policies, civil actions can be brought by any person claiming a right to damages. In addition, class actions can be brought by individuals and organizations seeking compensation and reform.

    Though some high profile protests focus on holding officers criminally liable, a more common and unavoidable consequence of a questioned use of force is the need to respond to civil lawsuits. More liberal evidentiary rules and reduced burden of proof standards in proving a civil cause of action make it far easier to establish liability than criminal guilt. [19] Thus, civil lawsuits based on alleged excessive force or other conduct exceeding lawful authority have become increasingly common and costly. In fact, it is rare when a death or serious injury at the hands of police does not give rise to a lawsuit.

    Though some cases are without merit and do not result in a negative verdict or settlement, every one of them depletes public resources and diverts executive attention. And while criminal convictions of officers are rare, voluntary cash settlements and civil judgments are not. Thus, the risk and reality of civil liability are powerful methods for holding an agency and its officers accountable. Agency leadership is responsible to protect their city or county from resource-draining lawsuits by ensuring its officers fully understand and comply with criminal and civil laws, act ethically, and are faithful to positive policing values, police executives and municipal officials also have a responsibility to stand up for the police where there is no wrongdoing. Thus, the EPA framework advocates that police leadership is directly involved in decisions concerning the settlement of claims. Similarly, civilian agencies must be cautious not to encourage spurious lawsuits by settlement policies that are not based on the merits of the allegations.

  • Consent Decrees & Collaborative Agreements. A major part of the legal landscape consists of court-ordered consent decrees and collaborative agreements. [20] These legally binding documents generally result from Department of Justice investigations and findings of a pattern and practice of unconstitutional policing. [21] The terms of court-ordered consent decrees and court-endorsed collaborative agreements are legally binding. Thus, provisions designed to prevent unconstitutional policing activities, including reporting, training, policies, supervisory accountability, and transparency establish specific obligations on the agency and its officers to assure procedural integrity.

  • Agency Policies. Irrespective of potential criminal or civil actions, policing agencies deal with every police-involved shooting and other major injuries or death with an internal investigation and, when appropriate disciplinary actions. Historically, the top police executive has had the authority to establish an agency’s strategic, tactical, and procedural policies. A growing number of cities, however, have established civilian commissions with the power to establish policies, [22] including the authority to overrule the results of internal disciplinary decisions [23. In addition, many jurisdictions also have civilian review boards with the ability to determine the propriety of officer-involved deaths. These decisions directly affect both the interpretation and modification of department policy.

  • Legalistic Application of Policy. Under the watchful eyes of police unions and legal counsel representing officers accused of misconduct, many agencies apply agency policies regulating behavior with legalistic rigor similar to the judicial system. [24]  Under a strict legalistic approach, discipline is proper only if an employee can be shown to have done something specifically prohibited by a written policy. [25] This commonly results in findings in favor of officers even in situations where objective policing standards and values lead to a conclusion that the conduct was neither prudent, tactically wise, nor ethically proper. [26] When policies are applied in this manner, departmental decisions (e.g., that a fatal shooting was justified or “in policy”) rarely satisfies critics. For one thing, many citizens doubt the objectivity of an internal investigation especially where a negative finding may increase the chance of civil liability. This contributes to cynicism of a growing number of police critics who conclude that neither the criminal courts nor agency disciplinary systems have the credibility required to assure citizens that officers are consistently held accountable for improper conduct.

  • Overlap of Law and Ethics. To remedy the rigid legalistic approach that can undermine the effectiveness and credibility of disciplinary actions, many agencies include an explicit requirement that employees act ethically and/or honor high ethical standards. They also may specifically require sworn officers to adhere to the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics which, among other provisions, requires officers to honor their badges and avoid private and professional conduct unbefitting an officer. [27] This transforms ethical principles into enforceable rules. Agencies that treat ethical expectations as policy mandates have greater leeway to discipline conduct that may be lawful but awful.

  • Procedural Integrity in the Workplace. The principles of procedural integrity not only apply to police interactions with the public they also apply to the way executives, managers, and supervisors treat employees. Thus, all aspects of the personnel process must be lawful, ethical, and demonstrate fidelity to values. This is especially true with respect to the treatment of employees accused of misconduct. Responding to an unfortunate history of arbitrary and unfair police treatment of officers accused of policy violations, police unions have endorsed the adoption of a Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBR) to provide officers with due process during investigations and disciplinary hearings. Some states have adopted the concept and included some versions of the LEBOR into statutes. Other states have similar provisions written into their contracts with police unions. [28]


The third prong of procedural integrity is the moral duty to live up to high ethical standards. Ethics demands more than compliance with legal standards. [29] Whereas the law tells prescribes what officers must do; ethics focuses on what they should do. Thus, the ethics dimension of procedural integrity sometimes requires an officer to do less than the law allows and more than it requires. Ethical duties are articulated in mission and values statements and in professional and department ethics codes (sometimes called standards of conduct).

  • Big E and little E Ethics. Ethics embraces broad, fundamental moral principles such as those prescribing a duty to be honest, fair, responsible, respectful, and compassionate, to pursue justice, help others and work for the common good (Big E ethics). It also includes less lofty specific conduct expectations to preserve personal or institutional integrity. These standards of conduct are generally expressed as ethics laws or rules and include the prohibition of conflicts of interest, acceptance of gifts, conduct creating an appearance of impropriety, and requirements of transparency (Little E ethics).

  • Law Enforcement Code of Ethics. The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) established a code of ethics in 1957. Though IACP members unanimously voted to adopt the new code in 1991, many law enforcement associations and policing agencies still use the 1957 version as an oath of office during the graduation ceremony for many law enforcement personnel.

    The 1957 code of ethics includes the following fundamental duties all of which are consistent with procedural integrity: be exemplary in obeying the law and department regulations; respect the constitutional rights of all to liberty, equality and justice; never employ unnecessary force or violence; enforce the law courteously without fear or favor, malice or ill will; never act officiously or permit personal feelings, prejudices, political beliefs, aspirations, animosities or friendships to influence official decisions; be constantly mindful of the welfare of others; exercise self-restraint; maintain courageous calm in the face of danger, scorn or ridicule; accept responsibility for one’s professional development and take every reasonable opportunity to enhance and improve knowledge and competence; keep secret confidential information acquired during official duties; be honest in thought and deed; honor the badge as a symbol of public trust by keep one’s private life unsullied and avoiding any conduct that may bring discredit to oneself or one’s agency; never engage in nor condone acts of corruption or bribery or accept gratuities.

  • Ethics Requires Values-Based Decision-Making. The procedural integrity requires that all actions are ethical as well as legal is just another way of saying they should be based on and conform to the agency’s positive values (values fidelity). In addition, the requirement of ethics beyond legalism makes it clear that officers must consider the spirit and purpose of the law as well as the actual impact of strict conformance with rules. [30]

  • Systematic Compliance and Ethics Program. Policing agencies may benefit from a strategy used by public corporations – the implementation of a systematic compliance and ethics program. Fines and other sanctions for criminal violations attributed to a corporation are vastly reduced if the organization can prove it has a robust ethics and compliance program which detects and prevents criminal conduct. The law sets forth seven key elements to of an effective ethics and program. [31]

    • Implement comprehensive compliance standards and procedures reasonably capable of reducing the prospect of criminal conduct.
    • Assign program responsibility to a command-level officer who reports directly to the chief and is held personally accountable by the city council or county board of supervisors.
    • Exercises due care to avoid delegation of policing powers to individuals whom the agency knew, or should have known, had a propensity to engage in illegal activities. [32]
    • Regularly and clearly communicate current legal and ethical standards and expectations through mandatory initial and refresher training programs and other resource materials.
    • Establish monitoring, auditing, and reporting systems to ensure that employees adhere to the agency’s ethics and compliance standards including a credible and confidential mechanism whereby employees can report criminal or questionable conduct without fear of retribution.
    • Implement fair and credible policies and practices to adjudicate accusations of officer misconduct and ensure that employees who fail to comply with either legal or ethical standards are held accountable.
    • Regularly collect data on employee attitudes and conduct and the effectiveness of compliance and ethics efforts so that leadership can determine whether modification of policies, training or other practices could improve adherence to ethical and legal standards.

  • Procedural Integrity and the Use of Force. Though the use of force is relatively rare [34], it is at the center of police-community tensions and the subject of continuous coverage and criticism in mass and social media. What’s more, the debate about when and how much force may be used by officers enforcing the law and responding to resistance and threats goes to the heart of officer safety. Officer-involved shootings and other force resulting in death produce the most intense controversies, but other uses of force during protests and aggressive stop and frisk strategies are also subjects of criticism and scrutiny. All three aspects of procedural integrity – values fidelity, lawfulness, and ethics – are pertinent to the discussion of this topic.

    The U.S. Supreme Court established the baseline constitutional standard to judge the propriety of a peace officer’s use of force in Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989). Under this ruling, an officer prosecuted for homicide or sued in civil court for wrongful death, battery or constitutional rights violations [35] based on the alleged use of excessive force is exempt from liability if the force was objectively reasonable under the totality of the circumstances, including the fact that an officer’s decisions are often made in split seconds. [36] Exemplary policies and training ensure that peace officers are responsible to articulate what they believed and why they believed it to justify the conclusion that their use of force to detain, restrain or control a suspect was reasonable.

    There are four dimensions to notions of reasonableness: the force must be 1) objective, 2) necessary, 3) proportional and 4) prudent.

  • Terminology: Response to Resistance. Though many policies include provisions defining the amount and form of force that can be used to respond to specific types of resistance, some agencies seek to alter the mindset of officers and encourage consideration of non-force options by replacing “use of force” terminology with “response to resistance.” [37]

  • Need for Current Written Policies. Exemplary agencies develop, regularly update, and rigorously hold officers accountable to detailed values-based policies, protocols, and guidelines concerning the use of force and important collateral issues concerning reporting, investigations, disciplinary standards, and transparency. [38] Agency policies should be grounded in a commitment to honor and protect human life and every individual’s right to be treated with respect and dignity. This includes but goes beyond fair and impartial policing. It includes adherence to the additional ethical principles of trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, caring, and citizenship.

  • Policies Should Reflect Community Values and Modern Policing Realities. The President’s Task Force Report on Policing in the 21st Century stresses the importance of ensuring that use of force policies reflect community values “and not lead to practices that result in disparate impacts on various segments of the community.” The report expands on this, stating that the policies also: “need to be clearly articulated to the community and implemented transparently so police will have credibility with residents and the people can have faith that their guardians are always acting in their best interests. . . . Not only should there be policies for deadly and non-deadly uses of force but a clearly stated “sanctity of life” philosophy must also be in the forefront of every officer’s mind. This way of thinking should be accompanied by rigorous practical ongoing training in an atmosphere of nonjudgmental and safe sharing of views with fellow officers about how they behaved in use of force situations.” [39]

    On the other hand, policies should also reflect the realities of modern policing. Many policing professionals believe that political pressures fueled by activist protests have generated a dangerous level of anti-police hostility in some communities and negative attitudes that unfairly exaggerate instances of questionable use of force.  [40] Many responsible African-Americans want to be and feel safe from police misconduct and mistakes. But equally responsible police professionals want to know that the public appreciates what they do and cares with equal fervor for the safety of officers assigned to protect everyone. In this context, it is important that use of force policies affecting the safety and legal liability of peace officers are not written or unduly influenced by people who do not understand the realities of modern policing. Exemplary agencies proactively work with political leaders and civilian agencies to assure that any policy provisions that supplement the Graham v. Connor standard are sensible, realistic and practical. [41]

  • The Legal Standard on Use of Force. The U.S. Supreme Court established the baseline constitutional standard to judge the propriety of the use of force by a peace officer in Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989). Under this ruling, an officer prosecuted for homicide or sued in civil court for wrongful death, battery or constitutional rights violations [42] based on alleged use of excessive of force is exempt from liability if the force was objectively reasonable under the totality of the circumstances, including the fact that an officer’s decisions are often made in split seconds. [43] Two critical concepts encompassed in the reasonableness determination are necessity and proportionality. Exemplary policies and training ensure that peace officers are responsible to articulate what they believed and why they believed it to justify the conclusion that their use of force to detain, restrain or control a suspect was reasonable, necessary and proportional.

  • Continuous Evolution and Refinement of the Graham Standard. By itself, the objective reasonableness test set out in the Graham case is intentionally elastic. [45] As evidenced by a continuous parade of judicial opinions, increasingly detailed agency policies, and evolving tactics and training practices concerning the use of force, the phrase “objective reasonable” is too vague to be the sole standard of training and discipline. [46] Thus, most agencies adopt detailed written policies with definitions, requirements, and guidelines that govern when and how their officers can employ force. In formulating these polices agencies must understand that their policies will be used in both civil and criminal cases on the issue of reasonableness. [47] Thus, when a judge or jury is asked to determine whether any particular use of force is reasonable under the Graham test they will consider national trends and best practices as well as departmental policies. For example, if an agency policy prohibits shooting at moving vehicles or employing choke-holds renders such conduct inherently unreasonable. Similarly, policies that explicitly state that the use of force must be a last resort or that require de-escalation where feasible affect the legal standard as failure to abide by the policy will be evidence of unreasonableness.

Drafting Policies: Important Provisions

  1. Philosophy and Definitions. Exemplary policies include statements of purpose and philosophy to guide officers in interpreting specific rules and guidelines [48] as well as clear definitions of critical terminology. [49]
  2. Progressive Force Options. Many agencies include in their training and policies reference to progressive continuum presenting a scale of force alternatives in response to the level of resistance confronted. [50] Though some reform documents express concern that force continuums could be implemented mechanically, there is little evidence that departments encourage such use. To the contrary, training and policies generally stress that officers must continually assess each situation, recognizing that the need for force and the form of force that is most appropriate changes as a situation develops (e.g., it is possible for the level of appropriate force to go from level two, to level three, and back again in a matter of seconds). [51]
  3. Exemplary agency policies on the use of force and other matters of public importance should be readily available online demonstrate to demonstrate transparency. The making and storage of dash cam and body cam videos raise a major issue of transparency. Where a use-of-force incident results in death or serious injury, to the extent that an agency has discretion under state or local law, leadership should demonstrate commitment to transparency and accountability by providing the family of persons injured or killed and to the public with as much information as possible, as quickly as possible. In addition, an exemplary policing agency takes the initiative to provide regular updates as significant new information comes available. [52]
  4. Exemplary policies include processes to assure external and internal constituencies that police use of force resulting in death or serious injury will be carefully and fairly evaluated and, where appropriate, officers found to have acted improperly will be held accountable.
    • Responsibility of First-Line Supervisors. An effective accountability process benefits from direct involvement of first line supervisors. They should conduct the initial investigation, assure that use of force incidents are properly documented, and provide guidance and oversight to assure officer compliance with agency policies.
    • Incident Oversight and Assistance. When feasible, supervisors should be called to observe and assist in active critical incidents where persons with mental health or disability are involved and the use of deadly force may be required.
    • Investigate and Report. Supervisors promptly review written reports of all use of force incidents, interview the officer to assess completeness and accuracy of the report and, where appropriate investigate the officer’s explanation to ensure that a complete report with the supervisor’s conclusions is presented through the chain of command to determine whether any counseling, training or disciplinary action is required.
    • Independent Review. Some jurisdictions establish an independent review process for officer-involved incidents resulting in death or serious bodily injury. One method is an internal “force investigation unit. Another creates an external agency of board that has the expertise and credibility to conduct an investigation and determine appropriate action.
    • Administrative Review. Agency leadership regularly reviews documentation of use-of-force incidents, including demographic data, to ensure that they are fair and non-discriminatory.
  5. Reporting. An important aspect of credibility is transparency. Leadership publishes regular reports on the number and nature of officer use of force, including use of firearms, non-lethal options, and canines.
  6. Supervisory Responsibility. In an exemplary policing agency supervisors glean lessons learned from incident reports and, where appropriate, use them to improve processes and tactics and to provide the officers involved with feedback and counseling to improve the officer’s tactical judgment.
  7. Emotional support. Officers are taught to recognize and avoid the negative impact on judgment and actions from stress, anger, fear, and guilt. Officers involved in use of force incidents resulting in death or serious injury are, as needed, provided with professional emotional support.

Elements of Reasonableness: Objective, Necessary, Proportional, Prudent

  • Objective. The Graham decision clarified the notion of reasonableness by stating that: “The calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving – about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.” [53] The qualification that the response to resistance must be “objectively” reasonable is crucial. Exemplary agencies clarify in their policies and stress in training and discipline that the officer’s judgment will be subjected to judicial review (some call it second-guessing) based on the following factors:

    • The conduct will be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene in the context of totality of the facts known to the officer at the time the force was applied rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight. This aspect of reasonableness does not permit consideration of underlying intent or motivation of the officer or subject nor facts not known to the officer. The facts known to the officer, however, include the officer’s knowledge of the law and policies at the time of the action.
    • The conduct will be evaluated in terms of the perspective of a reasonably trained officer facing similar circumstances. Thus, for example, it is not enough that the officer sincerely believed that a subject possessed a weapon; the belief must be reasonable. In determining objective reasonableness courts are directed to consider the following additional factors:
      • Experience of the officer
      • The severity of crime suspected
      • Nature and probability of threat that subject will injure the officer or other person.
      • The level of resistance offered by the subject.

  • Necessary. Though there are pockets of passionate resistance and Graham v. Connor does not specifically require a showing of necessity as a prerequisite to the use of deadly force, the EPA framework adopts the federal necessity doctrine as an aspect of reasonableness. [54] Though no U.S. Supreme Court case deals directly with a necessity requirement (in fact, several lower court cases explicitly reject it [55]), the President’s Task Force on Policing for the 21st Century, Ibid., the Police Executive Research Forum Guiding Principles on the Use of Force, Department of Justice Consent Decrees and Collaborative Reform agreements, and other reports uniformly and strongly recommend adoption of the standards. A growing number of major police agencies have incorporated language into their use of force policies stating that deadly force must be a last resort and imposing an explicit necessity requirement. For example, the Denver Police Department Use of Force policy states:

    An officer shall use only that degree of force necessary and reasonable under the circumstances. An officer may use deadly force in the circumstances permitted by this policy when all reasonable alternatives appear impracticable and the officer reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary. Officers should ensure that they do not engage in unreasonable actions that precipitate the use of force as a result of tactical, strategic, and procedural errors that place themselves or others in jeopardy.” [56]

    In criminal and civil cases, a peace officer’s use of force will not pass the necessity test if either less dangerous or harmful alternatives were available or the officer’s actions created the necessity. An exemplary use of force policy contains the following specific prohibitions:

    1. Tactical Alternatives Including De-Escalation. An exemplary agency includes in its written policies and trains its officers to consider all reasonable alternatives before resorting to using deadly force. This includes disengagement, strategic re-positioning, communication, concealment, cover, containment, and creating distance and extending time (slowing things down) as well as specific de-escalation techniques to increase the likelihood of peaceful resolution of dangerous and ambiguous situations, including de-escalation. [57]
    2. Restrained Subjects. Use of force, including use of ECDs, on individuals who are restrained and present no threat to an officer or any other person, is prohibited.
    3. Fleeing Person Use of force, especially deadly force, used against fleeing persons and persons walking away who present no imminent danger to the officer or others.
    4. Improper Purpose. All forms of force to achieve an improper or illegal objective (e.g., punishing or retaliating against individuals who have threatened, verbally abused, or insulted officers) are inherently unnecessary and, therefore, impermissible.
    5. Verbal Warning. When feasible, an officer must identify him or herself as a police officer and issue a warning before discharging a firearm.” [58]
    6. Officer Must Not Create Necessity. Force will not be deemed to be reasonable if an officer’s actions created the necessity. 

  • Proportionality. [in process]

  • Prudence. The objective reasonableness standard embraces the concept of prudence. Officers are expected to be exceptionally careful in using certain forms of force that, under the circumstances presented, create an undue risk that a subject may be killed or suffer serious bodily harm. Many agencies codify this concern by limiting or outlawing particular techniques of effectuating an arrest or detention.

    • Firing at or From Moving Vehicles and Other Risky Shootings. Officers may not shoot at a moving vehicle unless it is absolutely necessary to protect against an imminent threat to the officer or others. In such cases, the imminent threat must be by means other than the vehicle, itself. [59] Some departments also prohibit shooting from a moving vehicle; [60] firing into or over the heads of crowds; [61] firing warning shots; [62] firing into buildings, enclosures, or through doors when a subject is not visible; [63] and discharging a firearm in circumstances where it appears likely that an innocent person may be injured.
    • Chokeholds. Many agencies prohibit or limit the use using the lateral vascular neck restraint (LNVR) choke-hold, neck hold or any other restraint that restricts the free movement of the neck or head. [64]
    • Hogtying (hobbling). The technique known as hogtying or hobbling (placing a subject in a prone position with his or her hands secured by handcuffs, and legs held together with restraints so that hand and leg restraints can be connected, resulting in the slight elevation of the suspect’s upper and lower body) is dangerous as well as unduly degrading. [65]
    • Limitations on Handcuffing. Some agencies impose regulations regarding the use of handcuffs prohibiting deliberately inflicting pain by making the cuffs too tight and instruct officers to avoid cuffing in any situation where it may cause undue pain or endanger the health of a suspect where reasonable alternatives are available.
    • Dangerous Non-Lethal Force. Some agencies incorporate into their use of force policies guidance and cautions with respect to certain uses of force that may cause death or great bodily harm including using a firearm as an impact tool; striking suspects on the head, neck, sternum, spine, groin, or kidneys; and use of other instruments as a weapon for the purpose of striking or jabbing (i.e., flashlights, radio, etc.) other than department-authorized batons. [66]
    • Display of Firearms. Some agencies prohibit officers from drawing or displaying a firearm unless they have a reasonable basis to believe it may be necessary to use the weapon in the performance of their duty[67]

  • Additional Requirements. Many agencies supplement their use of force policy with additional provisions designed to reduce the likelihood of improper use of force and to assist subjects injured as a result of the use of force.

    • Duty to Intervene. An exemplary policy imposes a duty on officers to intervene when they believe another officer is using or about to use or excessive or unnecessary force. [68]
    • Duty to Render or Acquire Medical Aid. Officers involved in an interaction resulting in serious injury to any person should render first aid or otherwise assure the injured person receives medical attention.

Effective Training

An exemplary policing agency recognizes its responsibility to ensure that its sworn officers and civilian employees (including dispatchers) possess the knowledge, attitudes, and skills required to ensure that use of force actions are lawful, ethical, and conform to the agency’s values, principles and policies. To this end, exemplary agencies provide effective academy, initial in-service, and refresher training. Where feasible training should incorporate scenarios, simulations, and hands-on practice.

  1. Critical Thinking. Officers are trained and expected to use critical-thinking and problem-solving skills to evaluate the totality of the circumstances; consider all legal, ethical and effective options; and choose the course of action most likely to produce the best possible result. Officers may not rely solely on mechanical rules such as the force continuum and the 21-foot rule.  Where the use of a non-lethal weapon is ineffective, officers do not escalate to deadly force unless, under the totality of the circumstances, it is necessary and proportional.
  2. Community-Policing Mindset. Training promotes a guardian mindset and a disposition toward a peaceful resolution to honor the sanctity of human life and makes officers aware of and induces them to reject negative mindsets, including racial or other prejudice and a need to stand one’s ground, to take down and control resistant subjects and other attitudes inconsistent with agency use of force values and policies.
  3. d) Communication Skills. Training should seek to enhance communication skills, including active listening, negotiation, and counseling, and the ability to interpret nonverbal communication to help officers “read a situation” under field conditions.
  4. Dealing with Impaired Persons. A critical part of use of force training includes instruction on how to recognize, assess and deal with persons with mental conditions that may cause them to fail to comply with officer instructions (e.g., medical conditions; mental, physical, or hearing impairments; language barrier; drug interaction or emotional crisis). [69]

Measuring the Effectiveness of Training

The objective of use of force training is to enhance officer’s skills and judgment so that they adhere to the law and agency policies in a manner that reduces injury or death of both subjects and officers.

And, to the extent that racial profiling or implicit bias accounts for police interactions, any unjustified disparate impact on minority communities is eliminated. If these goals are achieved the community will be happier and officers will be safer.

The problem is that there is precious little evidence that existing or proposed training programs have or will be effective in changing entrenched attitudes and actual conduct. Thus, there is a real risk that huge amounts of resources – both time and money – will have no meaningful impact. An exemplary policing agency is not interested in simply creating an illusion of improvement. Therefore, it either develops or finds outside sources to deliver training programs that are engaging, realistic, relevant, and practical take into account the culture, convictions, and concerns of officers and are. Officers must believe that what they are asked to do is sensible and safe. The quality of instruction (not merely expertise, but teaching skill) and program design (including the amount of time allotted, the size of the class, opportunities for interaction, and simulated experiences) are crucial. Finally, the principle of accountability requires a valid and ongoing assessment of effectiveness.