Police departments adapting to public expectations
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Police departments across the country are rethinking their use-of-force policies. The Denver Police Department is the latest to join in.
Denver Police Chief Robert White said the new use-of-force policy would expect officers to avoid reacting and rushing into dangerous situations and demonstrate emotional intelligence. In the face of any volatile situation, the officers would be expected to employ de-escalation techniques that would aid in resolving issues without arms or violence.
A large part of the changes in Denver is attributed to the public protests to end police violence last year, in which protesters blocked the doors of the Denver Police Department. Swift reprisal and arrests of many backfired as the department was heavily criticized for its actions.
As White mentioned in his speech, public expectations for police officers are changing. The revised policy will, therefore, focus on bettering relations rather than hampering them, to make both officers and the public safe. It will limit weapons use by officers against people they encounter unless there is a dangerous animal or an immediate threat of death or serious injury.
These proposed changes also ban officers from punching people who are trying to swallow drugs and from shooting at moving cars. Officers will also have a visual guide on how to respond to escalating resistance in such situations. They are now being required to back off and rethink their actions as they approach a suspect — especially when approaching someone in a mental health crisis.
The modernized policy also focuses on lessening physical confrontations with inmates, employing de-escalation within the cells. Traditional legal guidelines justify shooting if the officer senses danger. Now they will have to deliberate and avoid prematurely drawing firearms.
While the new policy is a step in the right direction, detractors are worried that this is countereffective for officer safety and sets officers up for failure and fatal injuries. They say underreacting and hesitation will only encourage shooters who target the men in blue.
But it's not just Denver making these changes, for we see a rising national trend of major cities doing the same. This is a distinct shift away from traditional policing.
The Dallas Police Department, which witnessed a terrible tragedy last year, is leading the way with their de-escalation policy.
A combination of excellent training, strict officer accountability and a revised focus on community policing has led to Dallas' premier policing record in recent years. From 23 people being shot by the police in 2012, the number fell to 11 in 2015, along with the declining murder rate.
The Dallas PD has been praised not just for their improved community relations but also for their great social media prowess. Even after the tragic shooting of officers in 2016, the department hasn't reverted to traditional adversarial methods. Their supportive stance and the way they de-escalate a situation have lessened the potential for further tragedy.
The Chicago Police Department, one which faces more crime and criminals than most other cities, has also rolled out a new "de-escalation" or force-mitigation training, which is mandatory for all officers. Along with the proper use of deadly force, officers will also be trained in mental health awareness lessons and in de-escalating though scenario-based drills.
By recreating real-world stress for officers, it will help them gauge danger and action needed amidst the pressure that they face in real time. CPD officers have welcomed the training showing how much they want to change their image from a department that lacked a strong mandate to a more humane and efficient one.
Most departments are favorable toward adopting forward-thinking policies to match the changing attitudes of the public. From Denver to Dallas to Chicago, departments are requiring officers to demonstrate emotional intelligence, be polite and professional, be critical thinkers and in control at all times.
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