ICYMI: Police group calls for overhaul of use-of-force culture, training

The police research and policy group’s recent message to law enforcement was clear: It’s time to overhaul training and culture regarding the use of force to consider the sanctity of human life.

perfAn August report by PERF, or the Police Executive Research Forum – which comprises police chiefs from major U.S. cities – rehashed the group’s May conference, when brass from across the country discussed the subject of use of force.

The conversations are among a series of PERF discussions prompted by events – starting with the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown – that have shaken the police profession like a “series of small earthquakes,” wrote PERF Executive Director Chuck Wexler.

Federal courts have ruled that an officer’s use of deadly force is considered to be reasonable – and not a constitutional violation – when the officer has reason to believe the suspect poses a threat of serious harm. But just because they “can,” does that mean they “should”?

Wexler says a growing idea among police is that the review of an officer’s use of force should also include what led up to the incident.

Officers should be held accountable if they failed to de-escalate the situation in order to prevent it from ever reaching the point where the use of force was necessary. – Chuck Wexler

He also calls for more training on de-escalation techniques, which some departments have already undergone. After the death of Garner, for example, all 35,000 New York police officers were mandated to undergo three-day training courses. One day was dedicated to “Smart Policing,” where officers learned de-escalation tactics and techniques.

(Curious about what other information PERF releases? Click here.)

Use of force in Bexar County shooting under review

UPDATE: Click here to read Bexar County Sheriff’s Office’s use of force policy. Sheriff Susan Pamerleau has said that the two deputies used a shield and Taser to attempt to detain Gilbert Flores, struggling with him for about 20 minutes before shots were fired.

PREVIOUS POST: The two Bexar County Sheriff’s Office deputies who shot and killed 41-year-old Gilbert Flores both took a “use of force” class last year, according to records released by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.

DocumentTCOLE also said it had never suspended the peace officer licenses for Robert Sanchez, 51, a 25-year veteran of the department, or Greg Vasquez, 47, who’d been with Bexar County for 12 years.

(View their TCOLE files here: Robert SanchezGreg Vasquez).

Questions about the officers’ use of force were raised by the Federal Bureau of Investigations after a local news station posted a bystander’s video that appears to show Flores holding up at least one hand while being shot.

Local officials like County Judge Nelson Wolff have also brought up the issue. Vasquez and Sanchez were responding to a domestic disturbance in which two people were wounded, and the sheriff’s office has said they believed Flores was holding a knife.

“I think everybody’s concerned about this, the use of force. We’ve seen so many incidents around the country,” Wolff told The Los Angeles Times on Tuesday. “That’s why we want to review the policy see if there’s a way to strengthen it, increase training.”