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Note: A comprehensive approach will be required to implement the changes

described in this document.

The policies, training, tactics, and recommendations for equipment detailed in this

document amount to significant, fundamental changes in a police department’s operations

and culture. It is important that these changes be undertaken in a comprehensive manner,

and not in a piecemeal or haphazard way. The policy changes must be backed up with

thorough, integrated retraining of all officers.

These changes have implications for officer safety. This approach can increase

officer safety, as well as the safety of community members, by teaching officers how to

“slow down” some incidents and avoid escalating situations to the point where officers or

members of the public are endangered. But to better protect officers, agencies must

provide comprehensive new training, new tactical skills, and new equipment to support the

new policies.

Guiding Principles: Policy


1. The sanctity of human life should be at the heart of everything an agency does.

Agency mission statements, policies, and training curricula should emphasize the

sanctity of all human life—the general public, police officers, and criminal suspects—and

the importance of treating all persons with dignity and respect.


2. Departments should adopt policies that hold themselves to a higher standard than

the legal requirements of Graham v. Connor.

Agency use-of-force policies should go beyond the legal standard of “objective

reasonableness” outlined in the 1989 U.S. Supreme Court decision Graham v. Connor. This

landmark decision should be seen as “necessary but not sufficient,” because it does not

provide police with sufficient guidance on use of force. As a result, prosecutors and grand

juries often find that a fatal shooting by an officer is not a crime, even though they may not

consider the use of force proportional or necessary. Agencies should adopt policies and

training to hold themselves to a higher standard, based on sound tactics, consideration of

whether the use of force was proportional to the threat, and the sanctity of human life.

Many police agencies already have policies that go beyond legal requirements. For

example, many police agencies have adopted pursuit policies, and rules barring officers

from shooting at or from moving vehicles, that go beyond current legal precedents.POLICY

3. Police use of force must meet the test of proportionality.

In assessing whether a response is proportional, officers must ask themselves, “How

would the general public view the action we took? Would they think it was appropriate to

the entire situation and to the severity of the threat posed to me or to the public?”


4. Adopt de-escalation as formal agency policy.

Agencies should adopt General Orders and/or policy statements making it clear that

de-escalation is the preferred, tactically sound approach in many critical incidents. General

Orders should require officers to receive training on key de-escalation principles. Many

agencies already provide crisis intervention training as a key element of de-escalation, but

crisis intervention policies and training must be merged with a new focus on tactics that

officers can use to de-escalate situations. De-escalation policy should also include

discussion of proportionality, using distance and cover, tactical repositioning, “slowing

down” situations that do not pose an immediate threat, calling for supervisory and other

resources, etc. Officers must be trained in these principles, and their supervisors should

hold them accountable for adhering to them.


5. The Critical Decision-Making Model provides a new way to approach critical


Policy on use of force should be based on the concept of officers using a decision

making framework during critical incidents and other tactical situations. Departments

should consider adopting the Critical Decision-Making Model (CDM), which PERF has

adapted from the United Kingdom’s National Decision Model. The CDM provides officers

with a logical, easy-to-use thought process for quickly analyzing and responding

appropriately to a range of incidents. The CDM guides officers through a process of:

• Collecting information,

• Assessing the situation, threats, and risks,

• Considering police powers and agency policy,

• Identifying options and determining the best course of action, and

• Acting, reviewing, and re-assessing the situation.

The CDM is a constructive process that provides a framework for going beyond the

minimum legal standard of objective reasonableness.


6. Duty to intervene: Officers need to prevent other officers from using excessive


Officers should be obligated to intervene when they believe another officer is about

to use excessive or unnecessary force, or when they witness colleagues using excessive or

unnecessary force, or engaging in other misconduct. Agencies should also train officers to detect warning signs that another officer might be moving toward excessive or unnecessary

force and to intervene before the situation escalates.


7. Respect the sanctity of life by promptly rendering first aid.

Officers should render first aid to subjects who have been injured as a result of

police actions and should promptly request medical assistance.


8. Shooting at vehicles must be strictly prohibited.

Agencies should adopt a strict prohibition against shooting at or from a moving

vehicle unless someone in the vehicle is using or threatening deadly force by means other

than the vehicle itself.


9. Prohibit use of deadly force against individuals who pose a danger only to


Agencies should prohibit the use of deadly force, and carefully consider the use of

many less-lethal options, against individuals who pose a danger only to themselves and not

to other members of the public or to officers. Officers should be prepared to exercise

considerable discretion to wait as long as necessary so that the situation can be resolved



10. Document use-of-force incidents, and review your data and enforcement practices

to ensure that they are fair and non-discriminatory.

Agencies should document all uses of force that involve a hand or leg technique; the

use of a deadly weapon, less-lethal weapon, or weapon of opportunity; or any instance

where injury is observed or alleged by the subject. In addition, agencies should capture and

review reports on the pointing of a firearm or an electronic control weapon at an individual

as a threat of force.

This information is critical for both external reporting and internal improvements to

policy and training. Agencies should consult with their communities to ensure that use of

force and enforcement practices are not discriminatory.

Agencies should develop strong policies and protocols for reviewing all use-of-force

reports to ensure accuracy and completeness, including comparing written reports with

video footage from body-worn cameras, dashboard cameras, and other sources. Special

attention should be paid to ensuring that reports provide clear and specific details about the

incident and avoid generic, “boilerplate” language.POLICY

11. To build understanding and trust, agencies should issue regular reports to the

public on use of force.

Agencies should publish regular reports on their officers’ use of force, including

officer-involved shootings, deployment of less-lethal options, and use of canines. These

reports should include discussion of racial issues and efforts to prevent all types of bias and


These reports should be published annually at a minimum, and should be widely

available through the agency’s website and in hard copy.


12. All critical police incidents resulting in death or serious bodily injury should be

reviewed by specially trained personnel.

Incidents that involve death or serious injury as a result of a police action should be

reviewed by a team of specially trained personnel. This can be done either within the

agency through a separate “force investigation unit” that has appropriate resources,

expertise, and community trust, or by another law enforcement agency that has the

resources, expertise, and credibility to conduct the investigation. Other uses of force should

be investigated by the officer’s supervisor and reviewed through the chain of command.

Supervisors should respond to the scene of any use-of-force incident to initiate the

investigation. Agencies should thoroughly investigate all non-training-related firearms

discharges, regardless of whether the subject was struck.


13. Agencies need to be transparent in providing information following use-of-force


Agencies that experience an officer-involved shooting or other serious use-of-force

incident should release as much information as possible to the public, as quickly as possible,

acknowledging that the information is preliminary and may change as more details unfold.

At a minimum, agencies should release basic, preliminary information about an incident

within hours of its occurrence, and should provide regular updates as new information

becomes available (as they would with other serious incidents that the public and the news

media are interested in).

Guiding Principles: Training and Tactics


14. Training academy content and culture must reflect agency values.

The content of police training and training academy culture should reflect the core

values, attributes, and skills that the agency wants its personnel to exhibit in their work in the community. Chief executives or their designees should audit training classes to

determine whether training is up to date and reflects the agency’s mission and values. This

values-based training culture must extend to the agency’s field training and in-service

training programs as well.


15. Officers should be trained to use a Critical Decision-Making Model.

As mentioned in Recommendation 5 in the Policy section of this document, agencies

should train officers to use a decision-making framework during critical incidents and other

tactical situations.

The CDM provides a framework for going beyond the minimum standard of

objective reasonableness.


16. Use Distance, Cover, and Time to replace outdated concepts such as the “21-foot

rule” and “drawing a line in the sand.”

Agencies should train their officers on the principles of using distance, cover, and

time when approaching and managing certain critical incidents. In many situations, a better

outcome can result if officers can buy more time to assess the situation and their options,

bring additional resources to the scene, and develop a plan for resolving the incident

without use of force.

Agencies should eliminate from their policies and training all references to the so

called “21-foot rule” regarding officers who are confronted with a subject armed with an

edged weapon. Instead, officers should be trained to use distance and cover to create a

“reaction gap” between themselves and the individual, and to consider all options for



17. De-escalation should be a core theme of an agency’s training program.

Agencies should train their officers on a comprehensive program of de-escalation

strategies and tactics. De-escalation can be used in a range of situations, especially when

confronting subjects who are combative and/or suffering a crisis because of mental illness,

substance abuse, developmental disabilities, or other conditions that can cause them to

behave erratically and dangerously. De-escalation strategies should be based on the

following key principles:

• Effective communication is enough to resolve many situations; communications

should be the first option, and officers should maintain communication throughout

any encounter.

• In difficult situations, communications often are more effective when they begin at a

“low level,” e.g., officers speaking calmly and in a normal tone of voice, and asking

questions rather than issuing orders.• Whenever possible, officers should be trained to use distance and cover to “slow the

situation down” and create more time for them to continue communicating and

developing options.

• If an encounter requires a use of force, officers should start at the lowest level of

force that is possible and safe. Officers should never do anything to escalate a

situation themselves.

• As the situation and threats change, officers should re-evaluate them and respond

proportionally; in some cases, this will mean deploying a higher force option, in

others a lower option, depending on the circumstances.


18. De-escalation starts with effective communications.

To effectively carry out the agency’s de-escalation strategies, all officers should receive

rigorous and ongoing training on communications skills. Officers should be trained to

effectively communicate in a range of situations, including everyday interactions while on

duty, public speaking and meeting facilitation, interacting with victims and witnesses,

handling critical incidents, and dealing with people with mental health and/or substance

abuse problems. All officers should also receive training on basic negotiations techniques.


19. Mental Illness: Implement a comprehensive agency training program on dealing

with people with mental health issues.

Officers must be trained in how to recognize people with mental health issues and

deal with them in a safe and humane manner. As mentioned in the Policy Section of this

document, many agencies already provide some form of crisis intervention training as a key

element of de-escalation, but crisis intervention policies and training must be merged with a

new focus on tactics that officers can use to de-escalate situations. At a minimum, agencies

should seek to:

• Provide all officers with awareness and recognition of mental health and substance

abuse issues, as well as basic techniques for communicating with people with these


• Provide in-depth training (for example, the 40-hour Crisis Intervention Team or

“CIT” training) to a subset of officers and field supervisors (preferably those who

have indicated an interest in this area) with the goal of having CIT-trained personnel

on duty at all times. This training should focus heavily on communication and de

escalation strategies.

• Some agencies may choose to provide in-depth CIT training to all of their personnel.

• Crisis Intervention Teams, made up of police officers and mental health workers,

can be the most effective option. These teams are called to respond to all incidents

involving mental illness or similar issues, and thus develop expertise, as well as

familiarity with individuals who generate multiple calls for service over time. In some cases, Crisis Intervention Teams also work to solve underlying problems by

helping persons with mental illness to obtain treatment.

• For all of their mental health training, agencies should coordinate with local mental

health professionals on content and delivery.


20. Tactical training and mental health training need to be interwoven to improve

response to critical incidents.

As noted above, strategies for dealing with people with mental health problems

should be woven into the tactical training that all officers receive, with a strong emphasis on

communications, de-escalation techniques, maintaining cover and distance, and allowing for

the time needed to resolve the incident safely for everyone. Officers who respond to scenes

involving people with mental health problems should be directed to call for assistance from

specially trained officers and/or supervisors (e.g., CIT-trained) if possible. As a best

practice, those specially trained personnel should be given the authority to manage a scene

regardless of rank. All other responding units should be directed to the on-scene manager,

briefed on the situation, and directed to follow the on-scene manager’s lead with respect to

tactics and especially any use of force.


21. Community-based outreach teams can be a valuable component to agencies’

mental health response.

Where resources exist, agencies should partner with their local mental health

service community to assist with training, policy development, proactively working with

people with mental health problems, and responding to critical incidents. Mental health

street outreach and crisis response teams can provide valuable support to the police

response to these incidents and assist with de-escalation strategies directed at persons with

mental health problems.


22. Provide a prompt supervisory response to critical incidents to reduce the

likelihood of unnecessary force.

Supervisors should immediately respond to any scene:

• Where a weapon (including firearm, edged weapon, rocks, or other improvised

weapon) is reported,

• Where persons with mental health problems are reported, or

• Where a dispatcher or other member of the department believes there is potential

for use of force.

Once on the scene and if circumstances permit, supervisors should attempt to

“huddle” with officers before responding to develop a plan of action that focuses on de

escalation where possible. In the case of persons with mental health problems, supervisors who are not specially trained should consult and coordinate with officers on the scene who

are specially trained.


23. Training as teams can improve performance in the field.

Agencies should provide in-service training on critical decision-making, de

escalation, and use of force to teams of officers at the same time. When officers who work

together on a daily basis train together, coordination and consistency in tactics increase,

and the likelihood of undesirable outcomes during critical incidents decreases. Recognizing

that this approach may increase costs and disrupt scheduling, agencies should consider

alternative arrangements to traditional, day-long in-service training classes—for example,

by bringing in a team of officers for a few hours of training several times a year.


24. Scenario-based training should be prevalent, challenging, and realistic.

In both recruit and in-service programs, agencies should provide use-of-force

training that utilizes realistic and challenging scenarios that officers are likely to encounter

in the field. Scenarios should be based on real-life situations and utilize encounters that

officers in the agency have recently faced. Scenarios should go beyond the traditional

“shoot-don’t shoot” decision-making, instead providing for a variety of possible outcomes,

including some in which communication, de-escalation, and use of less-lethal options are

most appropriate. Scenario-based training focused on decision-making should be integrated

with officers’ regular requalification on their firearms and less-lethal equipment.

Guiding Principles: Equipment


25. Officers need access to and training in less-lethal options.

Patrol officers should be given access to, and regular training in, an appropriate

range of less-lethal weapons and equipment to support their critical decision-making and

de-escalation efforts. Personnel specially trained in mental health issues should be issued

and trained in the full range of less-lethal options offered by the agency.


26. Agencies should consider new options for chemical spray.

Agencies should evaluate their current policies and practices on the use of chemical

spray, and consider alternatives that address officers’ concerns over cross-contamination

and flammability. One alternative that agencies can consider is PAVA spray (pelargonic acid

vanillylamide), which is now widely used in the United Kingdom. Unlike traditional CS or OC sprays, PAVA has a more concentrated stream that minimizes cross-contamination and is

not flammable (meaning it can be used in conjunction with an electronic control weapon).


27. An ECW deployment that is not effective does not mean that officers should

automatically move to their firearms.

Agencies should ensure that their policies, training, and procedures around the use

of electronic control weapons (ECWs) are consistent with the 53 guidelines released by

PERF and the COPS Office in 2011.1

Accounts of fatal police shootings often state that “the officer tried an ECW, it had no

effect, and so the officer then used a firearm.” This is an inappropriate way to view force

options. ECWs often do not work because the subject is wearing heavy clothing or for many

other reasons. An ECW deployment that is not effective does not mean officers should

automatically move to their firearms. Under the Critical Decision-Making Model, an

ineffective ECW deployment changes the situation and should prompt officers to re-assess

the situation and the current status of the threat, and to take appropriate, proportional



28. Personal protection shields may support de-escalation efforts during critical

incidents, including situations involving persons with knives, baseball bats, or other

improvised weapons that are not firearms.

Agencies should acquire personal protection shields for use by patrol officers and

others in managing some critical incidents. Officers with access to personal protection

shields should be adequately trained on how to use the shields both individually and as part

of a team operation.

Guiding Principles: Information Issues


29. Well trained call-takers and dispatchers are essential to the police response to

critical incidents.

A number of controversial uses of force by police have stemmed from failures of

dispatchers to obtain, or relay to responding officers, critically important information about

the nature of the incident.


1 2011 Electronic Control Weapon Guidelines.


trol%20weapon%20guidelines%202011.pdfAgencies should ensure that call-takers and dispatchers receive thorough, hands-on

training to support the police response to critical incidents that may involve the use of force.

This training should include dealing with persons with mental health problems (including

communicating with family members and agency protocols), crisis communications, use-of

force policy, and de-escalation strategies. As part of their training, call-takers and

dispatchers should take part in ride-alongs with patrol officers and specialized units, and

they should actively participate in the agency’s mental health training programs.


30. Educate the families of persons with mental health problems on communicating

with call-takers.

Agencies should work with their local mental health provider community and

organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to create outreach and

education programs for the families of persons with mental health problems. Specifically,

agencies should instruct family members on the types of information and details they

should provide when calling 9-1-1 for an incident involving their loved ones. This type of

outreach can minimize any stigma family members may feel and increase their confidence

in the police response. It will also help ensure that call-takers, dispatchers, and responding

officers have a more complete picture of any mental health issues associated with a call for