By ALADS Board of Directors
In another effort to provide new guidelines on law enforcement’s use of force, the National Consensus Policy on Use of Force (NCP) was recently released by 11 major law enforcement leadership organizations. These policies are set out as a template for agencies for comparison with current policies and improve upon them. We welcome their contribution to the debate over use of force, as they are a drastic improvement over the nonsensical policies put forth in 2016 by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) without any input from rank-and-file peace officers.
Of course, it goes without saying that the quickest way to drastically reduce the necessity for use of force is for the public to comply with lawful police commands–but the next time we hear a politician or major political figure articulate that suggestion will be the first time. Thus, the emphasis continues on policies designed to dictate when and how law enforcement can employ lethal and non-lethal force.
The debate over use of force has escalated in the past several years. PERF attempted to sway the discussion with a series of proposals that were roundly and correctly lambasted by Sheriffs, Chiefs, subject matter experts and rank-and-file law enforcement officers across the country. The bizarre proposals included guidelines demanding a deputy ask themselves how their use of force “looks to the community” before implementing force. Demand that use of force policies be more restrictive than those set forth by the Supreme Court in Graham v. Connor, and provide a wanton display of ignorance on edged weapons by calling for the abolition of the purpose of the “21 foot rule.” As we detailed in a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan, PERF’s rules were not the product of informed consensus and input, but were pushed through by their executive board who hid from attempts to get them to publicly discuss their proposals before law enforcement professionals, and instead spent their time trying to sell the policies to newspaper editorial boards and selected legislators.
The NCP document is a welcome step in common sense on the use of force, although there are some detractors that have pointed out where it is incomplete. We will await the NCP publishing their rationales for the policies before taking a firm position on the proposals, but in the interim we welcome the emphasis of at least one of the policies: training.
While policies are important, they are no substitute for training and the hiring/retention of quality people as peace officers. Deputies react in accordance with training and experience and it is in providing continual and up-to-date training that the department can make a difference. Whether it be teaching of best tactics for various incidents or techniques to de-escalate situations, providing training in these areas will lead to better outcomes. Of course, training requires money, time, and a commitment by the department to ensure that all deputies are provided this training on a constant basis.
Prudent law enforcement agencies already have well-developed force policies, and there is simply no point in adopting new policies when an agency fails or refuses, to provide deputies with proper training and equipment. Policies are not worth the paper they are written on unless deputies are properly trained and equipped to carry out them out. It goes without saying that it takes quality people to get quality results; all the training in the world will only have minimal impact unless those being taught are of high caliber. That is why we have blogged repeatedly about the need for the Sheriff’s Department and the county to ensure that the pay/benefit structure is able to retain quality deputies and attract quality applicants, and have cautioned against relaxing standards in an effort to pump up the number of deputies. While we welcome the addition of the NCP policies on use of force, we end by noting that properly trained people implementing the policies are just as–if not more–important than any written policy.
The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS) is the collective bargaining agent representing more than 7,900 deputy sheriffs and district attorney investigators working in Los Angeles County.