UOF Policy: What Would You Advise?

“An improved policy does not always result in an improved practice.”

It’s going on four years since Ferguson and a heightened awareness of police uses of deadly force.

A friend of mine who is running for the office of sheriff in a large, west coast county recently asked me if I knew of any good policies in the field regarding police use of force.

Here’s how I responded.


My dear friend,

As you and i well know, writing an improved policy does not always result in an improved practice.

Nevertheless, I would look at what Las Vegas, Seattle, and Camden, NJ are doing for starts.

But if you are going to talk about this on the campaign trail I would suggest you use the PERF Guidelines on Use of Force as talking points — but do stress that it is something the community needs to discuss with police in crafting a final document.

I would go on to stress PERF’s main points: that “sanctity of life” be the core of all that a police agency does, the policy raises the Graham v. Connor standard, de-escalation and backing off are okay strategies to use. On top of this, police use of force training needs to extensive and scenario-based, aid be immediately provided to injured persons, and to work with professionals to develop the proper response to persons in a mental health crises.

On top of this, it is the “attitude” of the police agency that really counts — and that is the creation of an holistic atmosphere of a servant/guardian orientation that respects the “dignity and worth of all human persons.” And we know that is achieved when the agency’s leaders “tell, sell, and persuade” both officers and citizens about the importance of controlling uses of force when delivering police services and of who and what they are and do as police/sheriff deputies.

Good luck, my friend, and press on!