When I first saw the Police Executive Research Forum’s “30 Guiding Principles” in their “Use of Force: Taking Policing to a Higher Standard,” I showed it to my significant other. She’s not LE herself, but hangs out with enough law enforcement personnel to have a good idea how things work. After reading it, she shook her head sadly and said, “Who PERF-etrated this?”
The answer, according to PERF itself, is “Approximately 200 police chiefs and other police officials from various ranks, along with federal officials, academics, and mental health experts.” How significant that one category is missing from that mix: police instructors in the law and practice of judicious use of force. IALEFI, the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors and ILEETA, the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association, would undoubtedly have been happy to help research and explain things, Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that either was contacted.
I thought the single most egregious of their 30 points was Policy 3: “Police use of force must meet the test of proportionality.” (Emphasis PERF’s.) That sounds reasonable enough until you read the fine print: “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?’”
What? What? Should life or death decision guidelines be made by people with hashtag agendas who can’t seem to distinguish murder from justifiable homicide? The sort of people who create “hands up, don’t shoot” memes when hands weren’t up and “don’t shoot” wasn’t uttered? People who expect cops to risk fatal stab wounds (to themselves, and to others) because someone who doesn’t understand weapons doesn’t realize that within its range a knife can be as or more deadly than a police duty gun? We don’t let cultists and faith healers determine medical treatment protocols. We shouldn’t let people who replace scientifically-determined reality with fantasized memes be the arbiters of justifiable protective use of force.
IACP (the International Association of Chiefs of Police, i.e., “management”) and FOP (the Fraternal Order of Police, i.e., “labor”) have taken the unprecedented step of joining together to refute and challenge the PERF guidelines. There is a clue, there.
An organization that calls itself a “research forum” should, one would think, put forth some research. The PERF 30 document under discussion contains exactly one footnote…citing another PERF paper. Instead, the report speaks glowingly of Scottish police training to deal with knife-wielders without deploying firearms, ignoring the facts that (A) the desperate constables have to do it that way because the vast majority are not allowed to carry firearms, and (B) their training explains to them at the outset that they can expect to be slashed or stabbed while trying to subdue blade-wielders without using guns.
Instead of letting the misperceptions of the uninformed (or agenda-motivated) elements of the public become the landmark for guidelines, PERF might have found room for one more recommended policy: Educating that public on the realities of police use of force. Sadly, that much needed element appears to be totally lacking from their recommendations.
As I close, let me state again that all the opinions I have expressed on this topic are my personal opinions, not necessarily those of any agency or organization which I serve.