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Law Enforcement Blog: Use of Force Policies and Procedures: Lessons from the Big Apple

By: Christina L. Vessels, Esq.

Last October, the Office of the Inspector General for the New York Police Department published a Report entitled “Police Use of Force in New York City: Findings and Recommendations on NYPD’s Policies and Practices.” The Report focuses on five aspects of use of force within the NYPD: (1) trends; (2) reporting; (3) de-escalation; (4) training; and (5) discipline.

There are several significant findings in this 62-page Report. Perhaps most notable is the Report’s conclusion that “NYPD’s current use-of-force policy is vague and imprecise, providing little guidance to individual officers on what actions constitute force.” The OIG’s recommendation is for NYPD to adopt a more precise use-of-force Patrol Guide procedure that includes greater clarity on what is meant by “force,” “excessive force,” and “deadly force.”

The Report also states that NYPD’s current procedure for documenting and reporting force incidents needs improvement. There is currently no centralized, uniform use-of-force reporting mechanism, and there are problems with the way officers are describing incidents of force after they occur. NYPD officers often fail to use sufficiently descriptive language that properly captures the specifics of an encounter. The Report suggests the creation of a new reporting form in which officers articulate the type, nature, and seriousness of resistance exhibited by the citizen that preceded and necessitated the use of force. Officers are also urged to reference whether other officers used force and the timing of the use of force.

These are just some highlights. You can find the Report in its entirety here: http://www.nyc.gov/html/oignypd/assets/downloads/pdf/oig_nypd_use_of_force_report_-_oct_1_2015.pdf

If an independent agency were to closely examine your Department’s use-of-force policy, what conclusions would it draw? How can your policy be improved?


For questions or more information on “Use of Force Policies and Procedures: Lessons from the Big Apple,” contact:

Christina L. Vessels  – MRR Lexington
Phone: 859.899.8515
Fax: 859.899.8498
Email: cvessels@mrrlaw.com