President’s Message: The Many Facets of Law Enforcement Use of Force

Recently, the issue of law enforcement’s use of force has been the subject of intense discourse for the media, politicians, law makers, and community members, as well as sparking important conversations among law enforcement professionals.

In an effort to better educate the public and political figures and to provide guidance for law enforcement as agencies strive to develop policies surrounding the use of force, the IACP, in conjunction with the Fraternal Order of Police, assembled leading law enforcement leadership and labor organizations to examine the issue of use of force by law enforcement.

The extensive work of the participating law enforcement organizations began in April 2016 and resulted in a National Consensus Policy on Use of Force that was released in January 2017.1 This consensus policy considers and reflects the broad views and experience of law enforcement professionals, from line officers to executives. The developed and adopted consensus policy reflects the best thinking of the 11 diverse participating organizations and is solely intended to serve as a template for law enforcement agencies as they work to enhance their existing policies.

While the work of the 11 consensus organizations continues, the participating groups felt the urgency to release this policy as soon as possible to help guide the many law enforcement agencies that are currently reviewing or developing their own use-of-force policies. The 11 groups will continue to provide further guidance to the field by releasing a consensus policy discussion paper in May 2017. The consensus policy discussion paper will provide additional information regarding the elements found in the consensus policy—as well as the rationale for the policy directives related to de-escalation
and the use of less-lethal and deadly force.

The importance and timeliness of this issue led the IACP to dedicate this month’s Police Chief to use of force, recognizing that the topic is broader and more complex than only the actions that constitute use of force, which seem to be the focal point for the media reports. There are several other important and interconnected elements—use of force against police, which can influence how officers respond; data collection; policies; and research and evidence-based methodologies. I recommend that each of you read the many important articles in this issue that discuss this multifaceted issue from a global perspective.

As you read through this edition, one of the first articles is the “National Consensus Policy on Use of Force: How 11 Leading Law Enforcement Leadership and Labor Organizations Arrived at One Policy.” I highly encourage you to read this article in its entirety to better understand how and why the consensus policy came to be.

While use of force by law enforcement is certainly an important element, so is use of force against police. In 2016, law enforcement fatalities in the United States rose to their highest level in five years, with 135 officers killed in the line of duty. Of those fatalities, 21 were the result of ambush-style attacks—the highest total in more than two decades.2 In response to those devastating numbers and the increase in attacks against the police, I announced the formation of a Task Force on Violence Against the Police in December 2016. The task force has convened a series of meetings to look more deeply at policy and operational approaches the IACP should be promoting to prevent further tragedies and to help safeguard those who have made it their mission to protect others. The task force members are a diverse group of law enforcement professionals, and they have sought input from line officers, mid-level officers, and police executives. They are in the process of developing recommendations, and we will be sharing those recommendations and the task force’s report with the membership once complete.

I have openly and publicly expressed that it is embarrassing that media outlets, such as the Washington Post, have more comprehensive data regarding use of force than law enforcement. This lack of reliable of data on use of force is a real concern to the profession and to the public. To address this vital gap, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has worked with law enforcement agencies and organizations, including the IACP, to develop a means to collect U.S. data on use of force. The result is the National Use-of-Force Data Collection reporting portal. The portal will rely on the voluntary submission of data from agencies, and we strongly encourage agencies to submit information once the portal is complete. The FBI explains their portal and the data set they plan to collect in more detail in “The National Use-of-Force Data Collection,” which can found in this issue of Police Chief.

Additionally, the IACP Policy Center has recently updated its Model Policy and Concepts & Issues Paper on Reporting Use of Force.3 The model policy takes a much broader approach in defining when use-of-force data should be collected and includes internal agency reporting requirements for all uses of force, to include physical, chemical, impact, electronic, firearms, and vehicular force, whether or not they result in serious injury or death.

As president of the IACP, my priority is to make sure that our members—and the law enforcement community more broadly—have the tools and resources they need to tackle tough issues like use of force. I look forward to the IACP continuing to be at the forefront of addressing the issue of use of force, among many other vital topics, and to rolling out several other important resources to the field in the coming months, including the use-of-force consensus policy discussion paper and the recommendations from the Task Force on Violence Against the Police. ♦

Notes:

1ASCIA, CALEA, FOP, FLEOA, IACP, HAPCOA, IADLEST, NAPO, NAWLEE, NOBLE, and NOTA, National Consensus Policy of Use of Force, January 2017, http://www.theiacp.org/Portals/0/documents/pdfs/National_Consensus_Policy_On _Use_Of_Force.pdf.

2National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, Preliminary 2016 Law Enforcement Officer Fatalities Report, December 2016, http://www.nleomf.org/assets/pdfs/reports/Preliminary-2016-EOY-Officer
-Fatalities-Report.pdf.

3IACP, Model Policy on Reporting Use of Force,
March 2017.