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Agencies Rethinking Use-of-Force Training

May 05, 2015  | 

“In a democratic society, people have a say in how they are policed, and people are saying that they are not satisfied with how things are going,” said Sean Whent, the police chief in Oakland, Calif. The city has a troubled history of police abuse and misconduct, but some policy changes and a new approach to training have led to sharp declines in the use of force, Chief Whent added.

Like the 21-foot rule, many current police practices were adopted when officers faced violent street gangs. Crime rates soared, as did the number of officers killed. Today, crime is at historic lows and most cities are safer than they have been in generations, for residents and officers alike. This should be a moment of high confidence in the police, said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a law enforcement policy group. Instead, he told the New York Times, policing is in crisis.

“People aren’t buying our brand. If it was a product, we’d take it out of the marketplace and re-engineer it,” Mr. Wexler said. “We’ve lost the confidence of the American people.”

Mr. Wexler’s group will meet with hundreds of police leaders in Washington this week to call for a new era of training, one that replaces truisms such as the 21-foot rule with lessons on defusing tense situations and avoiding violent confrontations. While the Justice Department and chiefs of some major police departments are supportive, the effort has not been widely embraced, at least so far. Some police unions and others have expressed skepticism, saying officers are being unfairly criticized.

Comments (6)

Displaying 1 - 6 of 6

hoshi @ 5/5/2015 3:31 PM

Is this where we close our eyes and take a deep breath or perhaps suck on a mint? There will always be dangerous players out there especially if they know we are being encouraged to let our guard down. The 21 foot rule will ALWAYS be a truism. In the words of the immortal Sgt. Esterhouse "Let's be careful out there".

TX Lawman @ 5/5/2015 6:20 PM

Mr. Wexler is an idiot. I can't believe he is still teaching the 21 foot rule. We threw that out years ago. It's now a 30 foot rule and has been the last 3 years. He is way behind the times. That's what happens when you have suits making rules instead of cops. Crime is down because of the way we react now. If we make our approach softer crime will escalate. Go spend a year in a patrol car then tell me what might need to be changed.

kevCopAz @ 5/5/2015 7:55 PM

This is B.S., political correctness B.S. The rule and the tactic was good then and is still good now, what has changed? Nothing, The cop needs to survive, F the media and the public if they don't like the proven tactic. Let them face an armed individual and be killed, not me.

Tom Ret @ 5/6/2015 7:43 AM

I doubt any of these so called experts have any street experience. It would be nice and make the job a lot easier if most suspects would just see the light and give up after a little convincing talk. When it is stated there has been a decline in the use of force, maybe it is because the officers are risk averse and thus
don't get involved unless they have to. When the president and attorney general both are bad mouthing the police and news media is making a circus out of riot reporting, it is not surprising that some people are critical of the police. The silent majority still support the police because they know that all
hell will break loose if they are not there or don't do their job. Wexler has a theory of how things should be but theories don't mean squat if they don't match with reality.

Jon Retired LEO @ 5/6/2015 10:55 AM

Imagine that this re-thinking would come out of California. All they have is a bunch of politicians wanting to please the rioters and the far left idiots. Thet won't be happy until they have created a free for all in this country.

thart1122 @ 5/6/2015 2:32 PM

The only problem with the 21 foot rule is the fact that the media and other don't understand what it actually means. In order for the 21 foot rule to be obsolete, either officer's reaction times would have to have magically increased exponentially, or criminals would have to have started moving a lot slower. A person standing flat footed with a knife can still inflict great bodily injury or death from 21 feet or even further before we are able to sucessfully react, draw, fire, and hopefully stop the threat. Now, I agree that some of our fellow officers could learn how to better talk to people and maybe deescalate a few more situations than we already do, but the need for force will always exist. The way the liberal media and all of these suits are going we're not going to be able to chase fleeing criminals, arrest people for resisting, or even defend ourselves. They must think that officer saftey is also an outdated concept and police lives don't matter.

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