The Madison (WI) Police Department has updated its guide on the use of deadly force, instructing officers to exhaust other options before using a gun.

“When it comes to the rules our police officers are trained to follow, language matters,” said Andrea Farrell, a Madison attorney who earlier this year won a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city on behalf of the family of a woman killed by Madison police.

The police department was ordered by the City Council in May to change its standard operating procedures for how officers use deadly force, as well as one for how they use non-deadly force and to include language emphasizing an officer’s duty to intercede, de-escalate and preserve life. The changes were recommended by a special committee that studied police policy and practices.

Assistant Police Chief Vic Wahl told the Wisconsin State Journal the language ordered by the council has already been emphasized in other standard operating procedures in the department as well as in training manuals and the department’s list of core values. He said the new language puts the department’s policies on use of force in harmony with bigger agencies as well as the International Association of Police Chiefs and the Police Executive Research Forum.

“In terms of an officer’s decision-making, I don’t think (the new policy) changes it,” Wahl said. “I think it just emphasizes that it’s an important part of our core values and how we do business.”

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