Racial Equity Resource Guide


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Critical Issues in Policing Series: Guiding Principles on Use of Force

Police Executive Research Forum


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This report, the 30th in PERF’s Critical Issues in Policing series, represents the culmination of 18 months of research, field work, and national discussions on police use of force, especially in situations involving persons with mental illness and cases where subjects do not have firearms. The Critical Issues series has always focused on the most consequential emerging issues facing police agencies. In 2016, no issue is of greater consequence to the policing profession, or to the communities we serve, than the issue of police use of force. Beginning in the summer of 2014 and continuing over the past year and a half, our nation has seen a series of controversial cases, many of them captured on videos taken by the police, bystanders, or nearby security cameras.

These events have sparked protests across the country and soul-searching among police executives. They have also threatened community-police relationships in many areas and have undermined trust. This report is grounded in four national conferences; a survey of police agencies on their training of officers on force issues; field research in police agencies in the United Kingdom and here at home; and interviews of police trainers and other personnel at all ranks, as well as experts in mental health.

PERF members and other police officials have defined the issues detailed in this report, and have shared information about the strategies they are undertaking to improve the police response to critical incidents in ways that increase everyone’s safety. The 30 Guiding Principles and the Critical Decision-Making Model contained in this report reflect the vision of hundreds of police chiefs and other PERF members, and we are grateful for everyone’s contributions.



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