Tag Archives: Police Reform

Report: Police Brutality Protests Led To Reform Measures In 24 States

Nearly one year after Michael Brown was shot and killed by former police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, a series of protests against police brutality have led to 40 new police reform measures being passed in 24 states, which is just a fraction of all of the measures that have been proposed.

An analysis conducted by the Associated Press found that while “legislators in almost every state have proposed changes to the way police interact with the public,” the measures that have been passed address issues such as the body cameras officers wear, how officers are trained concerning racial bias, independent investigations into police use of force and military equipment used by local police departments.

In addition to protests in Ferguson after the death of Michael Brown in Aug. 2014, which were met with a militarized police force, protests have erupted over police brutality in several cities such as New York where Eric Garner was choked to death by a police officer, and Baltimore where Freddie Gray died after suffering a severe spinal injury while in police custody.

The Associated Press reported that despite the measures that have passed, “far more proposals have stalled or failed,” and only a few states have changed laws concerning “when police are justified to use deadly force.”

The most popular measures, which surround the use of body cameras worn by police officers, were passed in sixteen states according to the analysis. Body cameras have played a vital part in revealing the accurate set of events in cases such as the recent shooting of Samuel DuBose, in which the body camera former officer Ray Tensing was wearing revealed that he was lying about only shooting DuBose after he was “dragged” down the street by DuBose’s car.

[RELATED: Obama’s New $263 Million Proposal Is Not Just About Body Cameras]

The report noted that Colorado, Connecticut and Illinois were the only three states to pass “comprehensive packages of legislation encouraging body cameras, boosting police training on such things as racial biases and requiring independent investigations when police shoot people,” and that Colorado and Connecticut were among several states that “bolstered citizen rights to take videos of police.”

Investigative journalist Ben Swann addressed the root of police militarization in an episode of Truth in Media in Dec. 2014. Swann noted that while local police departments having access to military equipment was a problem, a larger problem existed surrounding the use of military tactics by police officers.


Cleveland Police Union Head Rebukes New Reform Measures: “It’s Going To Get Someone Killed”

Cleveland, OH- Earlier this week, the city of Cleveland and the Justice Department established an agreement to make changes to the Cleveland Police Department, which will mandate several reforms to the department. The CPD has agreed to establish various committees, revise use-of-force policies, and improve training.

Within the agreement are reform measures that focus specifically on identifying levels of force used by police and requiring increased oversight of police use-of-force incidents via paper documentation and outside analysis.

Three levels of force used by police have been established:

  • Level 1 use of force is identified as actions expected to cause “transient pain and/or disorientation” such as bending a suspect’s fingers, according to Cleveland.com. It also includes unholstering and pointing a firearm, but not firing it. Level 1 use of force incidents require the officer to file a police report explaining the incident and why the officer felt the use of force was necessary.
  • Level 2 use of force is identified as actions that cause “an injury, could reasonably be expected to cause an injury, or results in a complaint of an injury, but does not rise to the level of a Level 3 use of force,” such as use of an ECW (also referred to as a Taser); use of pepper spray; kicking, striking and punching; and using a police canine to accost a suspect. Any use of Level 2 force on a handcuffed suspect becomes a level 3 use of force. Level 2 use of force incidents require the immediate arrival of a supervisor to the scene of the incident, who are then tasked with interviewing the injured individual, seeing that proper medical care is administered, and writing a report to be reviewed by the district commander, Internal Affairs Unit and the police chief to decide if the use of force is justified.
  • Level 3 use of force is identified as actions including “uses of lethal force; uses of force resulting in death or serious physical injury; uses of force resulting in
    hospital admission; all neck holds; uses of force resulting in a loss of
    consciousness; canine bites; more than three applications of an ECW
    on an individual during a single interaction, regardless of the mode or duration
    of the application, and regardless of whether the applications are by the same
    or different officers; or an ECW application for longer than 15 seconds,
    whether continuous or consecutive.” All cases of Level 3 use of force are subject to the invesigation of a new branch of the Internal Affairs Unit called the Force Investigation Team(FIT), which is tasked with arriving to the scene to complete a criminal investigation. The FIT will be “comprised of personnel from various units and will not be a new unit.”

Steve Loomis, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolman’s Association, takes issue with the documentation aspect of the reform agreement, claiming that the requirement is “going to get somebody killed.”

“I’m afraid that officers are going to be hesitant to pull their gun in an appropriate situation because they don’t want to do the paperwork that’s going to be associated with having to pull your gun,” he said.

According to Cleveland.com, Loomis believes the reforms are not necessarily tailored to Cleveland officers, but are a response to increased coverage of police use of force incidents that have occurred nationwide. “This is a political agenda,” Loomis said. “This has nothing to do with the actions of the men and women of the Cleveland police department.”

Sarah Childress, a reporter for PBS’s Frontline, notes that this is Cleveland’s second attempt at reforming their police department. “Over the last two decades, Cleveland’s police department is one of only five law enforcement agencies that has been subject to two separate federal investigations, underscoring how entrenched the city’s problems have become,” she wrote.

The Justice Department investigated the CPD in 1999 and had identified problems regarding properly addressing use of force incidents and examining its own officers. In 2014, the Justice Department published another investigation of the department and concluded that the CPD was engaging in a “pattern or practice of the use of excessive force” in violation of the Fourth Amendment.