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Ensuring relevant training after a use-of-force incident

Looking at, and learning from, LAPD use-of-force policy and adjudication procedure changes over the past few years

On average, Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers are involved in approximately 1,800 use-of-force incidents each year, including approximately 60-70 officer-involved shootings, making use of force one of the primary subjects of internal focus and evaluation. Consequently, as one of the largest and highest profile law enforcement agencies in the country, the LAPD continually strives to improve itself as a model learning organization, constantly reassessing and reevaluating its practices, while striving to make necessary and timely changes based on lessons learned and national best practices.

Below are some of the changes to the use of force process that LAPD incorporated over the past several years:

Use of Force Policy Change — Over the past several years, the LAPD has undertaken the process of evaluating and formally adopting the standards established in Graham v. Connor, 490 US 386 (1989). The new objective reasonableness based policy was approved by the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners in July 2009. That policy revised and streamlined many separate force related policies and has been fully incorporated into the department’s entry level and in-service training, as well as the comprehensive use of force review and adjudication processes.

Elimination of the UOF Continuum — In 2009, the LAPD finalized the incorporation of objective reasonableness and the new UOF Policy into all areas of department operations and training for in-service and the academy. This past continuum based mandate has historically been an ineffective and unreasonable burden on officers, and is contrary to best practices and effective training. Requiring officers to classify or categorize a suspect’s behavior (i.e., aggressive combative) before electing a force option is an unnecessary intervening step and can result in a delayed response or hesitation. The new LAPD UOF Options Chart directly supports best practices in use of force training, ensures effective articulation in arrest reports and mandates the development of critical thinking skills. The new common sense training protocol has been well received because it allows officers to elect any objectively reasonable force option in response to the suspect’s behavior.

Change to the UOF Adjudication Procedures — In July 2008, the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners adopted new adjudication standards for Categorical Use of Force incidents (CUOF). A CUOF incident includes any officer-involved shootings or any application of lethal force, a head strike with an impact device which is intentional or results in hospitalization, a K9 bite or other law enforcement action which results in hospitalization, or the application of a carotid restraint control hold. All CUOF incidents are subject to a comprehensive investigation by the LAPD, Force Investigation Division (FID), which submits their final report to the Use of Force Review Division (UOFRD) for review and facilitation of the adjudication process.

The majority of CUOF incidents, which average approximately 100 incidents per year, are subject to a formal Use of Force Review Board (UOFRB) where the FID conducts a state of the art graphics based Power Point presentation to a six-member board comprised of an Assistant Chief Chair, a peer member and staff level representatives from Personnel and Training Bureau, the Office of Operations and the employees Geographic Bureau. After the FID Power Point presentation, the employees’ commanding officer presents his or her analysis and recommended findings for Drawing and Exhibiting a Firearm, Lethal Force, all Less- or Non-Lethal Force when applicable and Tactics. The UOFRB then deliberates and provides findings for each employee in each of the applicable areas.

The UOFRB makes recommendations through the UOFRD to the Chief of Police. The Chief of Police formally reviews and considers each incident and makes formal recommendations to the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners (BOPC). Thereafter, the BOPC, during a closed session meeting, hears and deliberates on each case and formally adjudicates each finding. During this process, the Office of the Inspector General, conduct an independent analysis of each case as well. That analysis and formal recommendations for each of the pertinent areas is also transmitted to the BOPC for consideration during the final adjudication process.

Prior to July 2008, any finding of Administrative Disapproval or Out of Policy resulted in a personnel complaint which triggered an internal investigation for misconduct. Additionally, in a majority of cases, officers were sent to either divisional or formal training in any number of areas. This process resulted in the “T” word (training) having a certain negative stigma. Training provided as a result of a CUOF incident was not always embraced, as it was assigned often up to 10 months after an incident and there was an appearance of reprimand associated with the final adjudication of an incident.

Conversely, the new adjudication process provides that all employees who are significantly involved in a CUOF incident receive a mandatory General Training Update (GTU) in all involved tactical and force related areas within 90 days of an incident. This insures that training is comprehensive, positive and timely. This approach to training has been well accepted as it is not based on the outcome of the review process and is required for everyone.

After the completion of the investigation and review process, the CUOF incident is formally adjudicated as indicated above. Thereafter, significantly involved personnel are required to attend a comprehensive Tactical Debriefing of the incident. Additionally, where there is a finding of Out of Policy or Administrative Disapproval in Tactics, Drawing and Exhibiting or any area of Use of Force, the Chief of Police has the option of the one or more of the following in addition to the mandatory Tactical Debrief:

• Extensive Retraining
• Notice to Correct Deficiencies
• Personnel Complaint

While the LAPD model may appear complex from a small agency perspective, it does ensure that relevant training in applicable areas is provided in a timely manner to involved employees (GTU) and provides for a uniform debriefing process for all CUOF incidents (Tactical Debrief). Such a model may fit perfectly into a smaller agency by focusing on and building around these two key components.

Publication of a Public Use of Force Report
In 2009, the first public Use of Force Report was published by the LAPD. The report covered all areas of both CUOF and NCUOF incidents, including trends and classifications of incidents. The LAPD Use of Force Public Report provides a transparent historical view of LAPD’s internal use of force review and adjudication process.

The Use of Force Public report can be accessed at the official LAPD website.

TacOps Newsletter
In 2006, the UOFRD developed the TacOps concept to provide officers with valuable officer safety resources with the objectives of developing critical tactical skills and insuring peak performance of individual officers and groups. The TacOps concept has evolved over time and is now comprised of:

• TacOps Newsletter. A quarterly, graphically pleasing, multi-page newsletter packed with articles in areas from officer safety and tactics, to nutrition and physical training.
• TacOps Bulletins. A published-as-needed officer safety bulletin on issues which are significant and critical in nature, requiring timely dissemination.
• Roll Call Briefing Sheets. The Roll Call Briefing Sheet is a one page multiple topic summary of important lessons learned from the review of use of force incidents — published as needed. These items are forwarded to command officers department-wide with the intent that they be read at roll calls, briefings and or unit meetings. The LAPD currently has a subscriber database and forwards the TacOps Newsletter to over 100 outside police departments nationwide.

Anyone interested in being placed on the distribution list can contact the UOFRD Tactics Review Section at the email link below.

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