December 26, 2015

How the Las Vegas police force got better

Quartz - Here’s how Las Vegas police halted a trend in excessive force.

When the Las Vegas Review-Journal published its report on Metro’s history of excessive force, its most damning assessment came from independent experts who analyzed 20 years worth of Vegas police shooting data and concluded that most of the deadly force incidents could have been avoided.

... After that, the US Department of Justice launched its own investigation—a complete audit of the force’s culture, training, and oversight—in what was then viewed as a test case for federal involvement in local law enforcement strategies.

The DOJ’s 75 recommendations included ideas that are now a part of the national conversation on curbing “use of force” abuses by police. One third of those suggestions had to do with new training concepts,...

The vast majority of Metro’s questionable deadly force incidents happened against unarmed black men.

In a four-hour training seminar, Las Vegas cops are now educated on recent studies by social psychologists showing that all humans are prone to racial bias.

... Metro also changed two key aspects of its officer field training: It began emphasizing conflict de-escalation and developed new scenarios based on actual use of force incidents. These “reality-based” exercises were more complicated and ambiguous than the “predictable” field exercises that Metro arranged in the past.

The drills take place in alleys, parking lots, and apartment units, and they may involve potential carjackings or burglaries with suspects who run away or fight back. The true-to-life event is recreated right up to the trigger-point. The officers decide if, or how much, force is necessary. And once they finish, a training officer critiques that decision. “Why did you draw your side-arm instead of the Taser?” for example, or, “How come you didn’t assure the suspect you weren’t going to shoot him when he expressed fear that you would?”


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