NYPD Use-Of-Force Reform Could Be The Change We've Been Waiting For

In response to public outcries for a change in law enforcement strategies and in an effort to become more transparent, NYPD announced its new policies to better document instances of force.

The New York Police Department announced a new tracking system for documenting force that may just take the notion of transparency to a whole new level. 

Amid a nationwide plea for criminal justice reform and more accountability among law enforcement, NYPD will have to detail virtually every instance when force is used including arrests and general encounters with the public.

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Furthermore, officers will now face formal discipline, such as termination, if they fail to intervene or report excessive force and if they don't seek medical assistance when someone asks for it, The New York Times reports.

“What we’re developing here could become the national template for how do you not only investigate all levels of use of force, but how do you report it in a way that it is transparent,” said Commissioner William J. Bratton in an interview.

These new rules have been under consideration for over a year, according to officials, and they coincide with a rollout of 900 new Taser stun guns for patrol officers, which were previously only carried by supervisors and officers from the elite Emergency Service Unit.

NYPD’s new system is groundbreaking because it's the nation’s largest police department with more than 35,000 officers.

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The tracking system will cover the wide spectrum of police encounters that resulted in the deaths of way too many unarmed black men and women including Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland and Michael Brown, among countless others.

"By more closely tracking every physical encounter, including by race, and requiring officers to justify their actions, police officials expect that the new data will capture an increased number of forcible episodes," according to The New York Times.

The announcement of these new policies coincides with the release of a report by the Office of the Inspector General that found between 2010 and 2014, 36% of all NYPD officers who were found to have used excessive force did not face any discipline – an issue that these new rules will hopefully solve.

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NYPD's new policies aren't going to solve all of the nation’s problems, especially if other departments do not follow suit, but it speaks volumes for the country’s largest police department to get the ball rolling on holding officers accountable for their actions and focusing in on transparency.

Officers often cite “resisting” arrest as a justification for the amount of force they use, however, one would be hard pressed to believe that trained police officers are left with no other option but to pull out their gun or baton to successfully apprehend an unarmed person.

As NYPD’s new policies are set to go into effect next year, we will see if this is a model worth pursuing nationwide. If nothing else…we can argue that it's a step in the right direction. 

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