By David Anderson
Now that the investigation has found Lakewood Police justified in the shooting death of a man with a toy gun, would it not be reasonable to consider including in Lakewood’s Use of Force Policy the following two statements that are currently missing:
One that “communicates both to the community and to police officers that the preservation of human life is at all times a central tenet of the police agency.”
The second, a declaration instructing officers “that the use of deadly force is an extreme measure to be employed only in the most limited and extraordinary of circumstances.”
Had this ‘value of human life over the use of lethal force’ philosophy, as articulated in such specific wording, been a part of the LPD’s training manual – it is legitimate to consider that a different outcome might have occurred on the night of June 18, 2013.
What possible argument could be made not to incorporate these life-valuing principles into the police department’s preamble to its Use of Force Policy?
According to recommendations of the American Civil Liberties Union following the agency’s 2012 investigation of Use of Force Policies from various police departments and law enforcement agencies in Los Angeles, Denver, Louisville, Portland (Oregon), Philadelphia, and Washington DC, the policies of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) were found significantly wanting in two key specific matters that I believe relate to the incident above: (1) Did the LVMPD’s Use of Force Policy have a preamble or mission statement the purpose of which “is to communicate both to the community and to police officers that the preservation of human life is at all times a central tenet of the policy agency”? and, (2) in keeping with life-over-force preambles, did the LVMPD’s Use of Force Policy emphasize the de-escalation step in which “an officer may withdraw to a position that is tactically more secure or allows an officer greater distance in order to consider or deploy a greater variety of force options”?
I requested our own Lakewood Police Department’s Use of Force Policy and found that the emphasis upon the preservation of human life at all times was totally lacking, and steps by which officers could and should de-escalate the situation were not as clear as they might be.