April 13, 2021 22:03

Policing Task Force Calls for Chokehold Ban, Curbs on No-Knock Warrants

In its first set of policy recommendations, the Council on Criminal Justice Task Force on Policing advises lawmakers to ban chokeholds, prohibit or severely restrict no-knock warrants, and require officers to intervene when witnessing misconduct by peers and supervisors.

Established in November of 2020, the CCJ’s Task Force on Policing set out on a mission to use data and evidence to assess areas of law enforcement and policing that need reform in order to keep communities safe. 

To fulfill that mission, Task Force members have been using the best available research data to help create a clearer picture of what would “create the greatest change.” 

“The analyses produced by this Task Force will serve as essential resources for policymakers, advocates, and others striving to ensure police provide effective, equitable, and respectful services to those they are sworn to protect,” Michael Nutter, a former mayor of the city of Philadelphia and former president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors said after reading the Task Force’s findings.

See also: The CCJ Task Force on Policing is hosting a conference to discuss these critical recommendations today at 2 pm EST. To sign up and join the conversation, click here. 

To arrive at their policy recommendations, the Task Force on Policing consulted available data on investment programs, training, technology, and the development procedures of policies and practices followed by police departments. The quantitative and qualitative data was then analyzed to understand crime trends and public safety problems while working to identify solutions for change, the report outlines. 

To that end, the researchers highlighted three main areas where lawmakers can make the biggest difference in saving lives and repairing community relationships with law enforcement — prohibiting chokeholds, requiring laws where an officer has a “duty to intervene” when witnessing excessive force or misconduct by other members of law enforcement, and severely restricting or stopping no-knock warrants and police raids. 

Following the Evidence for Recommendations

“Chokeholds should be prohibited on grounds that they can cause serious harm to individuals and police legitimacy,” the authors recommend. “But such bans alone will have little impact on the number of people killed by police because less than 1 percent of deaths involving law enforcement are caused by asphyxiation.”

To that end, the authors note that 74.17 percent of deaths involving police have been firearm-related incidents, but chokehold and asphyxiation deaths at the hands of police officers garner substantial outrage, considering many police agencies have already restricted the use of chokeholds — yet citizens’ lives are still taken because of the act. 

In terms of an officer’s “duty to intervene,” the Task Force authors note that policies should be drafted and implemented that demand officers speak up and report when peers or superiors engage in “all manner[s] of misconduct” — including behaviors like drinking on the job or using racial slurs. 

“Studies in behavioral psychology find that bystanders are more likely to intervene when encouraged by a superior to do so and after witnessing peers intervene in similar cases, suggesting that publicly rewarding officers for intervening can prompt other officers to do so,” the researchers add. 

Regarding no-knock warrants and police raids, the Task Force researchers cite complex case law informed by the U.S. Supreme Court decision which says banning no-knock warrants will “not necessarily reduce” the amount of forcible and unannounced entries by police. 

To that end, the researchers note that even when no-knock warrants are banned, officers sometimes take opportunities for warrantless forcible entries without consulting the Threat Assessment Matrix guide for planning and executing entries. 

“For all police search warrants, information about who is present in the home, including children and uninvolved individuals, should be verified multiple times to prevent officers from entering the wrong premise or causing injury to uninvolved people,” the authors write, regarding the Threat Assessment Matrix. 

“This intelligence and other risks associated with warrant service should be informed by a thorough threat assessment.”

This recommendation is timely, advocates will argue, citing the recent death of Breonna Taylor, a frontline worker from Louisville who was shot and killed during a “botched” raid on her apartment that was originally a no-knock warrant raid, but other orders say it was possibly changed to a “knock and announce” raid. 

It’s critical that all warrants requested be based on a detailed threat analysis that prioritizes officer and resident safety,” the authors explain. “In addition, agencies should publish data on warrant requests, activities, and outcomes to enhance transparency and accountability.” 

Overall and more general recommendations that the Council on Criminal Justice Task Force on Policing outline are that police departments must:

      • Enhance transparency and accountability for “community wellness”;
      • Strengthen community trust while promoting public safety; and,
      • Reduce all use of force.

“It is my hope and expectation that this Task Force will help our country sort through the multitude of good ideas and find those offering the greatest promise to produce true change,” Tashante McCoy-Ham, the regional manager and founder of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice concluded after reading about the Task Force’s findings.

The Task Force is working quickly and will release future assessments as they are completed, with the next evaluations centered around targeting use of force, training, recruitment, officer wellness, community oversight, militarization, and more.

The Independent Task Force on Policing was launched in November 2020 by the Council on Criminal Justice. Its mission is to identify the policies and practices most likely to reduce violent encounters between officers and the public and improve the fairness and effectiveness of American policing. 

To join the conversation and attend the 2 pm EST conference discussing these critical recommendations, you can sign up here. 

The full report can be accessed here. 

Andrea Cipriano is a TCR staff writer.

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