In June, the Carlsbad, Ca., Police Department posted an updated policy directive that banned the carotid artery hold, and reshaped the department’s use-of-force policy to conform to a new state law that changed the legal standard for when force can be used. The policy change was drawn up in large part by lawyers at Lexipol, a little-known private company based in Orange County that over the past two decades has quietly become one of the most influential forces in U.S. policing, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune. The company writes policies and provides other services under contracts with thousands of police agencies in 35 states. It claims to have written policies for 95 percent of all police departments in California, most of them small- and medium-sized agencies, like Carlsbad.
In San Diego County, Carlsbad is one of five agencies that use Lexipol for policy formulation in some way, according to a survey of California police departments. The influence of Lexipol on local policing has caught the attention of legal scholars and activists, who say outsourcing policy-making to a private company is unwise. Critics say the company’s approach is geared more toward reducing legal liability for governments, not necessarily toward best police practices. In a year of protests against police abuse, close examination of police practices, and widespread calls for reform of issues ranging from use-of-force policies to police budgets, Lexipol’s work has come under scrutiny. The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California sued the Pomona Police Department, contending that its use-of-force policy does not comply with a new state law. That law changed the standard of when force can be used from “reasonable” to the higher bar of “necessary.” The ACLU noted that Pomona is a Lexipol client and the company’s model use-of-force policy does not incorporate the “necessary” standard.