6.3 min readBy Published On: June 11th, 2020Categories: News0 Comments

From BPD News

The Boston Police Department is committed to de-escalating incidents to negate the need for the use of force. When force is necessary the Boston Police Department is committed to using only the amount of force that is reasonably necessary to overcome the resistance offered.  The Boston Police Department is equally committed to preventing unnecessary force, ensuring accountability and transparency, and building trust with our community. The Boston Police Department respects the inherent life, liberty, dignity, and worth of all individuals by preserving human life, and minimizing physical harm and the reliance on use of force.

Current events and ensuing civil unrest across the country has brought police reform to the forefront.  One of the major issues for reform is Use of Force by police. All departments across the country should be reviewing their policies and procedures and making necessary changes as needed.  As such, we have been reviewing our use of force rules to identify areas for improvement, and will continue to do so.

Many have called for Campaign Zero’s “8 Can’t Wait” recommended reforms, including President Barack Obama in an address to the nation recently. Campaign Zero is promoting recommendations from his 21st Century Policing Task Force Report.  Boston was one of ten cities highlighted by the Obama White House for making real progress in community policing and engagement.

A review of BPD Use of Force policies as they relate to the 8 Can’t Wait recommendations and Campaign Zero’s model policy has been completed. Our current rules and procedures include most of the suggestions in the “8 can’t wait” campaign. Upon review of our policies, the department has clarified its rules and implemented several reforms as a result of this review.


Campaign Zero – 8 Can’t Wait

1.      Require officers to de-escalate situation, when possible before using force.

  • All recruits receive training called Effective Communication which is a course in de-escalation. It is a Municipal Police Training Council standard.

  • Though de-escalation is a priority of the BPD in training and practice, it was not specifically mentioned in use of force policies.

  • Therefore, Special Orders 20-27; 20-28; 20-29; 20-30 issued on June 11, amending all use of force rules (303, 303A, 303B, and 304) to include an introductory statement regarding the importance of de-escalation in all interactions.

 2.      Use of force continuum or matrix that define/limit the types of force and/or weapon that can be used to respond to specific types of resistance.

  • BPD uses the use of force matrix extensively in training of recruits and in-service.

  • Use of Force Matrix currently included in Rule 304 Use of Non-Lethal Force, Section 2. This model is the Municipal Police Training Council standard.

3.      Restrict chokeholds and strangleholds (including carotid restraints) to situations where deadly force is authorized or prohibiting them all together.

  • BPD does not practice chokeholds or neck restraint. The Boston Police Academy does not teach or authorize any neck restraints and reject any use of neck restraints due to their potential lethality. This also includes choke holds, brachial stuns or pinning of the neck for immobilization.

  • In reviewing Rule 304 Section 2, paragraph 5; we determined that the language restricting neck restraints was not strong enough and was discussed specifically in the context of stopping a subject from ingesting controlled substances.

  • Therefore, Special Order 20-30 issued on June 11, amending Rule 304 Section 2 to clarify that all neck restraints are restricted except in the very limited situations when deadly force is necessary to address an imminent threat of serious bodily injury or death.

  • In addition, Special Order 20-27 issued on June 11, Rule Section 303 Section 2 is amended to address clarity that neck restraint restrictions are restricted except in the very limited situations when deadly force is necessary to address an imminent threat of serious bodily injury or death; and subsequent investigations of use.

4.      Require officers to give a verbal warning, when possible, before using deadly force.

  • Recruits are trained to give verbal warnings where lethal force is imminent, however, in some cases there may not be an opportunity to give verbal commands or warnings.

  • In practice, when feasible, verbal warnings and verbal commands are standard. However, this is not articulated in Rule 303 Deadly Force.

  • Therefore, Special Orders 20-27; 20-28; 20-29; 20-30 issued June 11, amending all use of force rules (303, 303A, 303B, and 304) to include verbal commands in the de-escalation section of the introductory statement.

  • In addition, Special Order 20-27 issued June 11 includes an additional amendment to Rule 303 Section 6, relative to verbal commands.

5.      Prohibit officers from shooting at people in moving vehicles unless the person poses a deadly threat by means other than the vehicle (for example, shooting at the people from the vehicle).

  • BPD use of force policy prohibits this.  Rule 303 Section 8.

6.      Require officers to exhaust all reasonable alternatives before using deadly force

  • BPD use of force policy requires this.  Rule 303 Section 6.

  • Recruit Officers are trained to quickly observe and assess the totality of the circumstances and the perceived subject’s actions and make a balanced response. Officers are trained in a wide range of reasonable responses for each type of resistance and are instructed to begin with the least severe action.

7.      Require officers to intervene to stop another officer from using excessive force

  • The principles of intervention when an officer observes excessive force is taught and emphasized in lectures and practical exercise scenarios at the Boston Police Academy.

  • BPD Rule 113 Public Integrity Policy Section 5 Cannon of Ethics, number nine requires this, however it wasn’t highlighted in use of force policies.

  • Canon Nine: Police officers shall use only that amount of force reasonably necessary to achieve their lawful purpose. Excessive or unauthorized force is never justified and every officer not only has an affirmative duty to intervene to prevent such violence, but also to report any such instances that may come to their attention.

  • Therefore, Special Orders 20-27; 20-28; 20-29; 20-30 issued June 11, amending all use of force rules (303, 303A, 303B, and 304) to include an introductory statement that highlights Cannon Nine, Duty to Intervene.

8.      Require comprehensive reporting that includes both uses of force and threats of force (for example, reporting instances where an officer threatens a civilian with a firearm)

  • Recruits are taught on all required report writing requirements during their training at the Boston Police Academy including use of force reports.

  • We have extensive reporting regarding use of force in our rules:

– Rule 303 Section 10 Reporting Firearm Discharges.

– Rule 303A Use of Less- Lethal Force Section 6 Reporting and Investigation

– Rule 303B Use of Less Lethal Force – Conducted Electrical Weapon (Taser) Section 13.2      Deploying Officer Responsibilities

– Rule 304 Section 7: Investigation of Use of Force

  • We will continue to review and amend policies and procedures going forward as they pertain to uses of force and threats of force.

In addition to review of these rules we have been looking at best practices. One such best practice is the EPIC program. The Boston Police Department is committed to bringing this model to Boston.

The New Orleans Police Department developed the Ethical Policing is Courageous (EPIC) Peer Intervention Program. The program is heavily based in the science of active bystandership and peer intervention with built-in procedural incentives for every member of the Department.

EPIC has made all members of the New Orleans Police Department the first line of defense in preventing mistakes and misconduct, promoting mental health, and fostering a professional work environment. It authorizes and empowers officers to intervene in another officer’s actions, regardless of his or her rank. It teaches officers how to intervene successfully. And it protects officers when they do intervene.

This is a very impressive program that we believe would be beneficial to all police departments, including the Boston Police Department.

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