How a private company has become one of the strongest voices against police reform, especially use of force standards. |


There is a great deal of discretion in the practice of policing – a fact that has been made more painfully clear than ever in recent years, which continue to be filled with controversial shootings by members of the forces of the United States. order. Yet despite historic protests, a more educated public, some local police reform and pressure for better officer training, the shootings continue.

After the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, along with a flood of other disturbing deadly shootings, advocates of justice and lawmakers have focused with renewed intensity on the need for law enforcement to rethink their policies. use of force policies.

Yet, although there are nearly 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States, there is still no national standard governing the use of force by these agencies.

It is a problem.

This lack of revised requirements means that many departments are using rules that were written decades ago, which may be far from what is considered best practice in today’s world, and that the US Department of Justice and other justice reformers hope to implement training.

The Justice in Policing Act, passed by the House of Representatives in June 2020 (and sitting in the US Senate), if passed, would eliminate federal funding for jurisdictions that do not prohibit the use of chokes and tie funding to the use of -forcing reform in general.

The American Law Institute has proposed creating a national use of force standard that would clearly state, among other things, “that lethal force should be a last resort.”

In April of this year, the LA Times reported on the “big inquiries” that the US Department of Justice had just launched into two major city policies, as part of the Biden administration’s efforts to address the problems of the police services.

“In either case,” the LAT wrote, “the Justice Department will pay particular attention to use-of-force policies, a critical issue in any police reform effort. “

So, yes, there is certainly progress in this reform movement. But there is also a lot of resistance.

Notably, According to an excellent report recently released by UCLA law professors Ingrid V. Eagly and Joanna C. Schwartz, one of the biggest obstacles to widespread law enforcement reform is a private company, most of which of Americans have never heard of it.

(By the way, in addition to being a professor at UCLA Law School, Joanna Schwartz is one of the country’s experts on police misconduct litigation, and Ingrid Eagly is the faculty director of the law school program. law school criminal justice and expert in intertwined worlds of criminalizing migration, policymaking and U.S. immigration courts.)

Joanna C. Schwartz, UCLA Law Professor

The company, Lexipol LLC, write the two authors, “has become one of the strongest voices against reform”, particularly with regard to “use of force standards”.

Founded in 2003, Lexipol develops police policies and training for a large portion of law enforcement agencies in the United States.

In their report, Schwartz and Eagly describe how Lexipol has refused to incorporate joint reform proposals into the suggested strategies and training protocols it distributes to its subscribers, “including a use of force matrix, policies requiring de-escalation or a light line rules prohibiting certain types of behavior, such as choking and shooting in cars. “

All of this, Schwartz and Eagly say, should alarm us.

“The dominant role of Lexipol in policymaking should be a real concern,” the authors write. Lexipol, they say, “has taken a backward stance in its use of force policies, has spoken out against proposed reforms on the use of force and has worked to undermine reforms that are passed.

Ingrid Eagly, UCLA Law Professor

For these reasons, Lexipol is not a “reliable partner” for federal, state and local governments, as well as for community members and other advocates interested in promoting police reform.

Lexipol in California

With respect to California laws and law enforcement, an instructive example of Lexipol’s commitment to policy development and reform was its response to AB 392. It was a bill which was passed by the state legislature in August 2019, its goal is to reset the state threshold. that the police correctly use lethal force only when it is “necessary”, a change from the previous formulation allowing lethal force when it is “reasonable”.

It turns out that Lexipol was one of the lobbying entities very active in opposing the bill as it progressed through the legislature.

Then, after the passage of AB 392, according to the new report, Lexipol management claimed it had “contributed to efforts to add language to the bill that made it less restrictive.”

(The company was also strongly and vocally against AB 392’s predecessor, AB931, as seen in the company’s tweet below.)

Tweet from Lexipol vs. AB931, April 23, 2018

Advocates for the bill in the state legislature, as well as various justice advocacy groups in California, have celebrated the passage of AB392 as placing significant limits on police powers.

However, according to the new report, now that the bill has become law, Lexipol has informed members of its law enforcement agencies that nothing has changed in California and that the police and sheriff departments can continue. to rely on what is called the Graham vs. Connor standard – as opposed to the standard set by the new law.

Graham v. Connor, for those unfamiliar with, is the 1989 US Supreme Court ruling, which held that “allegations of excessive force used by government officials are properly analyzed against the ‘objective reasonableness’ standard of the Fourth amendment ”, and not according to the more generalized standard of“ excessive force ”.

The authors of the new report, who have previously written about the effect of the three-decade-old ruling, note that “Graham has been widely criticized for not providing sufficient advice to officers and creating no clear limits on the scope of officers’ powers. “

To put it another way, using Graham as a guide to the use of force, opens the door to the abuse of the “feared for my life” defense for questionable shootings, among other issues.

Promote a “warrior” police?

The authors of the report stress that Lexipol’s efforts against use of force policy reforms are of critical importance at this time, where members of communities whose residents are too often most affected by the use of force. force by police, including lethal force, and urgently call for policy changes.

“Lexipol’s rejection of most use-of-force policy reforms means its 3,500 subscribers, or nearly one-fifth of law enforcement agencies across the country, will be less likely to adopt these reforms “, write the law professors / authors. “Lexipol’s anti-reform message, which is communicated on its website, blogs and promotional weapons like Police1, also serves as ammunition for state and local governments across the country to hesitate to adopt more restrictive policies. .

In other words, Lexipol and its side publications continue to promote the perspective of the police as a warrior, rather than the more recent view of the police as the guardian of POV.

And a significant percentage of law enforcement agencies across the country pay Lexipol well for this prospect.

In a popular webinar available to subscribers, Bruce Praet, co-founder of Lexipol, highlights his endorsement of use of force policies based on the least nuanced view of Graham, underline the authors of the new report.

In the webinar, Praet, who also doesn’t seem to be a huge fan of de-escalation training, tells her viewers that nothing should matter in the use of force assessment unless force was. objectively reasonable under Graham.

“I don’t care if you run over it with your police car.” I don’t care if you hit him with your baton, suffocate him, pile him, bite him, shoot him. He’s only interested in “one question,” Praet says. “Was that ‘objectively reasonable’ in all of the circumstances presented at the time?

More recently, the report’s authors note that Lexipol in general has emerged as a strong opponent to an emerging consensus on the need to demand better training in de-escalation techniques.

Yet in a widely circulated Lexipol white paper on the use of force, the company claims it is a “myth” that “use of force policies should require the use of de-escalation tactics.”

Granted, Lexipol has other educational materials, videos etc. which are arguably more reform oriented.

For example, there’s this article from July 21, 2021 which offers helpful strategies to help officers and deputies “better connect and engage with the communities you serve.”

Yet the bottom line, according to Schwartz and Eagly, is that Lexipol is a powerful obstacle that stands in the way of some of the most essential changes law enforcement must make.

“America is in the midst of a critical moment in police reform,” they write. “National and local attention is on how to reduce the number of people killed and injured by police.”

One approach to reform, “which has been shown to reduce police killings”, is to limit the power of officers and MPs to use force.

According to Eagly and Schwartz, Lexipol is a major force in blocking this path to better policing “by promoting policies and formations that do not adopt political reforms on the use of force”, by advocating against these reforms, “and by limiting their impact when adopted. “

Local governments and policy insurers have long viewed Lexipol as an essential and respected partner in keeping policies legal and up to date.

And there are a lot of things Lexipol does well. The company even has a smart educational article and accompanying video on how firefighters can tackle knee pain that can sometimes plague their profession.

But according to the legal experts who wrote this new report, when it comes to some of the law enforcement reforms that have now become essential to the health and well-being of communities across the country, it is time to “dwell” on it. ‘take a closer look’ at Lexipol’s outsized influence. .

Photo at the time via Lexipol.

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