How are the YTD police use of force statistics trending with prior years? This article will provide mid year statistics and highlight proposed legislation which, if passed, may dramatically change the policing landscape in CA and beyond.
Last year, we published an article, Law Enforcement Legal Update, which highlighted various large loss case settlements across the U.S., subsequent to the Michael Brown police fatal shooting that occurred in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9, 2014. We also examined data provided by The Washington Post (WAPO), which tracks statistics related to fatal police use-of-force and the role that mental illness plays. In case you missed it, here’s the link.
We recently reviewed the updated WAPO data to see how the use-of-force statistics may have changed. Here is a brief mid-year update on their 2018 data. (If you want more, stay tuned for our more comprehensive article expected to be released early next year!)
As of June 19, 2018 according to the Washington Post:
- 486 people have been involved in fatal police encounters.
- There have been 25 more fatal shootings this year as compared to the same time last year.
- At year-end 2017, the number of fatal police encounters (987) remained consistent with the two prior years, which saw just under 1,000 fatal police shootings per year.
- 84 people or approximately 17% of the fatal shootings involved individuals who had signs of mental illness. This percentage is tracking slightly lower from the past three years, all of which averaged approximately 25% per year.
While the mid-way 2018 numbers differ slightly from past years, we do not see any trends at this point. Nonetheless, Public Entities and their police agencies should continue to implement state-of-the-art training, particularly with respect to de-escalation techniques as well as encounters with the mentally ill. We also suggest an ongoing review and updating of policies and procedures, as necessary.
What to watch for: In the wake of the March 18 fatal police shooting of Stephon Clark in Sacramento, CA, legislators have proposed a change in the standard under which police officers can use deadly force entitled Police Accountability and Community Protection Act (AB-931), introduced April 2018.The proposed legislation would change the standard from "reasonable force" to a stricter "necessary force" standard. In other words, police officers would only be allowed to use deadly force when it was necessary to prevent imminent and serious bodily injury or death. Essentially, this would occur only when there were no other reasonable alternatives, including warnings, verbal persuasion or other non-lethal methods of resolution or de-escalation. Proponents of the bill state that the current standard of "reasonable force" affords police too much discretion. Opponents state that if passed, it may significantly restrict when law enforcement can use deadly force, which would greatly impair an officer's ability to safely respond to dangerous encounters. Further, this stricter standard may be contrary to existing Supreme Court precedent established under Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989).
Passage of the legislation may have a dramatic effect on the use of force standards in California and may impact existing police officer immunity. Further, as California tends to be a bellwether state, other jurisdictions may be impacted as well.
We will continue to monitor use of force statistics, settlements and verdicts as well as any additional legislation that may impact our clients.
The Genesis Public Entity Claim Unit handles Law Enforcement Legal claims as well as other risk exposures associated with their public entity clients. We monitor related data, including police use of force claims on a nationwide basis, through settlements and verdicts, as well as other law enforcement trends and legislation. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us or any other member of the Public Entity Claim Unit.
Sources: Washington Post databases for fatal police shootings with accompanying statistics for 2015-2018:
Proposed Legislation in California:
(1) 2018: 486 fatally wounded by police (as of 6/19/18) / 17% involving individuals who had signs of mental illness.
(2) 2017: 987 fatally wounded by police / 24% involving individuals who had signs of mental illness.
(3) 2016: 963 fatally wounded by police / 25% involving individuals who had signs of mental illness.
(4) 2015: 995 fatally wounded by police / 26% involving individuals who had signs of mental illness.
The material contained in this publication has been prepared solely for informational purposes by Genesis Management and Insurance Services Corporation.
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