By Terry Baxter, Law Enforcement and Safety Specialist
May 25, 2021, marked the one-year anniversary of the death of George Floyd which began a mass movement calling for changes in the way law enforcement agencies police society. There have been other notable deaths that occurred due to law enforcement actions, but Floyd’s death sparked a nationwide outcry that have many states enacting legislation focusing on chokeholds/neck restraint restrictions, use of force policies, duty to intervene, de-escalation and increasing training hours and addressing law enforcement misconduct just to name a few.
There has been discussion, and in some states have already authorized the cutting of law enforcement budgets and diverting monies to social service and community-based programs. Removing calls for service involving certain mental health issues or partnering officers, where a mental health professional who would respond during a mental or behavioral health crisis. Not saying that having mental health professional at the ready is a bad thing, but in reality, smaller and rural areas do not have the means or support for those type of professional services, forcing many officers not equipped to properly address the issue.
The bottom line what is being seen nationwide will eventually cause mandatory policy changes, which we have already begun to see, and as we move forward will impact how law enforcement agencies operate when officers encounter critical situations.
LB51 is moving forward after several amendments, which as many of you are already aware, increases training requirements, requires duty to intervene policy, bans chokeholds and cardioid restraints except when deadly force is authorized and addresses new hire restrictions.
You could clearly see the handwriting on the wall from the daily publicized violent protests and the way society was calling for more accountability and transparency from lawmakers, that changes were in the works and Nebraska was not immune from public outcry. Seeing and believing this was on the horizon, NIRMA revised its use of force policy early last fall adding policy language relating to de-escalation and duty to intervene. We also partnered with Legal and Liability Risk Management Institute (LLRMI) and provided to our members de-escalation and Implicit Bias trainings.
America is watching and wrongful police actions are being publicized and criticized, so it is essential that agency policies are up to date, but also increasing the quantity and the quality of training programs.
If your training is inadequate, it will reflect negatively on your officer’s critical thinking skills and performance.
Whether you believe the call for police reform was caused from institutional and cultural failures or from a few problematic officers that tainted the integrity of this profession, change is inevitable, and we must adapt to the change. I realize that not everyone agrees with change and many feel this will cause a hardship to their organization, but again it all boils down to accountability and transparency. My take, this is a major step to improve the integrity of this profession nationwide.