5 changes in LE since the death of George Floyd
A look at some of the reforms police agencies and cities have implemented
By Police1 Staff
The death of George Floyd one year ago today garnered widespread condemnation from officers and the public alike, sparking a summer of massive worldwide protests calling for reform. The demands for change ranged from pulling cops out of certain duties such as traffic enforcement to defunding and abolishing police departments altogether.
From new legislation to budget cuts, the response from cities and agencies to the outcry varied substantially across America. A year later, how has law enforcement changed? It depends on where you look. Here’s a roundup of some of the most significant developments. Did your agency implement reform over the past year? Share your experiences here.
1. Changes to Tactics & Use of Force
According to the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law, at least 30 states have enacted some kind of police reform in the past year. Many have focused legislation on use of force and other related law enforcement activities, including establishing more stringent standards for using certain tactics and the outright banning of others.
Over a dozen states have enacted bans on techniques that restrict blood flow to the brain or restrict the airway by putting pressure on the neck, according to AP. Five states have implemented restrictions on shooting at fleeing suspects. In Minneapolis and other cities, the use of no-knock warrants was banned in most instances. Minneapolis even revised policy so that the mere threat of force is now classified as a use of force.
2. Less-lethal Restrictions
Less-lethal police equipment came under heavy scrutiny during the months-long George Floyd protests. Several states and cities have introduced or are considering legislation targeting less-lethal gear like tear gas and rubber bullets, either aiming to restrict or ban their use. In Colorado, officers were barred from firing less-lethal projectiles at the heads, hips or back, as well as firing into a crowd indiscriminately. They were also banned from using chemicals without first giving a clear order for a crowd to disperse.
Washington recently signed into law reform that limits the use of tear gas. Legislation in Oregon would ban the use of tear gas against crowds. And in Ohio, a federal judge ordered the Columbus Police Department to stop using pepper spray, rubber bullets and other less-lethal force on protesters.
3. Funding Cuts
Amid calls for defunding, many agencies saw significant cuts. In Austin, Texas, the PD’s budget was reduced by one-third, redirecting over $150 million to social services. Seattle is giving its residents a say in how the money that was cut from its police department will be spent. The Los Angeles Police Department downsized specialized units among other changes in response to a historic $150 million dollar cut to its budget.
4. Rethinking Mental Health and Other Calls for Service
Taking police officers out of certain duties, particularly social issues, has been a major topic of discussion throughout the past year. Many cities are piloting programs that either divert officers from certain calls in favor of social workers, or put officers and social workers together to respond to emergencies like mental health crises, drawing both praise and criticism. Police in Anaheim, California, are shifting thousands of calls related to homelessness away from cops. In Denver, a police-free mental health response team has seen early success six months into its test program.
In Ithaca, New York, an extensive and controversial plan to revamp the police force includes splitting the PD into unarmed and armed officers. In Berkeley, California, certain traffic enforcement duties were eliminated entirely, such as traffic stops for low-level offenses.
5. Qualified Immunity
The qualified immunity defense has also come under intense scrutiny in the past year. Colorado was the first state to eliminate it. New Mexico similarly targeted it, and several other states are considering measures.
Roundtable: Perspectives on policing one year after the death of George Floyd
Police1 columnists reflect on their analysis of 2020's civil unrest and calls for police reform and share their thoughts on where policing is now