Bucks County police departments establish new use-of-force policies

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Law enforcement officials in Bucks County say they’ve taken a major step toward enacting police reform. Now, the county’s police departments and law enforcement agencies will be on the same page when the use of force is involved.

Fred Harran, chair of the Police Chiefs Association of Bucks County, said every officer will now be operating under the same 15 principles.

“Deadly force may be used when an officer reasonably believes the action is in defense of human life and in danger of death or serious bodily injury,” he said of one regulation. “Prohibition on the use of any technique restricting intake of oxygen, unless deadly force is reasonably necessary.”

Officers will also be required to use de-escalation techniques, and when one officer’s actions get too violent, another officer will have to intervene.

Harran said the actions themselves are nothing new, but this is the first time they’ll all be using the same guidelines. The Police Chiefs Association worked on the project for months following the fatal police shooting of George Floyd, which set off a nationwide wave of protests over the summer.

Other policies dictate procedures for swift and appropriate medical aid, and require written reports when an officer discharges his or her gun, uses lethal force, uses physical force, or is involved in an incident that resulted in injury or death.

Upon administrative review — which also has new guidance — for such forceful acts, officers are subject to be removed or given a mental health evaluation.

The departments must also regularly review and update their use-of-force activities, policies and practices, looking for trends like the types of encounters or subjects involved.

And each year, all officers authorized to carry weapons must be re-trained on these use-of-force policies and de-escalation techniques.