Bucks County Police Department Standardize Use Of Force Guidelines

Photo via Fred Harran.

Every police department in Bucks County is adopting the same use of force standards.

Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub announced the unprecedented step with more than a dozen police chiefs during a press conference Wednesday at the Bucks County Justice Center.

He acknowledged national unrest over the past year and called concerns over police use of force a “real issue.”

“When it comes to police practices and use of force during any police encounter, the public must not only be safe,” said Weintraub. “It is important that they feel safe. Perception is critical.”

All 41 law enforcement agencies in the county have unanimously agreed to abide by new 15 points. Bucks has 39 municipal police departments, plus park rangers and county detectives.

“The police must hold themselves to the highest standards any time they use force on a member of the public,” said Weintraub. The DA added he hopes Bucks will serve as a model for other counties in Pennsylvania.

Bensalem Director of Public Safety Fred Harran called the agreement “another example of Bucks County working together for the safety and well being of our community.”

At the press conference, Harran expanded on the details of some of the guidelines.

He said they address many of the issues people are talking about everyday. These include universal guidelines on de-escalation techniques and use of force.

“Deadly force may only be used when an officer reasonably believes the action is in defense of human life in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury.”

Additionally, warning shots and shots at or from moving vehicles are prohibited. Also prohibited is any “technique restricting the intake of oxygen unless deadly force is reasonably necessary.”

Anytime an officer uses force, a written report must be submitted. Each department must also adopt written procedures for administrative review of each use of force.

Harran added many of these guidelines are not new and are already being followed by departments within the county. Yet he also recognized the decision for all 41 agencies to agree on these principals is unprecedented.