US police adopt Scottish tactics to avoid '˜deadly force'

Tactics adopted from Scotland form a key part of new guidelines unveiled in the United States to help reduce the number of civilians being shot by police officers.
Scottish officers show how they deal with knife attacks. Picture: NYTScottish officers show how they deal with knife attacks. Picture: NYT
Scottish officers show how they deal with knife attacks. Picture: NYT

Representatives from American forces including the New York Police Department (NYPD) visited Scotland last year to find out how their Scottish counterparts de-escalate threats without resorting to “deadly force”.

The factfinding mission helped inform the drafting of 30 “guiding principles”, published last week, which it is hoped will now be adopted by the US’s largest police forces. Drawn up by the Washington-based Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), the guidelines draw together elements of best practice developed from policing on both side of the Atlantic.

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American police officers last year described their visit to Police Scotland’s training college at Tulliallan, Fife, as an “epiphany” after learning details of how the Scottish force – where 98 per cent of officers are unarmed – manages to deal with suspects carrying offensive weapons.

Chuck Wexler, PERF’s executive director, said: “Based upon our research, interviews and work done in Scotland and other parts of the UK, we’ve developed these 30 principles on the use of force.

“They relate to different parts of what we think are the major challenges over the last couple of years. The general tenor is to take the standards we have and push them to a higher level.

“It’s important to underscore the sanctity of human life and the recognition that in any kind of encounter you want everybody to be able to walk away safely, whether it’s the officer or the suspect you want to get into custody.”

There is growing anxiety in US policing after a spate of fatal shootings in recent years.

In 2014, the city of Ferguson, Missouri, was gripped by a series of protests after a white officer shot dead Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black man. Just a few months later Tamir Rice, 12, was shot and killed in Cleveland, Ohio, after pointing a toy gun at people in a park.

The US officers’ visit forms part of a new documentary, HARD-WIRE: Law of the Gun, which is being shown on Sky Atlantic and Sky News.