He added that another of their guidelines is "Duty to Intervene." He explained, "if someone was doing something wrong and there were other officers there, the other officers had a duty to intervene, meaning to try to change what that officer was doing."
Wexler said in the case of a person behaving erratically, officers should be trained to slow down the situation, keep a safe distance, and above all, communicate as clearly as they can with the suspect.
Wexler himself was inspired, in part, by UK police departments, who usually have to respond to incidents without using deadly force. In Scotland, fewer than 2% of the country's 17,000 officers are armed.
As part of the process, PERF took 25 police chiefs from the United States to Scotland to learn de-escalation techniques.
Scottish officers have to rely on their communications skills, tactical defense skills, and typically non-lethal equipment such as a baton, chemical spray, and handcuffs.
"They step back, and then they start talking and communicating, because they don't have a gun. In the United States, if someone pulls out a knife, the first thing a police officer will do was reach for his gun and aim it at the person. There's a big difference in approach," he said.
In addition to impairment or mental illness, a suspect may also have other disabilities that officers have not been trained to handle appropriately.
In 2013, a man with Down syndrome named Ethan Saylor died of injuries sustained after three off-duty sheriff deputies forcibly removed him from a Maryland movie theater when he tried to enter without a ticket.
The report recommends that police departments coordinate with local mental health professionals to train officers on how to engage with people with disabilities.
PERF's 2016 report contains many evidence-based recommendations to reduce the number of people killed by police, and the number of officers killed in the line of duty.
For example, the report recommends a ban on police shooting at moving vehicles unless the suspect is using deadly force from the vehicle- a move which greatly reduced the deaths of both suspects and officers in New York City after it was implemented in 1972. Cities like Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Denver, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. have since adopted similar policies.
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In crafting the original report, PERF consulted with hundreds of police chiefs over the course of two years, and looked at countless case studies and reports to put together their findings and then their training program.
PERF also consulted with Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York- who was at that time the chair of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities- as well as with Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, who lent his support in helping the group's training programs for the Chicago Police Department.
Wexler said Cardinal Dolan was particularly supportive of the language of "sanctity of life" in the report. Over the years, he said, "I've gotten some really wonderful feedback about the sanctity of human life."
The report emphasized that most officers involved in controversial use-of-force incidents should not be faulted, because their actions reflected the training they received.
One of the biggest problems in changing the culture of policing is the patchwork of 18,000 police departments all across the country, each with its own training for officers.
"There are no national guidelines on de-escalation," Wexler said.