Home Exclusive Thirty Guiding Principles: The Road To Hell is Paved With Good Intentions

Thirty Guiding Principles: The Road To Hell is Paved With Good Intentions

Thirty Guiding Principles: The Road To Hell is Paved With Good Intentions

In case you are not familiar with it, The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) recently released a report entitled “Use of Force:  Taking Policing to a Higher Standard.”

Within the report, are thirty principles (policies) that PERF believes should be adopted by law enforcement agencies nationwide. While I would love to have the editorial space to give my comments on everyone of the principles, let me summarize my feelings on the paper like this.

Perhaps my biggest disappointment with the report is I haven’t found a single sentence contained within, that acknowledges the fact that if people would just comply with officer’s lawful orders; the police use of force would drop to nearly zero.  Nevertheless, some of the suggested policies contained within, I fully support and agree with.  Some appear to be just a clarification of currently practiced standards.  Some are in conflict with case law set by the United States Supreme Court, which I don’t think is a good idea. However, of the most alarming proposals, a few are, IMHO, based upon political correctness; and they have the potential to cause great harm to our officers and citizens alike.  

Such as? Suggested policy number eight.

“8. Shooting at vehicles must be strictly prohibited. Agencies should adopt a strict prohibition against shooting at or from a moving vehicle unless someone in the vehicle is using or threatening deadly force by means other than the vehicle itself.”

Officers  and citizens alike have been, seriously injured,  maimed for life, and sometimes murdered by being intentionally ran over with cars. Nevertheless, apparently, officers are supposed to be able to magically jump out of the way regardless of their physical abilities, limitations, or location.

Maybe you’re OK with that.  So let’s now look at the flip side of this policy, and why I think it’s incredibly dangerous. What happens when a homicidal maniac takes a 4×4 pickup with oversized tires (for lack of a better description, a mini-monster truck) and purposely drives it through the fairgrounds, a concert, or other place where people are packed together and cannot escape? The only weapon he is using is the ~6,000 lb vehicle, yet he is crushing and killing people at a rate far faster than if he was using a pistol.  An officer is on the scene, yet he is unable to stop the mass murder, as he is forbidden by policy to shoot the driver. How are you going to explain that one when the media shoves a microphone into your face?

Oh, I know; “THAT” would never happen.  There was a day when many people would have said no one would park a truck bomb in front of a government building that contained a daycare center, until Timothy McVeigh did just that. On Sept 10, 2001, many people would have believed that no one would ever intentionally fly an airplane into a skyscraper, until it was done twice the next day.  Our officers are facing unprecedented levels of immorality and viciousness today. If you’re not considering unconventional acts of evil when setting policy, you’re not preparing your officers to protect the citizens from what they may face any day.  I don’t want to sound like I’m slamming PERF’s entire project and efforts, as some of the policy suggestions within have some very positive merits. However, I sincerely think it needs to be revised in several areas.

I would really like to suggest a debate style, open forum take place between PERF, a panel of independently selected, nationally recognized, top-tier use of force experts; and a group of independently selected patrol officers from across the country to compare and contrast doctrines, before departments begin adoption of these policies.  

If I’m right about suggested policy #8,  (and if you disagree with my assessment, I’d like to hear from you as to why) isn’t it possible that there may be other items that need revision before everyone jumps onto the bandwagon of good intentions?



Sgt. Chuck Humes After 32 years of law enforcement service with a large urban police department, Charles E. Humes, Jr. honorably retired at the rank of Sergeant in 2015. Independently achieved, he is recognized internationally as one of the pioneers of modern, realistic police defensive tactics training. He has taught seminars and instructor certification schools as far West as Alaska and as far East as North Carolina; and has trained police instructors from as far as Hong Kong. He was a 2016 recipient of the Ohio Distinguished Law Enforcement Training Award from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
  • D.E. Clark

    PERF (or its report) is not “attempting to stimulate discussion amongst law enforcement professionals.” It is trying to set “guiding principles” (meaning _mandates_) based on the purely notional ideas of people who have never made a decision at zero-dark:30 while wearing a police uniform and facing a potentially deadly threat.

  • Capt. Thomas Dellane

    Mr. Humes:

    I have been a police officer in NJ for over 28 years. Shooting at vehicles has been prohibited by policy set by our attorney general for most of my career. The policy clearly states “Officers involved in a pursuit shall not fire any weapon from or at a moving vehicle……..except as a last resort to
    prevent imminent death or serious injury to the officer or another person where deadly force would otherwise be justified. This policy does not limit the use of force as you suggest in your article. Law enforcement officers in NJ can and do use deadly force on vehicles in circumstances where either they or a third party are in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury. I have read the PERF report and my take is that the report is attempting to stimulate discussion amongst law enforcement professionals. Policing in America has always been fluid and dynamic and if we want others to view law enforcement as a profession then all officers must continually evaluate how we do our jobs and implement changes as necessary.

    • Law Officer

      Captain Dellane:
      If you would have clicked on the link provided to the PERF report at the top of my article, and actually read their proposal # 8; you would have found the following text. For the second time, I have copied and pasted the following policy suggestion directly from their report. (Bold print emphasis added so there’s no mistake of exactly what came from PERF.)
      “POLICY 8.
      Shooting at vehicles must be strictly prohibited.
      Agencies should adopt a strict prohibition against shooting at or from a moving
      vehicle unless someone in the vehicle is using or threatening deadly force by means other than the vehicle itself.”

      While the policy you mention in your reply is, and has been, in effect in a vast number of departments for many years; it is not what the suggested PERF policy says. Please take the time to actually read, compare, and contrast the two policies. I am confident you will come to realize that they are not the same, and that what I wrote in my article, is the unthinkable reality that could result by following their suggested policy #8.

      Sgt. Charles E. Humes, Jr. (Ret)

  • I believe an Academic group that does not have an anti-police agenda should do a national study of police officer shootings the are viewed “good shootings” as determined by law and department policy. Also as part of that study, criteria should be used to determine if the LEO’s use of deadly force resulted in immediately saving said LEO’s or another human being’s life or injury from great bodily harm. Also included in my recommendation is reviewing incidents were non-weapon objects were used as weapons against the LEO or another including vehicles, tools, chemicals or other objects that are capable of causing death or great bodily harm. A few years back, a suburban Chicago officer justifiably shot and killed a man who attempted to use a barbecue grill propane gas tank as a blow torch. PERF recommendations might view that as a policy violation. Even a man’s size and fighting ability can put LEO’s in fear of his life or great bodily harm. The final conclusions after such a study can then be present to PERF along with a public announcement and and presentation of the study’s outcome. The standard should be simple even if the officer makes a unintentional error and that criteria should be , ” was the LEO in fear of his life or great bodily harm or in fear of another person’s life or great bodily harm to that person,