Madison police change deadly force procedures

MADISON — The Madison Police Department has updated its guidelines on the use of deadly force, telling officers to exhaust other options before using a gun.

City Council ordered the Police Department in May to change its operating procedures regarding deadly force, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. Council members wanted the department to emphasize an officer's duty to intercede, de-escalate a situation and preserve life.

A special committee that studied police practices recommended the changes.

The old policy said officers have "a legal and moral obligation to use force wisely and judiciously," while the new policy tells officers that their main duty is the "protection and preservation of all human life — including the lives of individuals being taken into custody."

The new language makes the department's policies similar to other, larger agencies as well as the International Association of Police Chiefs and the Police Executive Research Forum, said Assistant Police Chief Vic Wahl.

Madison attorney Andrea Farrell won a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city earlier this year on behalf of the family of a woman killed by Madison police in 2014.

"When it comes to the rules our police officers are trained to follow, language matters," Farrell said.

Farrell said she hopes the changes will help officers make the right decisions in a crisis.

"These may be two sides of the same coin, but I think the new policy does a better job of embodying what we want from our officers," Farrell said. "The bottom line is that all officers who believe it is their job to protect human life will, de facto, use force judiciously."