Law Enforcement Legislation: Significant Trends 2022

8/22/2022

Police Car

States legislatures have been particularly active in addressing policing policy since George Floyd was killed in May 2020. Since that time, every state has introduced legislation with more than 4,500 bills being considered by legislatures across the country.

From May 2020 to May 2022, states have taken a significant new role in law enforcement policy, accountability and oversight. For a review of significant state changes between May 2020 and May 2021 please see NCSL’s report Law Enforcement Legislation: Significant Trends.

Legislative Policy Trends

Use of Force

States have continued expanding their role in regulating law enforcement use of force. Recent enactments have prohibited or regulated neck restraints, established statewide standards, addressed training, required data collection and expanded independent investigation and oversight for use of excessive force.

At least 25 states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation since May 2020 limiting the use of neck restraints. New Mexico did not directly limit restraints, but did address the issue through state training requirements, specifying training that included the elimination of vascular neck restraints.

Going beyond this initial response, at least 20 states addressed state level standards for use of force. Of these, nine—Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia and Washington—significantly expanded statutory use-of-force standards, creating more comprehensive statewide approaches.

Utah took a different approach requiring that a more comprehensive state standard be adopted by the Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training Council and that the standard be reviewed annually. Indiana took a similar approach, requiring a uniform statewide deadly force policy and training program be adopted. The law also requires adoption of a uniform statewide defensive tactics policy and training program, a uniform statewide standard for vehicle pursuits and minimum standards for best practices for crowd control, protests and First Amendment activities.

New since 2020, states created affirmative statutory duties for officers to intervene in, and report on, instances of excessive force or other violations of an individual’s rights. At least 23 states and the District of Columbia created a statutory duty to intervene and at least 19 states and the District of Columbia created a duty to report or document incidents. Kentucky added failure to intervene to the state’s definition of professional nonfeasance. Florida and Nebraska required each law enforcement agency in the state to adopt policies requiring officers to intervene.

Some of these new duties come with protections against retaliation or discipline for intervening and require discipline, termination or decertification for failing to act. A handful of states, including some who did not establish a statutory duty to intervene, required training. California authorized making sustained findings that an officer failed to intervene subject to disclosure.

At least nine states—Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Nevada, Texas, Virginia, Washington—and the District of Columbia. crafted new legal duties requiring officers to provide medical assistance or aid to individuals.

Oversight

States have continued to expand their role in oversight of police actions, an area that has until recently been handled either by the U.S. Justice Department or local governments. New legislation created state level standards for independent investigations and empowered attorneys general or state agencies to conduct or review use of force and misconduct investigations.

Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nevada and Virginia empowered their attorneys general to investigate and pursue civil pattern and practice suits. Usually, these lawsuits are pursued by the U.S. Department of Justice, but the new state authorizations have the similar objective to investigate systemic police misconduct rather than specific instances or situations.

At least 16 states addressed investigation into excessive force, officer involved deaths, or other related misconduct. Many of these states authorized or required state officials, such as a state attorney general, or agencies to investigate, audit or prosecute incidents or specific misconduct. For example, Delaware expanded the Division of Civil Rights and Public Trust’s responsibilities to include investigation of cases involving serious physical injury in addition to instances of deadly force.

Other states addressed protocols that local law enforcement agencies are required to develop or adopt for use-of-force investigations conducted by each agency. Florida’s recent enactment required local agencies to adopt standards for use-of-force investigations conducted after use of force results in the death of any person or the intentional discharge of a firearm that results in injury or death to any person. At a minimum, the new policies must incorporate an independent review by an agency that did not employ the officer under investigation at the time of the incident, an officer who is not employed by the same agency or the state attorney of the judicial circuit in which the incident occurred. The policies must also require a report be submitted to the state attorney after completion of the investigation.

Data Collection

States have also continued to expand statewide data collection efforts. Since May of 2020, 26 states have enacted 46 bills related to data collection and transparency. Seven states—Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Minnesota, Nevada, Washington and Wisconsin—required public-facing databases for use-of-force information. A handful of other states required posting public reports or analysis of use-of-force data.

Oregon does not collect and publish the information at the state level, but instead mandates that agencies contribute to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's National Use of Force Database. The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission is required to analyze the FBI’s data annually.

States have instituted data collection for both internal use and statewide reporting. Tennessee directed each law enforcement agency, starting in 2022, to establish a reporting system that allows for review and analysis of use-of-force incidents. The systems must be designed in a way that helps agencies identify trends, improve officer training and safety, collect data and provide timely and accurate information.

Maryland mandated all agencies in the state to establish a confidential and nonpunitive early intervention system to identify police officers who are at risk of engaging in excessive force. The systems must provide officers with training, behavioral health interventions, reassignments or other appropriate response to reduce risk of excessive force. Nevada, North Carolina and South Carolina have also all enacted legislation addressing early warning systems.

Certification and Decertification

Since May of 2020, at least 30 states and the District of Columbia have enacted 63 bills related to police certification and decertification. The majority of these bills increased transparency, added to certification requirements or expanded grounds and requirements for decertification.

More than a dozen legislatures addressed when a state agency can or must revoke an officer's certification. At least 11 states—California, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon and Washington—required creation of public means of sharing decertification or disciplinary information.

A handful of states authorized law enforcement agencies to share records without allowing for public access. For example, Virginia and Vermont now require agencies to disclose certain information, including performance issues and disciplinary information, between agencies during the hiring process.

States continue to address certification requirements with 125 enactments in 43 states and the District of Columbia since May 2020. Most recently, Kentucky passed legislation to prohibit certification for candidates who had misdemeanor or other sex offense convictions. Nebraska specified additional requirements for certification of applicants applying for reciprocity including a physical fitness test, proof that the applicant meets statutory requirements, a reciprocity test and proof that the applicant was awarded a certificate or diploma attesting to satisfactory completion of a training program equivalent to statutory standards. Applicants seeking certification via reciprocity are prohibited from exercising law enforcement authority until after all requirements have been met.

Hiring and Retention

Law enforcement, like many other professions across the country, has faced an employment crunch in the last couple of years with recruitment lagging and high retirement rates.

States have sought to support law enforcement agencies, especially smaller and rural agencies. Nebraska enacted the Law Enforcement Attraction and Retention Act with the stated purpose of providing financial incentives to attract law enforcement officers to the state. The new law provides for retention incentive payments ranging from $1,500 to $3,000 for individual officers who complete tiers of service from one year through five years of full-time employment.

The act also provides for a grant program to provide hiring bonuses to newly hired full-time officers. Agencies are eligible to apply for a grant if they employ fewer than 150 officers and are operating under the recommended staffing levels set by the state.

New Mexico enacted similar legislation requiring the Department of Finance and Administration to establish a program to distribute funds for local law enforcement agencies to provide recruitment and retention stipends. Puerto Rico extended the Career Incentive program to all peace officers defined in statute, providing for base pay increases based on post-secondary credits and degrees earned.

States have also looked at ways to increase diversity in the law enforcement workforce, with Louisiana requiring the state standards and training board and local agencies to adopt policies designed to increase recruitment of minority candidates. North Carolina instructed the state’s Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission and the Sheriffs’ Education and Training Standards Commission to jointly develop a best practices guide to help agencies recruit and retain a diverse workforce.

Colorado created the State’s Mission for Assistance in Recruitment and Training (SMART) Policing Grant Program to provide grants to law enforcement agencies to increase diversity and the number of officers who are representative of the communities they serve. Agencies are authorized to use funds to cover costs associated with officer salaries, benefits, recruitment and training.

Training

Officer training remains among the most common issues addressed by enacted legislation. Since May 2020, at least 39 states and the District of Columbia. have enacted 95 laws.

New laws cover a disparate array of training topics. Several states required training programs to be implemented related to new statewide standards related to use of force. Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas each required training on the duty to intervene in excessive force for officers but did not enact a statutory duty to intervene.

Related, at least 11 states—Arizona, California, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia—enacted legislation related to de-escalation training. Indiana required the state training board to incorporate de-escalation training into various mandatory training programs.

 

Body Worn Cameras

Prior to 2020, only South Carolina required widespread adoption of body-worn cameras. Since May 2020, at least six additional states—Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey and New Mexico—have mandated statewide body camera adoption. The New Jersey and South Carolina laws make implementation of body-camera programs contingent on funding from the legislature. New Jersey appropriated funding in 2020.

Connecticut’s 2020 law authorized bonds of up to $4 million for a new grant program to fund related equipment and service purchases by municipalities. The grants can cover 30% to 50% of equipment costs as well as costs for digital storage for up to one year.

State mandates generally apply to all law enforcement officers who are interacting with the public. But they typically exclude officers working in courtrooms or other secure areas or confidential settings, nor do they apply to administrators or civilian staff.

New York and Vermont adopted mandates for use by state law enforcement agencies, joining California and Nevada who had previous requirements. Kentucky and Maine both addressed the use of cameras during the execution of a no-knock warrant.

"No-Knock" Warrants

“No-knock” search warrants allow officers to enter a building unannounced and without identifying themselves provided they’ve shown that knocking and announcing themselves would result in a dangerous situation or allow for the destruction of evidence.

The death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky., in 2020 contributed to new legislative interest. Fourteen states—Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and Washington—passed laws regulating the use of these warrants, required body cameras when carrying out the warrants or prohibited them altogether.

 

This report was prepared with support from Arnold Ventures.

Additional Resources