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Cambridge Police Release Results of Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) Independent Review of January 4, 2023 Officer-Involved Shooting

Cambridge, MA - Cambridge City Manager Yi-An Huang and Police Commissioner Christine Elow announced the release of the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) independent review of the January 4, 2023 fatal officer-involved shooting of Sayed Faisal, a 20-year-old who was experiencing an apparent mental-health crisis. The full report is available here and the community is encouraged to read the review and all the information in its entirety. 

Hear from Commissioner Christine Elow on how CPD plans to use the PERF review moving forward.



“Faisal’s death was tragic for his family, our community, and our police department. The Middlesex District Attorney released the Judicial Inquest immediately after its completion, and as part of our ongoing commitment to transparency, we are doing the same with an independent review of the incident, our training, and our policies,” said Elow. “It is our primary goal to continuously learn and grow. There are always lessons to be learned. That is why the City and Cambridge Police Department (CPD) pursued this additional review of the incident so we could pick it a part in every aspect.”

PERF is a nationally recognized expert in the field of police administration. As outlined in their full report, PERF found CPD’s policies to be strong, but that there were opportunities to strengthen them with some modifications. For example, CPD already employs the Critical Decision-Making Model (CDM), the critical thinking process and cornerstone of de-escalation and decisions about the use of force, but it was not officially written into the department’s Use of Force (UOF) policy. Many of PERF’s recommendations like this are in the process of being integrated into written policy. Another recommendation in the process of being adopted is a co-response model with a mental health professional. CPD is working to implement a co-response pilot program that would place a clinician in a CPD cruiser with a police officer to respond to mental health calls. CPD has also been working closely with the City’s new Community Assistance Response and Engagement (CARE) Team to ensure the community has access to non-police responses to certain calls. 

PERF also recommends that CPD:

  • Create a new policy for supervisors to immediately review UOF incidents to identify missed opportunities for de-escalation, poor tactics, lack of communication, etc.
  • Conduct a Tactical Debriefing in the wake of any officer-involved incident.
  • Consider conducting a system-based multistakeholder review of incidents from all standpoints to discuss potential system failures and how things can improve in the future.
  • Consider additional types of non-lethal weapons.
  • Re-enforce policy language to reflect the excellent communications skills CPD officers already use to successfully diffuse and de-escalate critical incidents.
  • Move more intentionally towards in-person training versus remote especially for scenario-based courses.
  • Work with the City to secure a dedicated and reliable training space.
  • Provide an overview training session on all written policy modifications.

PERF did not recommend any areas for improvement in CPD’s UOF reporting policy. Additionally, CPD has already implemented many of PERF’s training recommendations, including sending all officers through the updated Integrating Communications, Assessment, and Tactics (ICAT) de-escalation training and retrofitting more vehicles to carry non-lethal alternative tools. PERF commends CPD for its plan to develop a body-worn camera policy and a process to release an officer’s name in the wake of critical incidents, which would be the first policy of its kind in Massachusetts.

In the report, PERF highlighted CPD’s emphasis on de-escalation is evidenced by the low percentage of its calls that result in any force being used whatsoever. PERF writes CPD is an agency that has, over time, demonstrated leadership in several key areas of reform, including juvenile diversion programs, and trauma-informed police practices. PERF stated that fatal, officer-involved incidents happen so rarely – once in more than twenty years – in a city the size of Cambridge, is a testament to the training and protocols already in place at the Cambridge Police Department.

PERF, in its conclusion, writes CPD does many things very well, including the prioritization of de-escalation. “CPD has a long history as a forward-thinking, trauma-informed, state-of-the-art police department and its members are already trained far more than those of other police departments around the state of Massachusetts and the country,” the report read. 

Moving forward, the department will thoroughly review all PERF’s recommendations and work with its officers, the City Manager, City Council, partners, and community to determine what measures would be the most effective. CPD is thankful for PERF’s diligence in producing a report that provides thoughtful recommendations while also re-affirming the department’s best practices. “Even if we did everything right, we never want to lose a life. That is never the outcome that we want when we respond to a call for a person who is in crisis,” said Elow.

Page was posted on 3/4/2024 6:23 PM
Page was last modified on 3/4/2024 6:29 PM
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