David Harris on How a Death in Police Custody Changed Police Use of Force
Professor David Harris told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette how the death of Jonny Gammage in police custody sixteen years ago has forced changes on the Pittsburgh Police Department. Gammage, a local businessman and the cousin of former Pittsburgh Steeler Ray Seals, died in custody of positional asphyxiation. The case set in motion a number of changes, including changes in the ways in which its officers use force. Professor Harris said that deaths and injuries in custody still happen, but that they are down everywhere since Gammage's death. "There is a willingness to try lesser amounts of force to accomplish what needs to be done," he said, as well as widespread use of less-than-lethal methods. The article makes specific reference to Professor Harris' 2005 book about best practices for police, "Good Cops: The Case for Preventive Policing," in which he wrote about Pittsburgh's state-of-the-art system to track officer behavior.