The American Physical Society (APS) will now review statistics on police conduct when selecting future venues for its scientific meetings, the association announced in a November news update.

Susan Gardner, chair of the APS Committee on Scientific Meetings, said the updated selection criteria was inspired in part by pieces published in Science in June by Philip Phillips and Michael Weissman and another paper by Phillips that appeared in Physics Today in July. Both articles call on the APS and other professional organizations to stop holding conferences in cities that permit police brutality.

Gardner says additional insight was provided during discussions in a June APS webinar called “From Passion to Action.”

“We deliberated at length over the proposal and other input during our recent committee meeting,” Gardner says in a statement.

“I would summarize by saying that we became aware that members of our community are vulnerable in ways we had never imagined, and we resolved to act. We voted unanimously to recommend these changes. We want to conduct every APS meeting in a safe environment for our attendees; this is a natural part of our site selection process. These new criteria are a way of broadening the issues to be considered.”

Per the APS, the new criteria demands that prospective cities:

– Have openly available statistics on police-initiated contacts and use of force that include demographic information.

– Have an independent investigative body to respond to serious incidents, including deaths in custody and officer-involved shootings.

– Have a policy in place that forbids the use of carotid holds, strangleholds, or generally, maneuvers by police officers that cut off blood or oxygen.

– Have all police officers trained in de-escalation methods, such as PERF’s ICAT (Integrating Communications, Assessment, and Tactics) training.

– Have a policy in place where each police officer has the duty to intervene and/or to render medical aid if other officers are using excessive force.

– Have performance evaluations/measures that include more criteria than just enforcement statistics (arrests, summonses, stops). The criteria should include officer-involved fatalities or shootings of unarmed persons.

– Have a well-defined plan and timetable for improving local policing practices.


APS CEO Kate Kirby is calling on cities that do not have this information readily available to start collecting it.

“It’s a way of having these locations realize that there are economic and business implications in terms of how they respond,” Kirby added in a statement.

Kirby is also communicating with other scientific organizations to make the criteria more commonplace.

“The reaction was very positive, and people acknowledged that it is really important to start asking these questions so that cities and convention bureaus know that these are criteria we will be looking at,” she said.


The new criteria isn’t representative of the first time the APS has changed a conference venue due to discriminatory policies in the host city.

In 2016, the society announced it had canceled plans to hold its 2018 annual meeting in Charlotte, NC when officials passed the HB2 law, which forces people to use public bathrooms that match the gender listed on their birth certificates — potentially putting transgender individuals at risk.

“It is imperative for APS to continue to uphold its longstanding policy of not locating conferences in places where some members would risk legalized discrimination or criminalization for simply being themselves,” Michael Falk of John Hopkins University said in 2016.

“The situation in North Carolina is untenable for trans physicists who would not only be at risk when making use of restroom facilities in conference venues but also at airports, hotel lobbies, restaurants, and other establishments in the course of their visit to North Carolina.”

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