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NCJ Number: 203822 Add to Shopping cart Find in a Library
Title: Complexities of Use of Force
Journal: Law and Order  Volume:51  Issue:12  Dated:December 2003  Pages:60-65
Author(s): Jess Gundy
Date Published: December 2003
Page Count: 6
Sponsoring Agency: NCJRS Photocopy Services
Rockville, MD 20849-6000
Sale Source: NCJRS Photocopy Services
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Rockville, MD 20849-6000
United States of America
Type: Instructional Material; Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article reviews court cases, levels of liability, and Federal criminal statutes that pertain to a police officer's use of force.
Abstract: According to a Police Public Contact Survey, officers do not routinely use excessive force in the performance of their duties. Over a 12-month period, only about 2.1 percent of arrests involved the use of weapons, and chemical weapons were the most commonly used weapon; firearms were used in only 0.2 percent of arrests. When police used force, injuries to suspects were minor, consisting mostly of bruises or abrasions. The U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision regarding the use of deadly force was Tennessee v. Garner. Under this decision, deadly force may be used to prevent death or serious injury to an officer or another person, or to prevent the escape of a felon when the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect has used deadly force in the commission of a felony or is intent on endangering human life unless arrested without delay, and has the means to do so. Where feasible, a warning should be given. In addition to court decisions bearing upon police use of force, officers must also comply with departmental policy when using force. There are three levels of law enforcement liability for departments and individual officers regarding the use of force: administrative, State court, and Federal court. A sustained complaint of excessive force for an individual officer in an administrative setting can result in documented counseling, letters of reprimand, and days off or discharge. An officer can be arrested for excessive force under State criminal statutes and be subject to civil litigation in a State court. Although criminal prosecution of officers in Federal court for use of excessive force is rare, four Federal statutes under Federal Title 18 could apply to such cases. These involve conspiracy to deny a person of his or her civil rights; deprivation of rights under the color of law; concealment of a felony from a law enforcement agency; and tampering with a witness, victim, or informant. In summary, officers are generally justified in using the force necessary to arrest a resisting suspect, but once control of the suspect has been achieved, the application of force must cease.
Main Term(s): Police use of deadly force
Index Term(s): Civil liability; Federal legislation; Lawful use of force; Legal liability; Police policies and procedures; US Supreme Court decisions
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