police use of force | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Policing

Police use of force refers to the physical coercion or violence used by law enforcement officers in performing their duties, which may include everything from verbal commands to deadly force.

Police officers are authorized to use force when necessary to protect themselves and others and to maintain public safety. However, the use of force must be proportionate to the threat and must be used as a last resort after all other options have been exhausted.

There are several levels of force that police officers may use, ranging from verbal commands to lethal force. Verbal commands and non-lethal force, such as handcuffs or pepper spray, are typically used to gain compliance or to control a situation. More serious levels of force, such as batons or tasers, may be used when verbal commands and non-lethal force have failed to resolve a situation or when there is an imminent threat of harm.

Deadly force, such as the use of firearms, is the most extreme form of force and is only authorized when there is an imminent threat of death or serious bodily harm to the officer or others. Deadly force is highly regulated and must be used with extreme caution and only as a last resort.

The use of force by police officers is governed by a set of legal standards and guidelines, including the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, and the Supreme Court’s decision in Graham v. Connor, which established the “objective reasonableness” standard for the use of force.

Under this standard, the reasonableness of a use of force is judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, taking into account the totality of the circumstances. Factors such as the severity of the crime, the threat posed by the suspect, and the level of resistance are all considered in determining whether a use of force was reasonable.

The use of force by police officers is also subject to review and oversight by law enforcement agencies, courts, and civilian oversight bodies. Officers who use excessive force may be subject to disciplinary action, criminal charges, or civil lawsuits.

The use of force by police officers is a complex and often controversial issue. While the use of force is sometimes necessary to protect public safety and enforce the law, it can also lead to serious injuries or even death. Effective training, clear policies and procedures, and accountability measures are essential for ensuring that the use of force by police officers is always necessary, proportionate, and lawful.

Learn More

On This Site

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 03/13/2023


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Doc's Things and Stuff uses Accessibility Checker to monitor our website's accessibility.