Law Enforcement Comprehensive Use of Force Legislation
The loss of life is always tragic, and an officer’s use of serious force should always be a last option. Unfortunately, our society has many dangerous threats, and just as our peace officers cannot anticipate what they will encounter on any given day, our legal standards governing their engagement must account for the split-second and dangerous scenarios we see too often confronting law enforcement. At the same time, peace officers are expected to guard our communities with the utmost sanctity for the perseverance of every life.
In setting our current legal standard governing an officers’ use of force, the U.S. Supreme Court aptly stated there must be an “allowance for the fact that police officers are required to make split-second judgments in circumstance that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving-about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.” (Graham v. Connor). However, the US Supreme Court has also set clear boundaries for when deadly force is unwarranted, stating that “the use of deadly force to prevent the escape of all felony suspects, whatever the circumstances, is constitutionally unreasonable. It is not better that all felony suspects die than that they escape. Where the suspect poses no immediate threat to the officer and no threat to others, the harm resulting from failing to apprehend him does not justify the use of deadly force to do so.” (Tennessee v. Garner). Through those two seminal cases, and the following 30 years of developing case law, we currently derive our nationwide legal standards for adjudicating officers’ use of force.