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The Legal Implications of Police Use of Force

Monday, November 27th, 2023

Police use of force is a complex issue with legal implications. When any kind of physical force is used by the police, there is always a chance of injury to both the officer and the suspect. Injuries resulting from police encounters, particularly those involving unarmed individuals, can have serious consequences for those involved and can also have far-reaching implications for how communities engage with law enforcement .

Justification and Misconduct
In cases where police use of force is considered legally justified, it is important to note that most cases of use of force are considered legally and procedurally justified. However, excessive use of force can be grounds for misconduct, for which an officer may face disciplinary action or criminal charges .

Use-of-Force Continuum
Many law enforcement agencies have policies and guidelines in place for officers regarding appropriate responses to an escalation of activities in encounters with civilians. These guidelines are often referred to as “use-of-force continuum” and cover a spectrum of actions from no-force to lethal force. The continuum helps guide officers on the appropriate level of force to use in different situations .

Ethical Considerations
When developing rules and regulations regarding the use of force, governments and law enforcement agencies are encouraged to consider the ethical issues associated with the use of force and firearms .

Data Collection and Research
Efforts have been made to collect data on law enforcement use of force. The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) have convened workshops and sponsored databases to capture a broader understanding of law enforcement use of force. These efforts aim to measure excessive force and identify which acts were excessive .