When are police officers using excessive force?

On Behalf of | Feb 12, 2024 | Civil Liberties |

Excessive force by police officers occurs when someone with a badge uses more physical power than necessary to control a situation or apprehend a suspect. This issue is partially responsible for the rise in debates about law enforcement practices and the need for reform.

Knowing what constitutes excessive force can help citizens to recognize and address these troubling situations when they occur.

Understanding the use of force

Police officers receive instructions on handling various scenarios, including what ways they may apply force. The main principle is that any action they take must be reasonable and proportional to the threat. Factors such as the suspect’s behavior, the seriousness of the crime and the immediate danger to the officer or others play a primary role in determining what remains appropriate.

When force becomes excessive

Force becomes excessive when it goes beyond what a reasonable officer would do under similar circumstances. This includes using physical power to restrain a suspect who is already under control and inappropriately firing weapons. Excessive force violates an individual’s rights and can lead to injury or death.

Specific examples of excessive force include striking a suspect who is not resisting, using a stun gun on someone wearing handcuffs and employing chokeholds in non-life-threatening situations. Shooting an unarmed person who poses no immediate threat also falls under excessive force.

The impact of excessive force

Excessive force damages the relationship between law enforcement and the community. It can lead to mistrust, fear and anger towards police officers. Those who experience excessive force may suffer from physical injuries, emotional trauma and financial burdens due to medical bills and lost wages.

Addressing excessive force

Correcting the problem of excessive force involves training officers in the art of de-escalation. Accountability through body cameras and independent investigations also helps. Then there is the matter of community engagement. Public awareness and reporting incidents of excessive force contribute toward alleviating the problem.

Excessive force from police officers undermines confidence in law enforcement and violates people’s rights. Recognizing and addressing these episodes through proper training fosters a more just and respectful society.