By Leischen Stelter, editor of In Public Safety
Police use-of-force cases continue to garner a considerable amount of public and media attention. High-publicity cases like those resulting in the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown have brought into question when and how police use force. Such public controversy forced law enforcement agencies around the country to revisit and revise their use-of-force policies, which often leads to retraining officers on this policy.
American Military University faculty members have written extensively about changes to use of force in law enforcement. Dr. Charles Kelly wrote about the need for officers to receive use-of-force training throughout their entire careers, not just in the academy. Use-of-force training is especially important as officers are socialized into the law enforcement profession during their probationary work, when they are most vulnerable to picking up bad habits from more senior officers. Kelly also advocated for enhanced diversity training, to teach officers about cultural differences and become increasingly aware of cultural nuances.
Gary Minor wrote about the legalities surrounding use of deadly force, including the precedent-setting legal cases that shaped the current U.S. Supreme Court position on use of force. Michelle Beshears wrote about the need to teach the public about what constitutes excessive use of force. Throughout her article, she emphasized the need to educate the public about the differences between excessive and necessary use of force.
This effort to educate the public is a cause that a Washington D.C.-based think tank, Police Foundation, recently addressed when it released the infographic, When Can the Police Use Force: And What Happens When They Do? This well designed pamphlet includes information on why police use force and what situations they can use deadly force. It also clearly spells out some of the legal parameters involving use of force and provides information about the term “reasonableness,” which is often a point of confusion for citizens and officers alike. Whether an officer acted reasonably and within the law is determined by specific factors including the severity of the crime, the threat posed by the subject, and whether the subject was attempting to flee. The infographic identifies these factors that contribute to determining whether an officer acted reasonably.
Lastly, the infographic tells the public how use-of-force incidents are investigated by agencies. This is an important component because many citizens do not know what to expect if they are involved in such an incident and don’t understand what actions the agency will take to investigate the incident. It can also be helpful to provide context for the wider public, who are paying increased attention to incidents involving police use of force and want to be confident that laws, rules and procedures are properly constructed and fully adhered to.
[Related Article: Protect Your Agency with Use-of-Force Internal Investigations and Forms]
If you are involved in law enforcement, is this infographic a helpful tool to educate the public on this issue? What other information would you add? Feel free to leave your comments or thoughts in the comment section below.