Occasionally, law enforcement officers need to intervene in a crime in progress or apprehend someone who may have broken the law. Officers receive extensive training and specialized equipment to help them do their jobs as safely as possible. Ideally, officers can investigate and even arrest people without using physical force. However, they sometimes need to use physical force when someone is uncooperative or poses a threat to them or others.
Sometimes, officers use far more force than they should give in the circumstances and may hurt the person they’re seeking to detain or arrest. These situations can lead to claims of excessive force or police brutality. What rules determine how much force a police officer should use on the job?
Officers are bound by specific guidelines
There are two general rules governing the use of force by police officers. The first is that they need to believe that the use of force is necessary for their protection or the safety of others. Someone talking belligerently to an officer would not necessarily justify them using physical force.
The second is that they need to gauge the degree of force that they use based on the level of threat involved in the situation. For example, most people would agree that it would be inappropriate for police officers to draw and discharge weapons in a scenario involving an unarmed shoplifter or someone with a bench warrant for unpaid child support.
However, if someone has displayed a weapon, engaged in violence or threatened others, an officer may have a justification to use more force in that situation. Those arrested may raise questions afterward about whether an officer’s actions were necessary and justifiable under current Colorado state rules. Other officers present during an interaction have an obligation to speak up when they believe another police officer used an inappropriate amount of force given the circumstances.
Someone who has been seriously injured by the police or those who lose a loved one in a questionable situation may have grounds for a lawsuit against the officer or the police department involved in the incident. Seeking legal guidance can provide clarity and support in this regard.