In December 2020, the New Jersey Attorney General issued details of a new policing policy that will come into force in December 2021. One of its aims is to reduce incidents of police brutality. The year-long delay is to allow the police time to put the necessary training in place.
Force must be the last resort
The policy has seven core principles. The second core principle states that force should be the last resort. Let us look more closely at this:
- Are law officers allowed to use force? Yes, they are in certain circumstances such as carrying out an arrest or search or preventing harm to themselves, others or property.
- Can they use it for any reason? They cannot use force to teach someone a lesson, punish them or retaliate against them. They also cannot use it just to make things quicker unless there is a valid need to do so, such as avoiding danger.
- What tactics should they try before resorting to force? Force must be the last resort. The police can only use it when they have tried all other options such as verbal commands, critical decision-making and de-escalation.
- Can force be a surprise? Before using force, the law officers should give a warning. Before that, they should give people a chance to comply with any commands given. They need to ascertain if there is a valid reason that someone is not complying with their orders, such as mental health issues or hearing issues.
Other core principles add more detail to help officers understand what is considered appropriate force and what is not. Clarifying the rules should make it easier for citizens to file a claim when something a police officer says was a reasonable use of force was actually police brutality.