Public Scholarship

How to Enforce the ‘Duty to Intervene’ - The Crime Report

Three officers stood by for a span of over nine minutes and watched as former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd.

As each minute passed, the observing officers had a growing obligation to intervene and prevent Chauvin from using such excessive force. But while these officers are now charged with violating Floyd’s civil rights, their attorneys suggest that they should be absolved from responsibility because they simply deferred to their higher-ranking officer.

George Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020 is only one of many incidents of officers’ using excessive force. How many of those incidents might have been averted if colleagues of those officers had intervened?

A recent poll of 8,000 officers found that 84 percent believed officers should be required to intervene when they think another officer is using unnecessary force.

But while policies that require officers to intervene when incidents of excessive force arise and report the incident to their higher-ranking officers are found in 50 percent of the largest 100 law enforcement departments, many of these policies are under scrutiny because we have yet to determine their effectiveness.

The Center for Justice Research (CJR) at Texas Southern University argues that establishing officers’ lawful duty to intervene is just as important as an officers’ duty to serve and protect.

But these laws can only be effective if the underlying language is clear, impactful and when there is a penalty for violating the law.

The research done by the CJR finds that maintaining safety is achievable, but only if the language in these policies is clear, and if officers have an explicit responsibility to intervene, stop excessive force and face severe consequences for failing to do so.

Read the full article HERE.