Duty to Intervene

Duty to Intervene

Laws and policies are necessary to direct officers to intervene in situations of excessive force. Maintaining safety is achievable, but only if officers (a) have an explicit responsibility to intervene, (b) stop the excessive force, and (c) face severe consequences for failing to do so. It is clear that actionable, national-level policies are needed. Absent a standard, Americans, particularly historically marginalized groups, risk the severe threat of harm and even death, as many recent events happen.

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Duty to Intervene
Duty to Intervene

Key Observations

  • The American law enforcement profession represents the singular legal body authorized to use applied force to coerce citizens’ compliance in administering their lawful duties.
  • It is evident and problematic about legal interpretations of police officers’ duty to intervene is that a common-sense approach has not been clearly defined as standard practice in established statutory or constitutional requirements.
  • 50% of the largest 100 law enforcement departments have duty to intervene policies. Though it has been found that officers in police departments with more restrictive duty to intervene and use of force policies are less likely to be assaulted, injured or killed on the job, it cannot be assumed that intervention policies have been the cause.
Duty to Intervene

Recommendations:

The CJR Solution: Develop policies clearly establishing law enforcement officers’ lawful duty to intervene when other officers use of force exceeds the parameters of lawful restraint protocols. It is our position that an officer’s duty to protect has seamless alignment with their obligation to intervene. Failure in either duty is an exercise of deliberate indifference, and therefore a constitutional violation resulting from police officer misconduct. In the charge to advance police reform at the state, local, and federal level, CJR calls for:

• Clarification and legal guidance on the Supreme Court standing and departmental policies on the duty to intervene.

• The Department of Justice to create clear national standards establishing law enforcement officers’ duty to intervene.

• The enforcement of disciplinary actions when officers and administrators fail to abide by duty to intervene standards/requirements.

• The adoption of state and local laws/policies to ensure that every police officer and police agency understands the responsibility to intervene and stop the use of excessive and deadly force by fellow officers.

Duty to Intervene

Example Duty to Intervene Policies

• Baltimore Police Department Duty to Intervene Policy

• Cambridge Police Department Duty to Intervene Policy

• Houston Police Department Response to Resistance Policy

Duty to Intervene

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