New Jersey Use of Force Policy – Policy Critique

The New Jersey use of Force Policy was introduced in April 1985 and revised in June 2000. The New Jersey Advisory Committee found it important to put in place policy that guides the use of force by the law enforcers since the law alone was not enough. The policy served as guideline that helps the law enforcers to act appropriately when confronted with a situation that required the use of force (Attorney Generals’ Office, 2001). This policy grants the sworn law enforcement officers the extraordinary authority to use force where necessary to execute a lawful order. The extend of force applied by the law enforcer must comply with the laws of the States of New Jersey and the provisions of this policy. The use of Force Policy also obligates the law enforcement to train an individual officer to execute their mandate appropriately.

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While the use of Force Policy mandates the police to use justifiable force, it also requires the police to exercise utmost restraint in such situations. The applicability of this policy should not be interpreted to mean the police can use force as routine while going about their daily duties. The use of Force Policy further obligates the police to use force only that is reasonably necessary. This ensure that police officer do not misuse force in a situation that do not require the use of force. As a guidance, the policy requires the police officers and other law enforcement agencies to exhaust all available means before choosing to use force. Therefore, the use of Force Policy of the State of New Jersey mandates the law enforcers to only use which is necessary and objectively reasonable.

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The analysis of use of Force Policy showed that the law was enough to tame the law enforcers from using excessive or unjustifiable force in their line duty. In addition, the policy requires every law enforcer to take appropriate action upon realizing that fellow law enforcement officer is using excessive force that violate the state law. It obligates all the law enforcement officers to document and report all incident that necessitate the use of illegal force in their line of duty. This means that the use of Force Policy does not only give extraordinary powers to the law enforcement officer to use reasonable force, it also requires them to observe their fellow officers not to use illegal force that violates the state law (Attorney Generals’ Office, 2001). The policy encourages the law enforcement officers to stop their fellow officers from using excessive force by averting the situation and taking the necessary measure that prevent the use of unnecessary and unreasonable force.

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 Whether to use reasonable force as the official conduct of their responsibilities is a critical step taken by the law enforcement officers considering that such decision requires to made quickly under challenging situations and in unpredictable and unique circumstance. This policy gives the law enforcement officers the discretion to make such a decision in the broad range of possibilities (Attorney Generals’ Office, 2001). As a result, appropriate exercise of utmost restraint and sound judgement serves as the guiding principle to the police officers. The use of Force Policy was designed to provide the law enforcement officers with the guidance and appropriate direction when confronted by the difficult situations. Further analysis showed that the law enforcement officers that conduct themselves under the confines of the state law and the provisions of this policy receives a lot of support from the law enforcement community.

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For instance, this policy allows the law enforcement officers to use physical or mechanical force only when the officer is convinced that it is necessary and reasonable to use the force at the time. The officer can use the necessary and reasonable force when faced with the following situation:

  • To overcome resistance directed at the officer or others or
  • To protect the officer, or a third party, from unlawful force or
  • To protect property or
  • To effect other lawful objectives such as to make an arrest.

The use of Force Policy further allows the law enforcement officers to use deadly force only when the life of the fellow officer or another person is in imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm (Attorney Generals’ Office, 2001). The policy clearly states that a law enforcement officer may utilize deadly force to neutralize a suspect from escaping. The officer must justify that the fleeing suspected must have committed an offense that causes serious bodily harm or death. The suspect poses imminent danger or seriously bodily harm if manages to escape and that the use of deadly forces does not possess any risk to the innocent person. Before using a deadly force, the officer is obligated to identify him/herself to the suspect and the intentions to shoot.

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However, the use of Force Policy restricts the law enforcement officer from using the deadly force. For instance, the policy restricts the officer from using the deadly force if there is another alternative means that can avert the imminent dangers or serious bodily harm. Further, the policy restricts the officers from using deadly force to subdue the suspects whose actions aims at destroying the property.

The strength of this policy is that officers that fails to observe the provision are held responsible and can be dismissed or relieved from their duties. In cases where the officers are accused of serious crime such as murder of innocent or causing badly harm to the suspects, they are judged in the court of law for violating the state law and misuse of firearm. As a result, the review of this policy helps the law enforcement officers to effectively manage the use of force in their line of duty. This policy also has some weaknesses since it is the law enforcement themselves that are required to implement it. As a result, some officers have managed to go unpunished for using excessive force. For instance, a rogue officer is covered up by his fellow officer for using unreasonable force. Although body won cameras was introduced as one of the measures to monitor how the police officer conduct themselves while carrying out their daily duties, only incidents that are captured by the public cameras are prosecuted. Some body worn cameras fails to capture the full details of the situation because the officers either fails to turn on their cameras. These are some of the loop holes that the policy should focus on addressing. Also, the policy should be revised to address the issues of using unproportionate force on the minority groups because they are perceived to be criminals. Recent develops in the United States showed high cases of police shooting on African America and some of the victims were shoot without justifiable reason. The policy should be redesign to address such issues in the society in order to enhance law enforcement-community trust.

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