The use of force by police officers is typically governed by a combination of laws, policies, and guidelines that vary from one jurisdiction to another. However, there are some general principles that apply to the context of the law in the United States.
- Self-Defense and Defense of Others: Police officers are generally allowed to use force, including lethal force, when they reasonably believe that their life or the life of another person is in imminent danger. This is typically referred to as the “use of force in self-defense” or “defense of others.”
- Arrest and Detention: Police officers may use force to effect an arrest or to detain a suspect when the person is resisting arrest, attempting to flee, or posing a threat to themselves or others. The amount of force used should be proportional to the threat presented.
- Prevention of Escapes: Police may use force, including deadly force, in certain circumstances to prevent a suspect from escaping custody if the suspect poses a significant risk to the safety of the public or the officers.
- Use of Non-Lethal Force: In many situations, police are trained to use non-lethal force options, such as tasers, pepper spray, batons, or physical restraint techniques, to subdue individuals who are non-compliant or pose a threat without resorting to deadly force.
- Warrant Execution: Police officers may use force when executing a search warrant or arrest warrant, but such force must be reasonable and in accordance with the law.
- Use of Deadly Force: The use of deadly force is typically subject to the highest level of scrutiny. In many jurisdictions, it is allowed only when there is an immediate threat of death or serious bodily harm to the officer or others. The principle of “reasonable belief” often applies, meaning that the officer must reasonably believe that such force is necessary to protect life.