Santa Fe, NM – The use of force by police officers has become controversial because of publicized incidents of abuse. While the police are trained regarding use of force protocols, they are generally supposed to reserve using force or violence only for the purposes of detaining dangerous suspects, then they should discontinue the use of force. When police go too far with violently detaining a suspect, they can seriously injure the person or even cause fatalities. Victims of police brutality and excessive use of force have the right to bring a civil lawsuit if they have been harmed.   

Training related to weapons and the use of force

All police academies in New Mexico and around the country have training to determine when the use of force is appropriate. This training includes an explanation of the legal standard used by courts for determining whether the officer was justified. A reasonable person or officer test is used to review their actions. The standard is supposed to rely on facts rather than an opinion given by any of the officers on the scene. This means that something like stating that the suspect was armed and dangerous can justify the use of force, while an officer saying that they felt threatened is not an objective justification.   

Officers may also be trained regarding their perceptions and how to handle stress in situations where force may be necessary. Law enforcement is a profession that is constantly placed in tense situations, and control of emotions is very important. These training sessions may include placing the trainee officers in situations that mimic scenarios they are likely to encounter on the streets. 

Using firearms on a suspect or during a dangerous situation

Police can use their firearms, but there should be a clear and imminent threat of violence and the loss of life. A situation where an armed suspect is about to shoot bystanders would likely be a justified use of force, while cases have consistently held that a suspect who is running away cannot be shot to be detained and brought into custody. Because the use of a firearm may possibly inflict lethal wounds, the officer needs to have a clear factual basis for needing to end a dangerous situation quickly. 

Civil lawsuits against the police

When an officer has violated their use of force protocols, the victim may sue them in civil court, or they may even face criminal charges. After an incident of police brutality, the victim should talk to a lawyer as soon as possible. 

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