All police departments around the country do actively educate and train their officers about when the use of force is appropriate. Unfortunately, once officers are out on the streets this seems to be relegated to mere academics. Police beatings are still very common, even though these protocols are designed to prevent injury and restrict the use of force to situations where it is absolutely necessary for protection.

An event was held in Santa Clarita, California where some officers discussed relevant use of force policies with members of the public for educational purposes.

Dialogue with the public about the use of force

Police officers from the Los Angeles County Sheriff that also serve Santa Clarita were involved in a discussion with a civilian panel regarding when the use of force is reasonable. Their test for when the use of force is “objectively reasonable” gives a number of factors to be considered. These include the severity of the underlying crime, the level of threat the suspects carries to those nearby, and whether the suspect is actively resisting. Academy and practical training also encourages officers to use means such as tactical communications, warnings, and common sense to prevent the need to use force when possible. They are also educated regarding unreasonable force, and told that any force that is determined to be unreasonable based on the circumstances is prohibited. Procedures are in place to either discipline or prosecute officers who are found to have used unreasonable force while on duty. In general, they are told that any level of force should only be used as a last resort, and limited to the minimal amount necessary to secure a situation.

About 186 out of the 880 hours of police training in academies is reserved for use of force training.

What happens with these policies in practice?

Police brutality policies are mostly used by those who defend the police to help justify their actions. While generic claims are often made about concerns for public safety and minimizing injuries to those who are detained, there have been a number of incidents where departments have concluded that lethal or excessive force was permitted in situations with little to no risk of violence. In other words, discipline against officers who violate these policies tends to be arbitrary.

The problem with these kinds of standards is that they are purposely left vague to give police officers a high level of discretion in the field. The factor of a suspect resisting is also commonly abused by police, as they will verbally accuse a suspect of resisting even when it is obviously not happening to justify the use of force. The news has been filled with incidents that show the wide latitude given to police, as even shootings or beatings of unarmed victims sometimes go unpunished.

How do use of force determinations affect a lawsuit?

After an incident of violence, each individual use of force needs to be reviewed by the department to determine if the officer’s actions were justified. In most cases a lawsuit can be filed if a person was injured, even if the department claims that an officer’s conduct was appropriate based on their use of force protocols. This determination does not affect a person’s ability to sue.

Even when officers are cleared of any wrongdoing based on use of force policies, a skilled lawyer who deals with police misconduct can use relevant evidence from surveillance, body cameras, or medical records to show that an officer caused unnecessary injury to a victim during an arrest or investigation. Thankfully for victims, the burden of proof to win a civil judgment in court is different from the administrative standards in use of force protocols. The courtroom setting also allows an impartial judge and jury to decide if police force was necessary, rather than letting an officer’s superiors make the determination.

Talk to a police brutality lawyer in Santa Clarita

If you believe that the police violated their use of force protocols when interacting with you in Santa Clarita, Los Angeles County, or anywhere else in California, there is help available. A local lawyer who specializes in police brutality cases in the state can speak with you and provide further assistance based on your specific injuries.