As the old adage goes, the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. This is true on many levels, up to and including police officers. All too often bad guys with guns are able to inflict great harm on society and do so with impunity because they not only have a gun, but a badge as well.
Because citizens will usually be arrested or killed for attempting to stop a bad cop, we are forced to rely on law enforcement to police themselves. This has proven to be an epic failure. Fortunately, however, the times are changing thanks to public outcry and many officers are now required to be the good guy and stop their fellow bad guy.
This week, the Justice Department announced an update to its use of force policy. It is the first update in 18 years and their policy now explicitly lays out the details requiring officers to step in if their fellow officer or agent is using excessive force.
Attorney General Merrick Garland outlined the new policy in a memo sent to Justice leaders over the weekend. The new rules apply to all law enforcement under the federal umbrella including the FBI, DEA, ATF and U.S. Marshals Service.
The policy focuses on use of force, de-escalation and the duty to intervene.
It is the policy of the Department of Justice to value and preserve human life. Officers may use only the force that is objectively reasonable to effectively gain control of an incident, while protecting the safety of the officer and others, in keeping with the standards set forth in Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989). Officers may use force only when no reasonably effective, safe, and feasible alternative appears to exist and may use only the level of force that a reasonable officer on the scene would use under the same or similar circumstances.
After detailing the use of force and training in de-escalation, the police explicitly states the officer’s affirmative duty to intervene.
Officers will be trained in, and must recognize and act upon, the affirmative duty to intervene to prevent or stop, as appropriate, any officer from engaging in excessive force or any other use of force that violates the Constitution, other federal laws, or Department policies on the reasonable use of force.
Not coincidentally, the policy was announced just days before the anniversary of George Floyd’s death which could have been prevented had there been any good guys with guns around to stop Dereck Chauvin. Sadly, there were none.
Since Floyd’s murder rocked the nation two years ago, across the country police departments and municipalities have passed legislation requiring cops to intervene if they see their fellow officer — like Derek Chauvin — committing a crime or violating someone’s rights.
As TFTP reported last year, former Buffalo Police Officer, Cariol Horne has been fighting for her pension since she was fired after 19 years on the force, over an incident in 2006 when she stopped a fellow officer from choking a handcuffed suspect. For her heroic actions, instead getting rewarded and allowed to retire, Horne was beaten and fired.
However, in April 2021, Horne received her full pension thanks to a shift in the paradigm that used to protect bad cops. Last year, Buffalo Common Council approved three resolutions in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the recent protests against police brutality. One of the resolutions enforces the city’s “duty to intervene” policy, which mandates that officers intervene if they see another officer using excessive force — effectively justifying Horne’s intervention.
Other municipalities have made similar moves, like Chicago’s “Bad Apple Act” that makes cops liable for failing to intervene if such a deprivation of rights is occurring in front of them.
As more municipalities and state governments make this move — and good cops actually follow it — the divide between the police and the policed could finally begin to shrink. And we can finally start to have conversations about law enforcement’s role in drug use and other victimless crimes for which they should have none.