The Issue of Use of Force by Law Enforcement Officers


Law enforcement officers and suspected criminals are human beings with the right to life. This aspect means that neither of the two parties has the authority to willingly cause harm to the other. However, policing work often involves critical circumstances that compel police officers to use force. The matter causes serious debates among the public, with the policing unit receiving significant blames. A large percentage of society members do not know that using force in the police is, at times, permissible by the law. On the other hand, some officers’ lack of understanding of basic anti-force application principles results in blind use of force, leading to gross harm. The idea of reasonable force application by the police is thus highly sensitive. A clear understanding of accepted and unaccepted conduct is essential among police officers and the public for effective community regulating relations. As such, the use of force by police officers is justifiable by precise principles and courts review that promote soldiers’ right to life and self-sufficiency.

Understanding the meaning of ‘force’ as applied in the law enforcement domain is crucial to appreciate it is applicability and importance in the sector. Oriola (2020) reiterates that the average American citizen thinks “force” application by police officers means killing a suspect, mostly a minority, due to police officers’ biases. The confusions are responsible for the numerous blind contestations between police officers and the public, often leading to fatalities. Oriola (2020) defines “force” as the degree of effort necessary for a police officer to oblige acquiescence by an indisposed subject. The definition implies the existence of a continuum of effort levels that a police officer can apply based on the situation and circumstances. Laws supporting force application by the officers thus acknowledge the variation in circumstances and the need for individual police members to assess the situation before resulting in applying force. Community policing is a contemporary method of countering crimes and works through friendly cooperation between law enforcement officers and members of the public (Oriola, 2020). Therefore, the appreciation of force utilization by the public and officers is necessary for an improved relationship between the two parties.

Law Enforcement Principles and their Justification of Force Application

The Principle of Necessity

Police officers work in significantly life-threatening situations that force them to operate differently. Enemark (2021) insists that the primary work of law enforcement officers is to foster order and promote public security by putting their lives and safety at risk at times. Police officers work by averting danger to the public through ways such as arresting lawbreakers, stopping terrorist attacks, and discouraging law breakage via community policing and patrolling initiatives. Many people in the wrong do not comply with the officers, forcing them to act differently. For example, arresting an offender inhibits the suspect’s right to freedom, pushing many people to oppose or evade apprehensions (Enemark, 2021). Other people even result to using force to decline arrests by the constables, with some even killing police personnel in the event of countering the soldiers’ security enforcement objectives. Similarly, running away after an arrest also amounts to law breakage, which people often commit, forcing the officers to apply a more stringent measures.

The principles of necessity, proportionality, and precaution form the basis of police officers’ use of force. The three decrees act within the jus cogens and force majeure philosophies and purpose to ensure that officers using excessive force do it only when no other option exists. The necessity code has three connected features that intend to promote law enforcement officers’ respect towards humanity and the rule of law. The elements include officers’ responsibility to practice non-violent operations wherever conceivable and the obligation to utilize strength only for a genuine law execution drive. The third tenet of the necessity principle is the liability for officers to employ only the slightest compulsory power that is sensible in the prevalent surroundings (Badalič, 2021). According to this first principle, it is a professional requirement that police officers employ only non-violent tactics to promote order before using physical force (Badalič, 2021). The code complies with the 1990s Basic Principles, which give officers the right to use energy and rifles only if alternative means stay unproductive or lack any capacity to attain the anticipated effect.

Using non-violent methods to promote law and order involves several practices, according to the necessity principle. For instance, acting non-violently includes using presence, police cars, uniform, body language, and verbal persuasion to prevent a crime or arrest a suspect (Badalič, 2021). The social learning theory posits that many people engage in crimes due to the availability of social circumstances that create room for offending without bearing the responsibility. The philosophy thus echoes the argument that officers’ presence, vehicles, uniforms, and other physical identities form adequate determent to criminal deeds. Moreover, the soldiers can use verbal persuasion to engage lawbreakers to stop a heinous act or to comply with an arrest if their presence fails to work. Newton (2018) says that non-violent interventions constitute police officers’ primary mode of crime intervention. However, the scholars employ the necessary code to show police officers need to use force whenever necessary. An incident where a suspect turns violent to the officer after an oral persuasion forms an excellent example of a situation where the necessity principle allows the soldier to use reasonable force.

The principle of necessity demands that every application of force by police officers must be for an authentic law implementation objective. Article 3 of the Code of Conduct clarifies that police officers may use power to the level mandatory for their duty’s performance, depending on the underlying circumstances (Newton, 2018). Nonetheless, the standard prohibits extrajudicial killings and discriminatory performances targeting parties exhibiting no resistance to arrest. Similarly, the necessity principle objects to all forms of discrimination charged by police officers toward members of minority groups. The code further demands that officers apply a force that is possibly minimum to avoid additional harm and preserve human dignity.

The Principle of Proportionality and Precaution

The proportionality principle works together with necessity and precaution to offer limited use of force by police officers. However, Enemark (2021) insists that the code of proportionality never means that soldiers must apply pressure on suspects. The force application continuum is a primary element in this principle and outlines different levels of power that officers can use based on immediate circumstances. Nonetheless, the proportionality principle emphasizes more on the reasonable maximum limit of power that officers can use, regardless of the situation. For example, the proportionality code objects to shooting an escaping suspect who does not pose a direct threat to the public. The officers in charge of such a situation need to analyze all the other possible ways to control the matter and preserve human dignity before using force. Khen (2019) posits that only the minimum necessary force is allowed by the proportionality principle, which reduces the extent of harm done by the officers to the public. The precaution law also reiterates the need for soldiers to plan policing operations in a way that reduces the possibility of using force.

Courts’ Review the Appropriateness of Police Use of Force

The use of force by American police officers affects legal case proceedings significantly. The provision of forcefully acquired evidence in the U.S. courts, for example, leads to the automatic termination of the case (Khen, 2019). Moreover, the use of excessive force is a significant reason for many American law enforcement officers’ stops, according to Badalič (2021). However, not all cases involving extreme force application end in the termination of a soldier’s termination. The U.S. judicial system uses the Graham doctrine to unravel cases involving excessive force utilization claims. The law looks at the reasonableness of employing force based on the prevailing circumstances and the officer’s credibility. Enemark (2021) says that the court compares the applied force relative to what a reasonable officer would do. Therefore, the legal system investigates the rationality and impartiality of the underlying factors instead of the individual officer’s intent to make the verdict.


In conclusion, the use of force by law enforcement officers is a legal aspect that promotes soldiers’ right to life and the unit’s autonomy. Laws controlling officers’ application of force purpose to promote integrity and uphold humanity. The anti-force utilization laws also acknowledge individual citizens’ right to life. However, the understanding that law enforcement officers are humans with the right to life makes it necessary to employ counter legislation that permits reasonable use of power by professionals. For example, using force to defend self and protect the public from an open threat is allowed by the law. The principles of necessity, proportionality, and precaution exist to curb the irresponsible use of excessive force by soldiers and to promote law enforcement agencies’ integrity.


Badalič, V. (2021). The war against vague threats: The redefinitions of imminent threat and anticipatory use of force. Security Dialogue, 52(2), 174–191. Web.

Enemark, C. (2021). Armed drones and ethical policing: risk, perception, and the tele-present officer. Criminal Justice Ethics, 40(2), 124–144. Web.

Khen, H. M. E. (2019). From Knives to Kites: Developments and dilemmas around the use of force in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict since ‘Protective Edge’. Journal of International Humanitarian Legal Studies, 10(2), 303-336. Web.

Newton, S. (2018). The excessive use of force against blacks in the United States of America. The International Journal of Human Rights, 22(8), 1067-1086. Web.

Oriola, T. B. (2020). Police use of force against minorities and academic chatter. Canadian Review of Sociology, 57(4), 721–724. Web.

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DemoEssays. "The Issue of Use of Force by Law Enforcement Officers." December 29, 2022.