Officers currently lack guidance about when force is necessary as well as what tactics and maneuvers are appropriate. The Supreme Court’s interpretations of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution provide the only national standard for police officer use of force. The standard loosely authorizes force that is “reasonable under the totality of circumstances.” Most states have enacted use of force standards but few provide more guidance than the Supreme Court rule and an increasing number of state courts have incorporated the federal framework into state jurisprudence. Some police departments provide more explicit restrictions on when force can be used but these rules provide only piecemeal protection to civilians and are not legally binding.
Absent clear, legally enforceable guideposts, communities, in particular communities of color and people with disabilities, are vulnerable to serious injury and death in situations that should be deescalated. State legislation limiting force will protect members of the public from unwarranted physical harm.