Excessive Force in Central Virginia
Here is what we know so far. A man fell asleep in his Lynchburg home last weekend. His family was upstairs sleeping. It was after 1:00am. When two police officers saw his front door open, they suspected criminal activity and approached the home.
Things get fuzzy after that. The results, though, were clear. The owner of the home was shot three times in the leg by one or both of the officers. An investigation by the Virginia State Police is ongoing.
This is not a post about that incident, however. This is a post inspired by that incident to discuss the use of excessive police force. Once again, it must be said that it is not known if excessive force was used in last weekend’s incident described above. It is possible, however, and so the topic needs to be understood a little better.
Definition of Excessive Force:
The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), an agency of the Department of Justice, has attempted to maintain records on the use of excessive force since 1994. In order to track excessive force, it had to first be defined. According to the BJS, it is the “application of force beyond what is reasonably believed to be necessary to gain compliance from a subject in any given incident.”
The difficulty is that no two situations are equal. The boundary between the right amount of force and excessive force is usually up to interpretation. This has been evident to the general public, even when someone dies as a result of the force used. The names are famous: Walter Scott, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, and many more.
The National Institute of Justice uses a “use-of-force continuum” with five different levels ranging from “officer presence” with no force used to “lethal force” which kills the suspect. Somewhere on that continuum in every scenario is the line between reasonable and excessive force.
Frequency of Excessive Force:
The frequency of excessive force is largely unknown. The National Institute of Justice, cited above, says that no one is keeping consistent numbers on this subject. The BJS is trying, but no other agency is able to independently verify their findings.
That leaves us with other anecdotal studies. The International Association of Chiefs of Police conducted a task force study conducted the National Police Use of Force Database Project. It found that 0.44% of incidents between 1994-1998 were considered excessive. Other studies have produced similar numbers. While none of us know for sure, that number probably feels right to many.
Avoiding the Use of Excessive Force:
Both sides need to work together to avoid instances of excessive force. If you are in the presence of police, cooperate to the extent that you are legally required. Avoid saying or doing anything that would unnecessarily escalate a situation.
The police need to do their part, too. They need to avoid excessive force every single time. It is illegal. While perfection is difficult, when it comes to this subject, that should still be the goal. When the police make mistakes, they should also be held accountable in as similar a way as possible as the general public would be in the same situation.
Case Results Disclaimer:
Every legal matter is different. The outcome of each legal case depends upon many factors, including the facts of the case, and no attorney can guarantee a positive result in any particular case. The outcome of every case will depend on a variety of factors unique to each case and case results depicted here do not guarantee or predict a similar result in any future case.
Attorney/Client Relationship Disclaimer:
This website is designed for general information only. The information presented on this website should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of an attorney/client relationship.
Blog Content Disclaimer:
The blog posts contained on this website were written, in part, by a non-lawyer employee of Jordan B. Davies. However, each post has been carefully reviewed and edited by Jordan B. Davies to ensure legal accuracy and compliance with the Rules of Professional Conduct.