What You Need to Know About Reasonable Force

National Police Training
January 15, 2013 — 1,484 views  
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Sometimes force is necessary to protect oneself from harm. Law enforcement personnel also need to use it sometimes in order to bring in offenders. The amount of force used only for defensive purpose is called reasonable force and if it exceeds this limit, then it would no longer be eligible to be called reasonable.

Understanding Reasonable Force

In the US, reasonable force is defined as the amount of force required to defend oneself, another person, or property from harm caused by violence, theft, or other types of criminal attack. It can be used to defend oneself in a criminal trial. People have often questioned the authority of law enforcement officers in terms of using force, because there is a very thin line between reasonable force and excessive force, which is considered disagreeable. This is because different people like law makers, civilians, human rights activists etc, differ in their opinions of how excessive force is different from reasonable force.

When Reasonable Force is Necessary

Reasonable force is almost always required in law enforcement. When protecting something or someone, law enforcement personnel may need to use force. More force may be permitted in order for protecting a person’s life than for protecting property from harm. Also, officers may need to exercise force in order to make an arrest if the offender is putting up a fight and won’t give in quietly. If the officer believes that there is a possible risk of the criminal escaping, he can use reasonable force too.

If the offender is carrying weapons and there is a threat that those weapons will be used, an officer can use reasonable force to prevent it. If there is a potential risk for public injury, law enforcement personnel are permitted to use reasonable force to control such injury. Based on the experience of the officer and the seriousness of the offense, it may be appropriate to use reasonable force for other exigent offenses also.

When Reasonable Force is Unreasonable

When more force is used than necessary, this is known as excessive force. If there is no need for self or public defense, yet force is used to affect an arrest, it might be called unreasonable. Sometimes, some officers abuse their authority and use force unreasonably. Offenders are attacked by the officers even after they have been captured or handcuffed and thus rendered helpless. The law enforcement personnel should start with small amounts of force and progressively increase the amount if the offender cannot be controlled.

If the offender is injured due to the use of force, then it becomes unreasonable. If there is a trespasser who leaves the property within a reasonable time, then there is no reason to use force. Also, the training and experience of the officer should be taken into consideration when using force. If there is no lawful objective for resorting to force, then using force is unreasonable.

To wrap up, it can be said that force can be used depending upon the situation; just because an officer has the authority, he should not abuse it. Force should always be used responsibly and if not so, then it should be reported to the higher authority.

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