Law enforcement officers have a duty to intervene when they have an opportunity to prevent another officer from using unlawful force. That duty comes from multiple sources, including federal constitutional law, a new state statute, and, in some cases, agency policy. But what does the duty require in practice? Is verbal intervention enough, or must the officer attempt to intercede physically? What if the officer has competing obligations, such as keeping control of an unruly scene? And what should an officer do if he or she isn’t sure whether the amount of force another officer is using is appropriate? This post will address how officers and agencies might operationalize the duty to intervene. Continue reading
Tag Archives: law enforcement
State law now requires every law enforcement agency to implement an “early warning system.” What is an early warning system? Do such systems work? And what can small agencies do to comply with the law? Read on to learn more. Continue reading →
Last November, I blogged about recommendations from the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association for legislation that would enable hiring authorities, certifying commissions, and state prosecutors to learn of misconduct by officers, including untruthfulness, that would impair an officer’s credibility as a witness in a criminal prosecution and which must be disclosed to the defense. This type of information often is referred to as Giglio material, adopting the name of the first U.S. Supreme court case to apply a disclosure requirement to evidence relevant to impeaching a government witness, Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150 (1972).
This session, the General Assembly enacted legislation implementing some of the Association’s recommendations. Among the changes enacted by S.L. 2021-137 (S 536) and S.L. 2021-138 (S 300) are requirements that the certifying commission for an officer be notified when the officer is informed that he or she may not be called to testify at trial based on bias, interest, or lack of credibility. If the officer transfers to a new agency, the Criminal Justice Standards Division (in the case of State, municipal, company, and campus officers) or the Justice Officers’ Standards Division (in the case of deputy sheriffs, detention officers, and telecommunicators) must notify the head of the new agency and the elected district attorney in the prosecutorial district where the agency is located that the person has been previously notified that the person may not be called to testify at trial.
Last week, the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association released a 31-page Report on Law Enforcement Professionalism recommending numerous law enforcement reforms. The report, created by a working group formed after the killing of George Floyd and the public outcry for policing reform that followed, is part of “an effort to create a law enforcement profession that will not tolerate racism and excessive force by law enforcement, and that will hold North Carolina law enforcement to a high standard.” (Report at 5.) Changes are recommended for officer certification and de-certification, training, agency accreditation, use of force policy and data collection, and recruiting and retention. The document, which, among other things, contains the most comprehensive description of the training and education requirements for law enforcement officers I’ve ever seen, is worth reading in its entirety. This post focuses only on one aspect of the report: recommendations that would enable hiring authorities, certifying commissions and state prosecutors to learn of misconduct by officers, including untruthfulness, that would impair the officer’s credibility as a witness in criminal prosecutions and which must be disclosed to the defense.
Procedural justice and procedural fairness are terms that refer to the way legal authorities interact with the public and how those interactions shape the public’s view of those authorities. I first learned of this framework for evaluating those interactions in connection with my work with court officials. Researchers have determined that people’s assessments of their experiences in the court system are influenced more by how they are treated and how their cases are handled than by whether they win or lose. It turns out that the same principles apply to the public’s perception of law enforcement officers. And a perception of procedural justice may increase the public’s compliance with the law and their willingness to cooperate with officers.