AG Merrick Garland Releases New Use of Force Policy for Federal Agents

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The Justice Department updated its use of force policy for the first time in 18 years, telling federal agents they have a duty to intervene if they see other law enforcement officials laws to use excessive force – a change that follows years of protests over police killings. .

The new policy is outlined in a memo released Friday by Attorney General Merrick Garland, which was circulated among federal law enforcement officials on Monday.

The Washington Post reviewed a copy of the four-page memo addressed to the heads of the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Drug Enforcement Administration, US Marshals Service and Bureau of Prisons. Garland wrote in the memo that the guidelines are intended to keep the official policies of these agencies, which are branches of the Department of Justice, up to date with current federal law enforcement training and practices.

“Officers will be trained and must recognize and act upon the affirmative duty to intervene to restrain or prevent, as the case may be, any officer from using excessive force or any other use of force that violates the Constitution, to other federal laws or departmental policies on reasonable use of force,” the memo reads.

Politics, which is slated to go into effect July 19, does not obligate state and local police — or federal law enforcement agencies outside of the Justice Department — follow a similar standard.

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The language of “duty to intervene” grew out of recommendations made years ago by law enforcement groups. The change comes nearly two years after the 2020 death of George Floyd, a Minneapolis man who died below the knee of a local police officer, as other officers looked on. By Friday, the Justice Department’s use of force policy had not been updated since 2004.

Garland’s memo makes it clear that federal law enforcement officers also have a duty to act if they see someone in need of medical attention, stating, “Officers will be trained and must recognize and act on the affirmative duty to seek and/or render medical assistance, as appropriate, when needed.

Larry Cosme, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, said the policy did not stem from one particular incident, but rather was part of a larger and longer effort to update the rules and guidelines of federal law enforcement.

“It’s the modernization of policing, and you need to update the policies to reflect what’s happening in our country,” Cosme said. “Every officer who is a good officer is always going to try to do their job to the best of their abilities, and that reinforces what the men and women of federal law enforcement are already doing.”

More generally, the memo sets out what the Justice Department considers best law enforcement practices, repeating past directives that officers should not fire their weapons at people just because fleeing, or shooting at vehicles just to stop them.

The policy also states that deadly force should not be used “against persons whose actions pose a threat solely to themselves or their property, unless an individual is in imminent danger of death or serious physical injury.” for the officer or others nearby”.

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The tone of Garland’s memo also departs from the 2004 version, which states, in plain, shorter language, that officers “may only use lethal force when necessary, that is- that is, when the officer has a reasonable belief that the subject of such force poses an imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury to the officer or another person.”

Garland’s memo, on the other hand, states, “It is the policy of the Department of Justice to value and preserve human life. Officers may only use objectively reasonable force to effectively gain control of an incident, while protecting the safety of the officer and others.

“Officers may only use force when no reasonably effective, safe and practicable alternative appears to exist and may only use the level of force that a reasonable officer at the scene would use in the same or similar circumstances,” the official said. memo.

Echoing the new priorities of many law enforcement agencies, Garland’s memo also encourages officers and agents to prioritize de-escalation confrontations and undergo training “in de-escalation tactics and techniques designed to obtain voluntary compliance from a subject prior to the use of force, and such tactics and techniques should be employed if they are objectively feasible and would not increase danger to the officer or the others.

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