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Police Use of Force Issues


Law enforcement use of force policies and actions are in the news once again—or, more appropriately, they have again been catapulted to the top of the news from the simmering hotplates they’ve occupied for decades.  Another black man, George Floyd, was killed after officers ignored his pleas for relief from restraint, saying he could not breathe.  It was one more example of police use of force that highlights the concerns of citizens across the country.  If you or a loved one has suffered excessive force at the hands of law enforcement, an experienced local attorney should be consulted immediately.

Details of the Case 

According to various sources, police were responding to reports in Minnesota that Floyd was using a forged check  or counterfeit money in a store.  It’s unclear what led to the restraint tactics being used against Floyd, but video recordings show an officer with his knee on Floyd’s neck as onlookers asked for mercy and several other officers on-scene did nothing.  Shortly thereafter, Floyd was dead.

Is This America? 

A poignant response to the incident in The New Yorker cannot be summarized artfully enough; the direct quote is:

The video of Floyd’s death is horrific but not surprising; terrible but not unusual, depicting a kind of incident that is periodically reënacted in the United States. 

Perhaps the sense of inevitability here comes from a long history of violence against black men and boys, going back as far as the Tulsa Race Massacre in 1921 and the countless instances before that, and culminating in recent occurrences in Ferguson involving Michael Brown, in New York involving Eric Garner, and now, in Minneapolis, involving George Floyd.


Dangerous criminals must be dealt with.  No question. Were these individuals posing a threat to society?  Was the response appropriate for the circumstances?  Was officer safety a concern?  These questions, and others, are all worthy of serious contemplation.  Johns Hopkins Police Department (JHPD) notes that force is sometimes required on the job, such as when a suspect is trying to harm or kill someone.  When a person resists arrest, officers sometimes must use unpleasant tactics in order to subdue a suspect.  But how far does that go?

Local Policy 

In Baltimore, a use-of-force policy has emerged with 11 key components, to be taught using classroom training and mock scenarios to prepare officers for dangerous situations.  The core tactics include:

  • Deescalation;
  • Investigation of use-of-force incidents;
  • Stops and searches;
  • Firearms training and use;
  • Pursuit policies.

The goal is to give officers the capacity to employ safe and successful tactics when interacting with the community.

JHPD uses these guiding principals to guide officer responses to critical situations:

  • Safeguard human life/dignity;
  • Use proportionate use of force;
  • Intervene when you see another officer using excessive force;
  • Deal with matters transparently and accept accountability;
  • Train officers thoroughly.


Holding police departments accountable when they have officers cross the line from appropriate to excessive use of force is essential in moving this country forward.  At the Law Office of Hasson D. Barnes, our Baltimore criminal & civil litigation attorneys are dedicated to doing precisely that. If you have concerns about a local police incident, contact our office for a confidential consultation today.







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