USE OF FORCE
Use of Force Policy
Issued April 1985
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The provisions of this
revised policy are a product of the collective efforts and judgment
of the New Jersey Use of Force Advisory Committee. Throughout
the deliberation process, each member of the committee worked
conscientiously to reach a consensus in this area of critical
importance to law enforcement officers and the citizens of this
state. The New Jersey Use of Force Advisory Committee realized
that the law alone could not achieve the goal of properly guiding
the use of force by the police. The letter of the law needed to
be supplemented with clear policy guidance designed to prepare
officers to react appropriately when confronted with a use of
Sworn law enforcement
officers have been granted the extraordinary authority to use
force when necessary to accomplish lawful ends. That authority
is grounded in the responsibility of every sworn law enforcement
officer to comply with the laws of the State of New Jersey regarding
the use of force and to comply with the provisions of this policy.
Equally important is law enforcement's obligation to prepare individual
officers in the best way possible to exercise that authority.
In situations where
law enforcement officers are justified in using force, the utmost
restraint should be exercised. The use of force should never be
considered routine. In determining to use force, the law enforcement
officer shall be guided by the principle that the degree of force
employed in any situation should be only that reasonably necessary.
Law enforcement officers should exhaust all other reasonable means
before resorting to the use of force. It is the policy of the
State of New Jersey that law enforcement officers will use only
that force which is objectively reasonable and necessary.
This policy reinforces
the responsibility of law enforcement officers to take those steps
possible to prevent or stop the illegal or inappropriate use of
force by other officers. Every law enforcement officer is expected
and required to take appropriate action in any situation where
that officer is clearly convinced that another officer is using
force in violation of state law.
Law enforcement officers
are obligated to report all situations in which force is used
illegally by anyone. This policy sends a clear message to law
enforcement officers that they share an obligation beyond the
requirements of the law. Officers are encouraged to do whatever
they can to interrupt the flow of events before a fellow officer
does something illegal and before any official action is necessary.
Law enforcement officers can serve each other and the public by
simply saying or doing the right thing to prevent a fellow officer
from resorting to force illegally or inappropriately.
Deciding whether to
utilize force when authorized in the conduct of official responsibilities
is among the most critical decisions made by law enforcement officers.
It is a decision which can be irrevocable. It is a decision which
must be made quickly and under difficult, often unpredictable
and unique circumstances. Sound judgment and the appropriate exercise
of discretion will always be the foundation of police officer
decisionmaking in the broad range of possible use of force situations.
It is not possible to entirely replace judgment and discretion
with detailed policy provisions. Nonetheless, this policy is intended
to provide the best guidance and direction possible to police
officers throughout this state when called upon to confront and
address the most difficult of situations. Law enforcement officers
whose actions are consistent with the law and the provisions of
this policy will be strongly supported by the law enforcement
community in any subsequent review of their conduct regarding
the use of force.
1. Constructive authority
does not involve actual physical contact with the subject, but involves
the use of the law enforcement officer's authority to exert control
over a subject.
2. Examples include
verbal commands, gestures, warnings, and unholstering a weapon.
3. Pointing a firearm
at a subject is an element of constructive authority to be used
only in appropriate situations.
B. Physical Contact
1. Physical contact
involves routine or procedural contact with a subject necessary
to effectively accomplish a legitimate law enforcement objective.
2. Examples include
guiding a subject into a police vehicle, holding the subject's arm
while transporting, handcuffing a subject and maneuvering or securing
a subject for a frisk.
C. Physical Force
1. Physical force involves contact
with a subject beyond that which is generally utilized to effect
an arrest or other law enforcement objective. Physical force is
employed when necessary to overcome a subject's physical resistance
to the exertion of the law enforcement officer's authority, or to
protect persons or property.
2. Examples include wrestling a resisting
subject to the ground, using wrist locks or arm locks, striking
with the hands or feet, or other similar methods of hand-to-hand
D. Mechanical Force
1. Mechanical force involves the
use of some device or substance, other than a firearm, to overcome
a subject's resistance to the exertion of the law enforcement officer's
2. Examples include the use of a
baton or other object, canine physical contact with a subject, or
chemical or natural agent spraying.
E. Deadly Force
1. Deadly force is force which a
law enforcement officer uses with the purpose of causing, or which
the officer knows to create a substantial risk of causing, death
or serious bodily harm.
2. Purposely firing a firearm in the
direction of another person or at a vehicle, building or structure
in which another person is believed to be constitutes deadly force.
3. A threat to cause death or serious
bodily harm, by the production of a weapon or otherwise, so long
as the officer's purpose is limited to creating an apprehension
that deadly force will be used if necessary, does not constitute
F. Reasonable Belief
1. Reasonable belief is an objective
assessment based upon an evaluation of how a reasonable law enforcement
officer with comparable training and experience would react to,
or draw inferences from, the facts and circumstances confronting
and known by the law enforcement officer at the scene.
G. Imminent Danger
1. Imminent danger describes threatened
actions or outcomes that may occur during an encounter absent action
by the law enforcement officer. The period of time involved is dependent
on the circumstances and facts evident in each situation and is
not the same in all situations.
2. The threatened harm does not have
to be instantaneous, for example, imminent danger may be present
even if a subject is not at that instant pointing a weapon at the
law enforcement officer, but is carrying a weapon and running for
H. Substantial Risk
1. Any discharge of a firearm entails
some risk of an unintended outcome. A substantial risk exists when
a law enforcement officer disregards a foreseeable likelihood that
innocent persons will be endangered.
2. For example, firing a weapon into
a confined space (room, vehicle, etc.) occupied by innocent persons
exposes those persons to a substantial risk of harm.
I. Law Enforcement Officer
1. Any person sworn to enforce the
criminal laws of the State of New Jersey, who is certified by the
Police Training Commission, or is currently employed by a public
safety agency and is authorized to carry a firearm under N.J.S.A.
A. Use of Force
1. A law enforcement officer may use
physical force or mechanical force when the officer reasonably believes
it is immediately necessary at the time:
a. to overcome resistance directed
at the officer or others; or
b. to protect the officer, or a
third party, from unlawful force; or
c. to protect property; or
d. to effect other lawful objectives,
such as to make an arrest.
B. Use of Deadly Force
1. A law enforcement officer may use
deadly force when the officer reasonably believes such action is
immediately necessary to protect the officer or another person from
imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm.
2. A law enforcement officer may
use deadly force to prevent the escape of a fleeing suspect
a. whom the officer has probable
cause to believe has committed an offense in which the suspect
caused or attempted to cause death or serious bodily harm; and
b. who will pose an imminent danger
of death or serious bodily harm should the escape succeed; and
c. when the use of deadly force
presents no substantial risk of injury to innocent persons.
3. If feasible, a law enforcement
officer should identify himself/herself and state his/her intention
to shoot before using a firearm.
C. Restrictions On The
Use of Deadly Force
1. A law enforcement officer is under
no obligation to retreat or desist when resistance is encountered
or threatened. However, a law enforcement officer shall not resort
to the use of deadly force if the officer reasonably believes that
an alternative to the use of deadly force will avert or eliminate
an imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm, and achieve
the law enforcement purpose at no increased risk to the officer
or another person.
2. A law enforcement officer shall
not use deadly force to subdue persons whose actions are only destructive
3. Deadly force shall not be used
against persons whose conduct is injurious only to themselves.
4. Under current state statutes the
discharge of any projectile from a firearm is considered to be deadly
force, including less lethal means such as bean bag ammunition or
rubber bullets. For that reason, these and similar less lethal means
of deadly force can only be used when an officer reasonably believes
such action is immediately necessary to protect the officer or another
person from imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm.
5. A law enforcement officer shall
not discharge a weapon as a signal for help or as a warning shot.
6. While any discharge of a firearm
entails some risk, discharging a firearm at or from a moving vehicle
entails an even greater risk of death or serious injury to innocent
persons. The safety of innocent people is jeopardized when a fleeing
suspect is disabled and loses control of his or her vehicle. There
is also a substantial risk of harm to occupants of the suspect vehicle
who may not be involved, or involved to a lesser extent, in the
actions which necessitated the use of deadly force.
a. Due to this greater risk, and
considering that firearms are not generally effective in bringing
moving vehicles to a rapid halt, officers shall not fire from
a moving vehicle, or at the driver or occupant of a moving vehicle
unless the officer reasonably believes:
(1) there exists an imminent danger
of death or serious bodily harm to the officer or another person;
(2) no other means are available
at that time to avert or eliminate the danger.
b. A law enforcement officer shall
not fire a weapon solely to disable moving vehicles.
D. Exhibiting a Firearm
1. A law enforcement officer shall
not unholster or exhibit a firearm except under any of the following
a. For maintenance of the firearm;
b. To secure the firearm;
c. During training exercises, practice
or qualification with the firearm;
d. When circumstances create a reasonable
belief that it may be necessary for the officer to use the firearm;
e. When circumstances create a
reasonable belief that display of a firearm as an element of constructive
authority helps establish or maintain control in a potentially
dangerous situation in an effort to discourage resistance and
ensure officer safety.
A. Every law enforcement agency is
required to conduct and document semi-annual training for all officers
on the lawful and appropriate use of force and deadly force. This
training must be designed to reflect current standards established
by statutory and case law, as well as statewide, county and individual
agency policy. It should include but not necessarily be limited
to the use of force in general, the use of physical and mechanical
force, the use of deadly force, and the limitations that govern
the use of force and deadly force.
Use of Force Reports
A. In all instances when physical,
mechanical or deadly force is used, each officer who has employed
such force shall complete
1. Any reports made necessary by
the nature of the underlying incident; and
2. Use of Force Report (Attachment
A or agency required format)
Notifications and Reporting
A. Immediate Notifications
1. County and municipal law enforcement
agencies shall immediately notify the county prosecutor when the
use of physical, mechanical or deadly force results in death or
serious bodily injury, or when injury of any degree results from
the use of a firearm by a law enforcement officer.
2. County prosecutor's offices shall
immediately notify the Division of Criminal Justice when a member
of their agency uses physical, mechanical or deadly force which
results in death or serious bodily injury, or when injury of any
degree results from the use of a firearm by agency personnel.
3. State law enforcement agencies
shall immediately notify the Division of Criminal Justice when
the use of physical, mechanical or deadly force results in death
or serious bodily injury, or when injury of any degree results
from the use of a firearm by a law enforcement officer.
1. County prosecutors shall within
24 hours report to the Division of Criminal Justice all situations
where the use of deadly force by a law enforcement officer results
in death or serious bodily injury, or in situations where any
injury results from the use of a firearm by a law enforcement
2. For all situations involving
the use of physical, mechanical or deadly force, county and municipal
law enforcement agencies shall report at least annually to the
county prosecutor in a manner established by the prosecutor.
3. For all situations involving
the use of physical, mechanical or deadly force, state law enforcement
agencies shall report at least annually to the Division of Criminal
Justice in a manner established by the Director of the Division
of Criminal Justice.
-- Model Use of Force Report and Chart
(See PDF Version for both Attachments)