Policy Critique: New Jersey Use of Force Policy
According to the Division of Criminal Justice (2001) the police officers in New Jersey are permitted the authority to apply force or aggression in the pursuit of law and order in their areas of jurisdiction. Nevertheless, the use of such force is based on the officers’ understanding and compliance to the established laws of New Jersey on how force should be applied. As a consequence of this, the police commission in New Jersey is tasked with the responsibility of making sure that all their officers are adequately trained and prepared for crime scenes in which use of force is inevitable. In the event that the police officers in New Jersey have no other option but to use force in deterring crime, it is advised that they do it with as much caution and restraint as they possibly can. The use of force should be avoided as much as possible and only resorted to when there is no other option; the police officers should also possess enough aptitude to gauge the level of force that is necessary in different circumstances.
There are strengths and weaknesses of this policy. The most obvious weakness is the fact that at times, the police officers may use force illegally. Some officers may opt to use force in order to pursue personal interests. In such cases, they are perceived as breaking the law and losing their professionalism, and can be charged in a court of law. The police officers in New Jersey are thus expected to be each other’s keepers and ensure that their colleagues do not apply force illegally. It has also been arguing that allowing the police officers to be armed or use force in their line of duty is ineffective in managing the main issues underlying high rates of crime in many modern societies. In addition to this, the use of force by armed officers may cause harm to innocent civilians suspected of being criminals. An advantage of this force policy is that it is very effective in deterring crime. In addition to this, by using force and being armed, the police officers are allowed to protect themselves from the dangers they are exposed to daily in their line of duty. More over, the public feels more protected when they know that their officers are well armed and can forcefully counter any attacks from criminals if necessary (Division of Criminal Justice, 2001).
According to Corzine and Milgram (2008) the use less-lethal cartridge by the New Jersey police force is part of the use state’s of force policy. The governor and attorney general of New Jersey State, on the 19th of March 2008 a new guiding principle was endorsed to direct the police department’s utilization of the less-lethal impact bullets when handling suspected criminals. According to N.J.S.A. 2C:3-11(f) less lethal ammunition describes the projectiles made available to police officers by the attorney general’s office in New jersey to be used in making a suspect temporarily unconscious or causing them uneasiness or ache for some time so as to prevent their criminal activities and apprehend them. The main point is that the projectiles should not enter the suspect’s body. This policy is only applicable when directed to persons as indicated in N.J.S.A. 2C:3-11(f); it is also specific to ammunitions and not any other form of less lethal force. Regardless of the less lethal projectiles being designed in a manner which does not allow them to go into the body of targeted victims, they still have a propensity to cause death or grave injury to the victim depending on the victims locomotion during the confrontation or failings in their physical health which weaken and make the more susceptible to death from the impact of less lethal ammunition.
New Jersey Office of the Attorney General (2010) asserts that there are certain characteristics that the less-lethal projectiles should portray for them to be utilized; firstly, they musty be designed in a manner that allows them to target one suspect at a time and from a specified range of deployment. New Jersey State accepts the projectiles that are manufactured to be deployed from a 37-40mm rifled bore system, a 12 gauge shotgun or a paintball device with a bore diameter of .68-.691 inch fraction. There are several projectiles that are acceptable in the state. Under the Defense technology Corporation, permitted40mm Direct Impact OC and sponge rounds 40mm XM 1006. There are other less lethal ammunitions which are described under the categories of combined tactical systems; A. L. S. incorporated technologies and Lightfield less lethal research. There are several laid down guidelines on when an armed officer in New Jersey may or may not utilize the less lethal projectiles. The situations which warrant such usage include when an armed suspected or one suspected to be in possession of a deadly weapons in uncooperative and refuses to disarm. An officer may also use the projectiles on an individual with self-destructive mannerisms so as to avoid their taking their own lives or causing themselves injury.
According to Division of Criminal Justice (2001), there are some situations in which the use of less lethal ammunition is unwarranted. A police officer, for example, is not allowed to use the projectiles in stopping the flight of a suspected criminal unless it is evident that the suspect has intentions of causing injury or death to the officer or innocent civilians. In addition to this, the less lethal weapons are not fashioned to be used in the control or management of a large number of people unless it is necessary to stop the target suspect from causing grave harm to the officer or others. The utilization of these weapons is also prohibited in stopping an individual from destructing property; it should also be noted that the less lethal projectiles should not be deployed on a target that is inside any form of building. The use of this kind of ammunition in real police operations is only allowed if the officer has a written warrant signed by the chief executive officer of the relevant department. Not every police officer has the authority to use the less lethal projectiles; the officers allowed to do this must have undergone training supervised by the Police Training Commission to make sure that they have the required skills to utilize the less lethal ammunition. In this course the officers are coached on the body parts they should aim at so as to lessen the chances of suspects’ death of grievous harm. After every half a year these officers are expected to attend refresher courses on the same.
Corzine and Milgram (2008) state that after a suspected criminal has had less lethal ammunition deployed on them, immediately after their incapacitation they should be ferried to a medical center for the health practitioners to conduct a health examination to ascertain whether they have any serious damages to their physiques which may require therapeutic management. The officer who deployed the ammunition is also expected to fill any necessary forms and report on the incident and why it required the use of less lethal ammunition and if the use of the weapons was effective in deterring crime. There are several factors that prompted the office of the attorney general in New Jersey to come up with this policy. Firstly, the policy is expected to enable the police officers to determine the level of aggression that is required in different circumstances and crime scenes so as to avoid either injuring the suspected criminals or putting their own lives at risk. According to the laws of New Jersey, lethal force can only be perpetrated by a police officer when they are convinced that it is necessary to do so, so as to avoid impending loss of life or grave bodily harm to themselves or innocent civilians. There are two major strengths of this policy; first is the fact that it allows the police officers to defend and protect themselves when confronted by violent or armed criminals. In addition to this, the use of less lethal bullets or projectiles allows the armed officers an alternative to the utilization of lethal weapons or deadly force when handling criminals or suspected criminals.
Conclusively, the policy of using force in the state of New Jersey has both advantages and disadvantages. Despite the fact that the utilization of less lethal ammunition has lessened the weaknesses of the policy, police officers still need to exercise caution whenever the need to utilize force in maintenance of law and order arises.
Corzine, J. S. and Milgram, A.(2008): ‘Supplementary Policy on Less than Lethal Ammunition’
Retrieved from http://www.nj.gov/lps/dcj/agguide/pdfs/less-lethal-policy.pdf on 31st May 2012
Division of Criminal Justice (2001): ‘Use of Force: Attorney General's Use of Force Policy’
Retrieved from http://www.state.nj.us/lps/dcj/agguide/useforce.htm on 31st May 2012
New Jersey Office of the Attorney General (2010): ‘Attorney General’s Approved List of less-
Lethal Ammunition’ New Jersey department of Law and Public Safety