Recently, the Camden New Jersey Police department released a new revised use-of-force policy. The revised policy states that officers must avoid unnecessary use of force, minimize usage of force, and do everything possible to respect and preserve the sanctity of human life. This policy exceeds the threshold set by the Supreme Court’s standard that allows use of force that a reasonable officer would use when facing similar circumstances.
The Camden County Police Department (“CCPD”) articulated six core principles emphasizing the sanctity of human life:
Principle One. Officers may use force only to accomplish specific law enforcement objectives. The use of force is limited to a narrow list of situations.
Principle Two. Officers should de-escalate confrontations, minimize use of force, use reasonable force, as necessary and as a last resort.
Principle Three. Officers may only use proportionate amount of force suited for the particular circumstance.
Principle Four. Deadly force is only authorized as a last resort.
Principle Five. Officers must provide prompt medical aid and request medical assistance immediately.
Principle Six. Employees of CCPD have a duty to report and stop uses of force that violate the department’s policies and laws. Members may be disciplined for violations or failing to report a fellow officer’s violation.
Since 2015, Camden Police Chief Scott Thomson has directed the CCPD to adopt the use-of-force training and de-escalation tactics to prevent deadly encounters. De-escalation tactics require that officers slow things down first so that the encounter does not turn deadly. The policy directive recently codified the practices in place since 2015.
This policy directive emphasizes that even if the use-of-force fits one of the narrow list of situations where it may be sanctioned, it should still be a last resort. Chief Thomson compared the police officers’ oath to that of a doctor’s Hippocratic oath and reiterated the Police officer’s duty of “first, do no harm.” Both the New Jersey ACLU and the police union have applauded this new revised policy.
The Governmental entity representation practice group of MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser has extensive experience in representing police and law enforcement in government liability and civil rights claims. We offer pre-litigation counseling, review of polices and practices, assessment of internal training and seminars to assist police departments and agencies in avoiding litigation. For a consultation with one of our seasoned attorneys, please contact our office at 484-318-7106 or submit an online inquiry. We provide legal services in West Chester, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and Chester County.