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Less-Than-Lethal Force Weaponry: Law Enforcement and Correctional Agency Civil Law Liability for the Use of Excessive Force

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 1995
62 pages
This paper reviews the general legal principles applicable to peace officer use of force, considers how these principles are applied to less-than-lethal (LTL) force used by peace officers, and details recommendations for policymakers and agency heads to limit their exposure to legal liability claims.
The liability principles that govern LTL use are similar to those that apply to the use of both deadly and conventional force. Variations reflect operational differences in when and how LTL's may be used. General liability principles for limiting peace officer legal liability include the creation of written policies to guide officer discretion, a periodic review of agency policies and procedures, and the provision of entry level and periodic training. Other general principles are to emphasize supervisory responsibility to foster proactive management, the development of mechanisms for anticipating problems, the disciplining of officers who engage in misconduct, the discharging of officers for whom discipline is ineffective, and communication within and without the agency regarding how the principles are being implemented. The author's recommendations for avoiding legal liability in the use of LTL focus on the following areas of use-of-force managerial actions: policy adoption, training, incident reporting requirements (use of force reports), and an internal affairs review of excessive force incidents. Guidelines for the implementation of the recommendations in these areas are provided. 273 footnotes

Date Published: January 1, 1995