A Police Officer’s Duty to Intervene in an Unlawful Use of Force Case

The murder trial of the police officer accused of killing George Floyd has concluded. While attempting to subdue George Floyd, who allegedly used a counterfeit $20 bill to purchase cigarettes, the former police officer kneeled on the man’s neck for an extended period of time. George Floyd died during the incident. Once the video was released to the public, massive protests erupted across the country. The former police officer has been convicted of murder.

In the video showing the incident, other police officers stand around watching the defendant kneel on George Floyd's neck. You can hear one of the officers questioned whether the defendant should be kneeling on his neck. Illinois’ new police reform law creates a legal duty for police officers to stop other officers when they are using excessive or unauthorized force.

Police Officers Must Intervene in Unlawful Use of Force Situations

When one police officer sees another police officer using excessive or unauthorized force, it is their duty to intervene and try to stop it. In a case like George Floyd's, the officers who watched another officer kneel on George Floyd’s neck would likely have a legal duty to intervene. Officers must quickly determine whether they consider the contact to be excessive use of force in the heat of the moment. Officers must intervene to stop the excessive use of force, even if the officer engaging in excessive force ranks higher than them.

In addition to preventing the unauthorized use of force during the incident itself, police officers must also complete a police department report within five days of the incident. A police department cannot discipline or retaliate against officers for submitting a departmental report regarding excessive use of force.

Choke Holds are Barred in Illinois Unless Deadly Force is Justified

Illinois police reform law also bars chokeholds of any kind unless a police officer is authorized to use deadly force. Any type of restraint or chokehold above the suspect’s shoulders is now prohibited. The law also makes it more difficult for police officers to justify using deadly force against a suspect. Police officers cannot use deadly force unless all of the following conditions are met:

  • Deadly force is necessary to prevent the arrest from being defeated by resistance or escape, and
  • The police officer reasonably believes that the suspect cannot be apprehended at a later date, and
  • The police officer reasonably believes that the suspect is likely to be arrested and cause great bodily harm to another, and
  • The suspect just committed or attempted a forcible felony involving the infliction or threatened infliction of great bodily harm or is attempting to escape by the use of a deadly weapon, or otherwise indicates that he will endanger human life or inflict great bodily harm unless arrested without delay

Contact a Schaumburg Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

If you are a police officer charged with murder due to using excessive force, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer. At Glasgow & Olsson, our award-winning criminal defense lawyers have a proven track record of success in many high-profile state and federal criminal cases. You can see defense attorney Thomas Glasgow on local Chicago news when he fought to get a former police officer’s conviction vacated. Contact Glasgow & Olsson today to schedule your initial consultation to learn how our legal team can fight for your rights.

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