Justice Department policy requires officers to intercede if colleagues use excessive force

by Trinity Cardinal

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News


For the first time in 18 years, the Justice Department is modifying its policy that governs federal agents’ the use of force.  

According to a memo sent from Attorney General Merrick Garland to senior staff, beginning July 19 all FBI, DEA, ATF, and U.S. Marshals Service agents as well as any other agent operating under the Justice Department’s purview, will be required to step in if they see a fellow agent using excessive force.

“The updated policy draws from the 2020 National Consensus Policy on Use of Force, drafted by a coalition of eleven major law enforcement groups representing federal, state, and local law enforcement officers,” Garland wrote. “The policy reflects the excellence we have come to expect from the Department’s officers and agents while protecting their safety and the safety of the people and communities we serve.”

The new policy, a copy of which Garland included with his memo, prioritizes de-escalation training and stipulates that officers now have an “affirmative duty” to prevent the use of excessive force and administer or call for medical aid if required.

“Officers will be trained in de-escalation tactics and techniques designed to gain voluntary compliance from a subject before using force,” the policy reads, “and such tactics and techniques should be employed if objectively feasible and they would not increase the danger to the officer or others.”

As to intervention measures, the policy reads, “Officers will be trained in, and must recognize and act upon, the affirmative duty to intervene to prevent or stop, as appropriate, any officer from engaging in excessive force or any other use of force that violates the Constitution, other federal laws, or Department policies on the reasonable use of force.”

The announcement corresponds with the anniversary of the death of George Floyd, whose death while in police custody sparked a nationwide series of protests, some violent, and sweeping changes to policing at all levels.