Just the law with a side of facts, hold the opinion

During my last few years at the Bureau, in addition to investigations, my duties involved instruction and outreach about the FBI’s Civil Rights Program. I enjoyed these interactions, especially when I could answer questions or clarify misconceptions about the law and the FBI’s real role in investigations. Some presentations garnered more “lively” discussion than others. Probably the “liveliest” area, and the one with the most intense questioning, was “Use of Force”. Considering the seriousness of the subject matter and the issues involved, this wasn’t surprising. Further, my presentations on the actual law often ran counter to what folks believed the law was, or should be, hence the animated conversations.

I can’t, unfortunately, in this one sided venue, use the same presentations with the video/body-cam clips or the other interactive tools I did when teaching in person. However, I thought I’d tackle some of the most common questions and misunderstandings I’ve encountered over the next couple of blogs. As I did while teaching, I will present the law as I know it (it doesn’t seemed to have changed much in two years) as well as some practical considerations. My opinions? I’ll just keep those to myself. Who needs those anyway!

Use of Force FAQs: The Law

Here is the Fourth Amendment and here is the 14th Amendment.

Please see here for the Fifth Amendment, here for the SCOTUS case, and here for an article on double jeopardy

Use of Force FAQs: Common Myths

See here for the case on “unarmed” and here for the case on not following orders.

SCOTUS case on number of rounds here.


The Inevitable Disclaimer — I know, but I have to…

Although I worked for the FBI for many years, I’m now retired and no longer have any official or professional connection with the FBI. Nothing I feature on my website, blog, or other social media should in any way be taken as being from, or on behalf of, the FBI. I am solely responsible for the content in this blog.

Also, while the information in my blogs is true and correct to the best of my knowledge, the information should not be relied upon for any legal purpose. Further, this blog is not intended as legal advice either in general or for any particular case. Please consult an attorney or other legal advisor if necessary.

Okay, I think that covers it. Damn lawyers.

Next time: The elements of 18 USC 242, Reasonableness, Willfulness, and maybe more myth busting.



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