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Evaluating Police Uses of Force$
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Seth W. Stoughton, Jeffrey J. Noble, and Geoffrey P. Alpert

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781479814657

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479814657.001.0001

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The Constitutional Law Standard

The Constitutional Law Standard

(p.12) 1 The Constitutional Law Standard
Evaluating Police Uses of Force

Seth W. Stoughton

Jeffrey J. Noble

Geoffrey P. Alpert

NYU Press

Police officers, like all government officials, are subject to the limitations imposed by the Constitution of the United States. The Supreme Court has ruled that police uses of force are subject to the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable seizures; the constitutional question is whether the use of force was “objectively reasonable” under the circumstances. This chapter details Supreme Court decisions—including Graham v. Connor, Tennessee v. Garner, and Scott v. Harris—and explains how readers can reliably use constitutional principles to accurately assess any given use of force. The authors lead readers through the careful balancing that constitutional analysis requires, exploring the deference given to the hypothetical “reasonable officer,” the governmental interests that justify the use of force, and the determination of whether the type and amount of force used in any given situation was proportional to the justification.

Keywords:   constitutional analysis, Fourth Amendment, governmental interests, Graham v. Connor, police uses of force, Scott v. Harris, Supreme Court, Tennessee v. Garner, United States Constitution, unreasonable seizures

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