Attorney General Merrick Garland has revised rules governing the use of force by law enforcement agencies overseen by the Justice Department, requiring federal agents to intervene when they see officials using excessive force or mistreating people in custody.
The memo states that the department’s policy is to “value and preserve human life” and that officers should use “only the force that is objectively reasonable to effectively gain control of an incident, while protecting the safety of the officer and others.”
“Officers may use force only when no reasonably effective, safe, and feasible alternative appears to exist and may use only the level of force that a reasonable officer on the scene would use under the same or similar circumstances,” it says.
The first revision of the department’s use-of-force policy in 18 years now requires officers to “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 new rules will apply to the Justice Department’s entire workforce, including agents and officers with the F.B.I., the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The department does not have the authority to impose the requirements on local police forces or sheriff’s departments.
The new policy will take effect on July 19, the memo says.