Sen. Darryl Rouson has filed a bill that would require law enforcement officers to intervene when witnessing excessive use of force.
The bill, SB 1148, would require a law enforcement officer to intervene when another officer is using or attempting to use excessive force, “when such intervention is objectively reasonable and possible.”
If an officer fails to intervene while knowing excessive force is being used, the individual could be subject to legal penalties, as defined by the severity of the abuse.
“It makes good sense,” Rouson said. “We tell the public all the time ‘If you see something, say something. Speak up, turn in criminals.’ Let’s create more opportunities for public safety. Why shouldn’t we hold officers to a similar kind of standard.”
If an officer fails to try to stop nondeadly abuse, they would be committing a second degree misdemeanor under the bill.
But, if an officer does not stop or attempt to stop the use of deadly excessive force, or force that results in permanent injury, they could be tried for a third or second degree felony.
The bill also looks to officers to handle the aftermath of use of force — requiring a law enforcement officer to render aid, if able, to the victim of prohibited force. They would also have to report the abuse to the department.
If they did not, officers could be subject to disciplinary action, including dismissal, demotion, suspension or transfer.
The bill is another effort by the legislature to address police brutality, a subject that captivated the U.S. over the past summer after the death of George Floyd, who died after a police officer kneeled on his neck for eight minutes. No officers at the scene intervened.
“They should have a duty to intervene, to speak up. What if those officers had intervened one minute of the eight minutes and 46 seconds,” Rouson said. “What if they had intervened at two minutes? George Floyd might still be alive.”
Earlier this year, Rep. Michele Rayner and Sen. Shevrin Jones filed legislation to end qualified immunity for government employees, a move Jones said was inspired in part by the Floyd tragedy.
“People are beginning to recognize the true opportunities for criminal justice reform,” Rouson said. “The scab has been peeled back from the wound.”
If passed, Rouson’s bill would become effective Oct. 1. There currently is no House bill filed.