Chapter 6E Section 14 Now Supercedes All Previous Use of Force Policies and Guidelines
One of the primary tasks of the state’s POST Commission is to monitor and oversee, all use of force by the Commonwealth’s law enforcement officers. Chapter 6E Section 9 became effective on December 1, 2021 and imposes some very explicit requirements on police officers and police administration with respect of the use of force. An emphasis on “de-escalation” and an affirmative demonstration, that it was attempted, providing that circumstances permitted must be demonstrated in all use of force reports. The exception is when the “totality of the circumstances” prohibit it. Officers may use force to make a lawful arrest, to prevent an escape from custody or to prevent imminent harm, however the application of the force must be proportionate to the threat. The law offers another interesting qualification. Non deadly force may be used in accordance with the regulations promulgated by the commission, and the municipal police training committee, pursuant to subsection (d) of section 15.
Perhaps the most interesting and controversial of POST’s use of force guidelines are those that pertain to civil disturbances. There is now an onus on police departments, when they have advanced knowledge of a planned mass demonstration, to make a “good faith” effort to communicate with the organizers of the event, to discuss logistical plans and strategies to avoid conflict, and to address communication needs between the organizers and the police. The police must describe their de-escalation strategy in writing and specifically designate an officer to be responsible for planning and developing that strategy. Police are not permitted to utilized tear gases, other chemical agents, rubber pellets or K-9s, unless they have attempted de-escalation first, and these efforts have failed, or action is necessary to prevent imminent harm. However, the use of tear gas, pellets or K9s must be proportionate to the threat of imminent harm. When any of these measures are employed, a report must be filed with the commission detailing the de-escalation measures that were tried and failed. The POST commission is then required to review the report and make any additional investigation that it may deem necessary, and then make a finding as to whether “ the pre-event and contemporaneous de-escalation tactics” were adequate and whether the order to use tear gas or other chemical agent, rubber pellets or K9s was justified.
( Cautionary Note: The information reported above was gleaned from monitoring the discussions that occur at the POST Commission meeting of March 16, 2023. This information should not be relied upon as the definitive position of the POST Commission. Any actions or planned actions taken or anticipated by officers and administrators should not be based solely upon this information but should be independently confirmed through the POST Commission )