Statement from ALI President David F. Levi

This is such a difficult time in our nation's history. The coronavirus has taken the lives of more than 100,000 of our fellow Americans and exposed very disturbing disparities in health and access to medical care. In addition, we have seen again, once again, the shocking and unjustified use of excessive force by police officers in connection with the death of a black person, George Floyd. This injustice, rooted in racism, is simply intolerable.  As lawyers and as members of The American Law Institute, we deeply feel this wound to the rule of law and common decency.

We know that as a society and as a legal system, we must do so much better.  And we should all do our part. One way we can do this as members of ALI is by bringing our particular skills and knowledge to bear. This is one reason why in 2015, we launched the Principles of the Law, Policing project, and why in May 2017, the membership and the Council approved of the Use of Force Sections.

In Section 5.03 of those principles, we say that officers should use the minimum force necessary. The black letter says, “In instances in which force is used, officers should use the minimum force necessary to perform their duties safely. Agencies should promote this goal through written policies, training, supervision, and reporting and review of use-of-force incidents.”

In Section 5.04, we say that officers should deescalate and avoid the use of force. In Section 5.05 Proportional Use of Force, we say, “Officers should not use more force than is proportional to the legitimate law enforcement objective at stake. In furtherance of this objective, deadly force should not be used except in response to an immediate threat of serious physical harm or death to officers, or a significant threat of serious physical harm or death to others.”

The importance of agency policies, culture, training, supervision, review, and discipline is emphasized throughout the Principles. We will be sending out the Use of Force Principles to police departments across the country. We have already posted them on our website, and they have already been used and are generating a good deal of interest.

I know that many of ALI’s members have devoted themselves to improving our justice system. They have worked to reform the bail system, the pernicious destitution pipeline created by unnecessary fees and fines and other destructive penalties and policies that fall unfairly on poor and minority populations. Our members work for and support legal aid organizations, bar associations, innocence projects, and police oversight commissions.

Our members do so much. I thank them for their service, and I express my pride in being associated with this extraordinary group of lawyers, judges, and academics, as we try to address these problems that have plagued us for so many years.

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