St. Mary's Law Journal
At the heart of calls for police reform lie use of force laws. While policing agencies adopt and enforce their own policies regarding when and how force may be used by officers of those agencies, state laws rarely define the uniform limits under which officers operate. Policing in the United States is highly fractured; of the hundreds of law enforcement agencies operating, most are autonomous, and they determine the policies under which they operate, including those for use of force. They also decide whether and how to investigate violations of internal policies, as well as the punishment that will be meted out for policy violations. Predictably, this fragmentation of policing produces inconsistency.
Texas's laws regarding the use of force by the police might be seen as consisting of the following categories: criminal statutes; justifications (defenses) that are available to all persons; justifications that apply only to peace officers acting in an official capacity; and general limitations other than justifications on the use of force by peace officers. Internal agency policies fall outside these statutory norms, although they may reinforce, restate, or expand on them. Policy violations may result in disciplinary action-definite or indefinite suspension, reprimand, or demotion in rank, but not in prosecution.
This Article considers only Texas state law and only that law relating to the prosecution of an officer for a criminal offense arising from the use of force. Because policy decisions made by individual departments and agencies are not uniform, it is not feasible to catalog the myriad ways in which all law enforcement entities, even within the state of Texas, limit or allow the use of force.
Gerald S. Reamey, Police Use of Force Laws in Texas, 52 St. Mary’s L. J. 1071 (2021).