By Jedidiah McKeehan

Police brutality and police shootings are very much a hot button topic in the world today.  It seems that we are presented with articles or videos showing individuals harmed or killed by the police on a regular basis.

What does the law say exactly as to when police can use deadly force?  Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-11-620 states that officers can actually use deadly force to effectuate an arrest.

Specifically, “an office may use deadly force to effect an arrest only if all other reasonable means of apprehension have been exhausted or are unavailable, and where feasible, the officer has given notice of the officer’s identity as such and given a warning that deadly force may be used unless resistance or flight ceases.”

Further, the officer must also believe that the individual to be arrested has committed a felony involving the infliction or threat of bodily injury, or the individual to be arrested has probable cause to believe that the person to be arrested poses a threat of bodily injury either to the officer or others unless immediately apprehended.

So in practice, what does that mean?  Even though officers are supposed to use all other reasonable means of apprehension first to stop someone, (i.e. verbal commands, tackling someone, the use of a Taser), that may not actually occur.  You almost never hear of an officer announcing to someone that they deadly force may be used.  Further, if an officer believes someone is a danger to themselves or others, that is a pretty big catch all to allow the use of deadly force.

In Tennessee, these are the steps that the officers are supposed to take prior to using deadly force.

Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including criminal, personal injury, landlord-tenant, probate, and estate planning. Visit for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.