The United States 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals recently made a ruling on an officer’s use of deadly force against a person suffering a mental disorder. The outcome of this case is extremely important for law enforcement officers not only in the U.S. 3rd Circuit, but across the nation. The U.S. 3rd Circuit has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Though the decision is binding only in the U.S. 3rd Circuit, the other U.S. Circuits often look to each other’s rulings in determining similar cases. For that reason, this decision should be noted by all.
Johnson v. City of Philadelphia involves a City of Philadelphia police officer responding to a call about a naked man running around in the middle of the street while chanting and confronting motorists. Sound familiar? Anytime I hear a call about a naked person acting strange my warning senses immediately kick in. I begin thinking of PCP use, overdose of methamphetamine, or some other form of drug abuse. Add in the likelihood of previous mental health concerns, and this call is a nightmare.