Duty to Intervene

Course Preview

Course Author(s)

Ben Kontaxes J.D.

Course Summary

Overall General Course Goal(s):
The goals of this course are to go beyond the introduction of the topic and to dive into the realities of failure to intervene.

Learning Objectives
Replete with real examples, this course will cover:

  • The basis of Constitutional use of force – Graham v Connor
  • Establishing the Constitutional Standard
  • How an officer should intervene
  • When an officer should intervene
  • How failure to intervene is seen by the courts
  • Consequences of failure to intervene


As a law enforcement officer, you have sworn an oath to support and defend the Constitution and defend the rights of your fellow citizens.  

In recent years, many advocates have successfully pushed States to enact duty to intervene statutes. However, as a matter of federal constitutional law, an officer’s duty to intervene has existed for decades. 

That responsibility may require you to intervene if you have the unfortunate circumstance of observing another officer violate a citizen’s constitutionally protected rights. 

As there is a Constitutional Duty to intervene, a junior officer may be faced with the possibility of having to confront a superior, or a less experienced officer may have to intervene if a long-time member of the department is engaging in unlawful or Unconstitutional activity.

Subordinate officers have a duty to the Constitution. That duty is superior to any personal feelings that one might have toward another officer.

This course will explain case law, case examples, and case outcomes to help every officer to understand the importance of this material.

This course emphasizes again, and again, that all law enforcement officials have an affirmative duty to intervene to protect the constitutionally protected rights of citizens from infringement by other law enforcement officers in their presence, including when any constitutional violation has been committed by a law enforcement official.

Course Syllabus

  • Module 1 - Introduction

    • Duty to Intervene is LAW
    • Bad Example
    • Illegal Search of Car
    • First Officer Arrested Under New Law
    • Assessment
  • Module 2 - Excessive Force

    • Constitutional Use of Force, Graham v Connor
    • Graham v Connor, U.S. Supreme Court View
    • S.A.R.F.
    • S.A.R.F. Continued
    • Assessment
  • Module 3 - Actions and Consequences

    • Tactics, Training, Policy and Law
    • Constitutional Standard
    • Officer Liability
    • Torres-Rivera v O'Neill-Cancel
    • Torres-Rivera v O'Neill-Cancel - Continued
    • Duty to Intervene
    • 7th Circuit Pattern Jury Instruction
    • Practical Considerations
    • Anatomy of a Duty to Intervene Case
    • The Legal Standard
    • Assessment
  • Module 4 - Final Assessment

    • Final Assessment