In the military, According to 10 U.S. Code § 899 - Art. 99. Misbehavior before the enemy. Acts of cowardly conduct are punishable.

Any member of the armed forces who before or in the presence of the enemy—

  1. runs away;
  2. shamefully abandons, surrenders, or delivers up any command, unit, place, or military property which it is his duty to defend;
  3. through disobedience, neglect, or intentional misconduct endangers the safety of any such command, unit, place, or military property;
  4. casts away his arms or ammunition;
  5. is guilty of cowardly conduct;
  6. quits his place of duty to plunder or pillage;
  7. causes false alarms in any command, unit, or place under control of the armed forces;
  8. willfully fails to do his utmost to encounter, engage, capture, or destroy any enemy troops, combatants, vessels, aircraft, or any other thing, which it is his duty so to encounter, engage, capture, or destroy; or
  9. does not afford all practicable relief and assistance to any troops, combatants, vessels, or aircraft of the armed forces belonging to the United States or their allies when engaged in battle;

shall be punished by death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct.

Is there a similar law that punishes cops who show acts of cowardly conduct?

  • Probably not, since they are not required to put themselves in harms way to protect anyone as military members are. Commented Mar 21, 2023 at 22:24
  • Police officers are not soldiers. Commented Mar 25, 2023 at 1:01

1 Answer 1


The only time cops are violating the law for cowardice is when they fail to intervene in misconduct by another cop, see, e.g., here at page 10 (two police carry out a blatantly unlawful arrest, but there is also liability for the two other junior officers watch and do nothing about their superiors' misconduct), or when an arrested or incarcerated person has been placed in peril by the cop, see, e.g., here (police arrest woman and put her in a squad car on train tracks and fail to try to rescue her when a train is about to and then does smash into the squad car where she is helplessly handcuffed and locked in).

This said, cops are routinely disciplined or fired for cowardice as an employment matter (see, e.g., here where a policeman who fails to rush in to stop a school shooting in progress was "suspended in the immediate aftermath of the attack and later resigned" and also here in a similar case).

But, they are rarely disciplined or fired for being too aggressive even if it crosses the legal line unless the facts are unequivocally clear.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .