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What's Your Department's Use-of-Force Spectrum Policy?

Does your police department follow a “use-of-force spectrum” similar to this order: First, verbal direction, then use of soft- or hard-hand tactics, pepper spray, the taser, the baton, then finally the firearm?

If not, what's your department's use-of-force spectrum?

If so, how often does each officer  need to be recertified in each of the tactics and tools? 12 months?

Tags: policy, use-of-force

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We go from verbal to pepper spray then hands on.  Taser, baton, firearm follow.  We certify our officers annually.

The problem with teaching a spectrum (or "continuum" as we used to call it) is people start believing they have to follow it, i.e. lowest level first then move up.  So if I tell someone they're under arrest and they take a fighting stance, the belief would be I had to try control holds (a lower level) before using intermediate force (chemical, baton, etc.)  That could get the wrong person hurt.  We teach our deputies to use whatever force is necessary; escalating or de-escalating as necessary.   Then document the force and why.   As someone used to say, "If they take a fighting stance, you waited too long." 

Great insight. Thanks for sharing!

Coburn said it best below wherein it is not just Officers/Deputies that believe force must be progressive.  It is also defense attorneys and citizens.  

The better model to follow when considering Use of Force is a response to aggression.  Think of a donut (I know, hard to think of for us cops!!!).  The hole in the middle is the Officer/Deputy decision point.  Around the donut are choices of actions.  Before implementing one of the choices, the Officer/Deputy must come back to the hole which is the decision point.  This model does two things: 1) it does not place one level of force above the other and 2) it forces the Officer/Deputy to reassess the situation.  

This reassess phase is quick; often split-seconds.

One last thing to remember is that every Use of Force policy should articulate the least amount of force necessary to effect the action (detainment, arrest, movement.)


Hope that helps!



Sgt. Chris Gebhardt

I agree with Coburn and Chris teaching the continuum does not work and actually put others as well as the officer in danger.


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