Welcome to the Locke Police Force! I want to review some things with you before you go out on your first shift. It is important to know that in the Locke Police Force, I want all my officers to under the level of force and how to use force in certain situations. Please review the Department Use of Force Guidelines and the PD Use of Force Summary below. Then, look at some recent scenarios we have had in the area, and discuss how you would implement an appropriate level of force with these scenarios. Lastly, answer the three questions at the bottom of your first assignment as a police officer, then report back to me.
Use of Force Guidelines
You and your partner are police officers. The following are department guidelines for the use of force in the field. Your job is to study the rules and be prepared to use them. The department allows four levels of force:
1. Arrest and Handcuffing: To be used in most situations when the suspect follows verbal commands and gives in to arrest.
2. Physical Restraint: A martial arts hold to be used when the suspect resists arrest but is not armed.
3. Non-Deadly Force: Chemical spray or electronic weapons for use if physical restraint does not work or is impossible.
4. Deadly Force: Use of firearms or blows from baton above the shoulders. May only be used if the suspect poses an immediate threat of death or great bodily injury to an officer or bystander.
Officers must start with the least amount of force necessary.
More force may be used only if the situation reasonably appears to require.
Police and the Use of Force
The danger is part of police work. Sometimes officers have to deal with a person who resists arrest. Sometimes they confront a person who is armed or threatens violence. To protect themselves and others in the community, officers might have to use force to make an arrest or disarm a suspect. Officers are trained and equipped to use force, if necessary. They are trained on how to take charge of a situation using verbal commands. They are also taught how to use self-defense techniques. Officers are equipped with both chemical and electronic weapons. With these, police more easily can over-come a suspect without causing great injury or risking great injury to themselves. They also carry pistols and batons, and patrol cars are often equipped with shotguns. These weapons are very dangerous and can only be used in certain circumstances. As a general rule, the police may use what-ever level of force is reasonable and necessary to make an arrest. Shooting an unarmed person who has stolen an apple from a fruit stand would not be reasonable. Clubbing a suspect with abaton when a simple arm hold would work is not necessary. In training programs, police officers learn how much force may be used in different cases. They practice using just enough force for each situation. Whether making an arrest, controlling a crowd, or dealing with an armed suspect, they are taught to begin with the lowest level of force necessary. The level of force should only increase if the situation requires it. For example, if a suspect quietly goes along with arrest, the officer should use a simple pat-down search for weapons and handcuffing. But if the suspect suddenly throws a punch, a higher level of force may be required. This might require the officer to use a physical-restraint hold. On the street, fear, anger, darkness, and split-second changes can make deciding what force is reasonable and necessary much more difficult.
In some situations, police officers have to use deadly force. Deadly force is the force that poses a high risk of death or serious injury to a person. It does not matter whether death or serious injury actually results. State laws govern the use of deadly force. Some police agencies and departments have even stricter rules officers must follow when using deadly force. In general, an officer should use deadly force only if the officer believes that deadly force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury to the officer or another person, or the officer believes that the deadly force does not create a great risk to innocent persons. In spite of the limits on deadly force, its use can be very controversial. This is especially true if the suspect who is killed or wounded by the police is unarmed turns out to be innocent. By law, a suspect need not be actually armed for the police to use deadly force. Sometimes suspect will reach inside clothing in a threatening manner or grab something the police mistake for a weapon. If the police have a reasonable and honest belief that they need to use deadly force to prevent death or serious injury to themselves or another, they are allowed to use it. Another situation that creates controversy is when a suspect is armed with something other than a gun. This might be a knife or a screwdriver. Some people argue that in these circumstances a police officer should not shoot to kill, but only to wound in the legs or other-vital spot. Police experts argue that such actions would put the life of officers and others in danger. They claim that trying to hit a suspect in a non-vital spot is often very risky. Darkness, rapid movements by the suspect, and the excitement of the moment all make shooting accurately very difficult. To take such a risky shot, they argue, would make it more likely that suspect could injure or kill someone or that a bystander could be hit by a stray police bullet. If a police officer makes a mistake about the use of force, the consequences can be very serious. Police departments them-selves investigate every use of deadly force. Police departments also investigate if citizens complain about the level of force used against them. If a complaint is upheld, an officer can be penalized by being demoted or even fired. In addition, if the case is serious enough, police officers can be charged with a crime. If they are put on trial and convicted, they can be punished by a fine or prison time. Finally, police officers can be sued by victims of force. If they lose in court, they and the police department can be forced to pay damages, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars, to the victim.
Case #1: Eli’s Attempted Escape
Six police officers were assigned the job of arresting Eli. He was a large, well-built man in his early 20s. While out on parole, he had been identified as participating in an armed robbery of a bank. As police approach Eli’s apartment in the dark, the door swings open. A large man matching Eli’s description runs down the steps and across the yard. The police yell for him to stop and give chase. When the man reaches a fence, he turns toward the officers and reaches under his coat. One of the officers sees light reflecting off what appears to be a metal object in the waistband of Eli’s warm-up pants.
Case #2: Shelby’s Stranger Walk
Shelby, who is a short, thin, 22-year-old woman was walking alone down a deserted street at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Her clothing was ripped, and she seemed dazed. Two police officers who were driving by stop to her if she is all right. As they approach, Shelby starts screaming, “Leave me alone! I’m sick of being hassled!” The police officers try to calm her, but she just keeps screaming and backing up. At one point she staggers and almost falls. Suddenly she starts swinging her arms at the officers.
Case #3: Austin’s Attempted Attack
Austin, a tall, thin, 17-year-old boy, is in his car speeding and swerving back and forth between lanes on the highway late one night. Two police officers stop him and ask to see his driver’s license. Austin, who had obviously been drinking, becomes angry and shouts at the officers. One of the officers, a 20-year veteran of the police force, attempts to handcuff him, but Austin pushes him away. He then slugs the other officer and retreats to the other side of the car. “I’ll kill you if you come near me again,” he screams.
Case #4: Heidy’s Hideout
Heidy was allegedly driving recklessly, which led to a road rage incident with two women. After a brief roadside confrontation with them, she left the scene and drove to her house nearby where he lived with his sister, Holly. The police were called by the women and the officers decided to respond to the Heidy home to speak with her about the incident, although no charges were to be filed. Two officers approached the house in a covert manner, using their flashlights only intermittently. The sisters eventually became aware of the officers and yelled out at them. The officers’ claim they identified themselves. The sisters armed themselves with a handgun and a shotgun and yelled out, “We have guns.”
Case #5: Courtney’s Cut
Courtney, a 39-year-old woman, had a problem with a gas company serviceman. The serviceman came to Courtney’s home to turn off the gas because of an unpaid bill. She attacked the serviceman and struck him several times with a shovel. He left and called the police. When two police officers arrive at Courtney’s home to arrest her, Courtney screams at them and throws some dishes on the floor. The noise attracts several curious neighbors to her front porch to see what is going on. While the officers talk to Courtney from across the small kitchen, she suddenly picks up an 11-inch knife from the counter and prepares to throw it at them.
Wrap Up Questions:
1. Why do police officers sometimes have to use force when doing their jobs? (To protect themselves and others from harm or to arrest a person who resists.)
2. According to the law, what level of force can an officer use in a given situation? (An officer may use the amount of force that is reasonable and necessary in a given situation, but police departments may, as a matter of prudent training of officers, adopt more restrictive standards.)
3. Why might decide what force is reasonable and necessary be difficult for a police officer in the field? (Excitement, darkness, and the movements of a suspect can create confusion)
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