Saturday, May 23, 2009

Reasonable Use of Force

Years ago in the police academy we were taught all about the force continuum. We were showed various stair steps or ladders that showed us how as the amount of force was used we were moving up the stairs or up the ladder. Often, people found it confusing. If pepper spray was on a lower step than use of the firearms, with baton on a step in between the two levels, people often wondered if they had to use a baton before they could shoot someone.

Now, many trainers are giving up the ladder or stair step model for use of force. Look to the courts and to the legislatures to provide law enforcement with a model for use of force. Force must be reasonable to an officer who knows only what circumstances the officer using force knew when he used force. If an officer shoots someone because he thinks someone is pointing a gun at him in a threatening manner, that use of force is justified. It is justified, even if the person shot did not, in fact, have a gun.

It is a reasonable use of force because it is the belief that the suspect had a gun that is the reason the suspect was shot. The officer may be mistaken in fact, because it is unreasonable to require that they be certain in fact. The officer must act in a manner that is reasonable, not certain; that's what the SGT Says.


Jaguar said...

good post

reasonable force is only really understood by those who need to use it

at the same time they're judged by people who never need to use it

Bunkermeister said...

Jaguar, you are so right. Use of force is seldom pretty or easy to watch; but often it is necessary, and reasonable.