How Do Officers Determine the Level of Force They Should Apply?

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Every police department located in the state of Michigan has their ownpolicies and procedures their officers are required to abide by. For instance, while one department will permit their officers to engage in a car chase in order to catch a suspect, others discourage this behavior entirely. The same applies with use of force. Each department has guidelines “that describe an escalating series of actions an officer may take to resolve a situation” [Source: National Institute of Justice]. Officers are expected to follow these guidelines, or this continuum, which “generally has many levels” that describe the “level of force appropriate to the situation at hand.”

So, what does an example of a use of force continuum look like? While the National Institute of Justice does provide an example of one which we will outline below, keep in mind that each police department’s continuum, or set of actions, may vary.

 

Example of Use of Force Continuum

1. Officer establishes their presence.

Police officers are trained to display what is known as officer presence. This doesn’t require them to apply any amount of force to resolve a situation, however, it does work “to deter crime or diffuse a situation.” When an officer makes their presence known to resolve a problem, their attitude is “professional and non-threatening.”

 

2. An officer becomes more verbal, although no physical force is applied.

If officer presence isn’t enough to gain a handle on the situation, they may need to “issue calm, non-threatening commands, such as “Let me see your identification and registration.” They may have to “increase their volume and shorten [their] commands in an attempt to gain compliance.” An example of a short command might be “Stop” or “Don’t move.”

 

3. Empty-Hand Control — Officer uses bodily force to gain control of a situation.

There are two ways an officer may use their bodily force to gain control of a situation. The first is called a “soft technique.”  An officer might grab, hold or, joint lock” an individual to restrain them. The second is called a “hard technique” and this is when an officer may punch or kick a suspect in order to get them to comply with their commands.

 

4. Less-Lethal Methods

If an officer is unable to gain control of the situation or suspect, they may implement less-lethal strategies. Some examples include:

  • Blunt impact.Officers may use a baton or projectile to immobilize a combative person.
  • Officers may use chemical sprays such as pepper spray or other projectiles embedded with chemicals to restrain a suspect.
  • Conducted Energy Devices (CEDs).Officers may use CEDs such as a taser to immobilize an individual. “CEDs discharge a high-voltage, low-amperage jolt of electricity at a distance.”

 

5. Lethal Force — Officers will use lethal weapons such as a gun to gain control over of a situation when a suspect appears to be a serious threat to the officer, another individual, or society.

This is the last form of action an officer can take in the use of force continuum to stop an individual or detain them. Sometimes, lethal force can lead to a suspect suffering an injury and in worst cases, it can result in their death.

 

Unfortunately, there are some officers that will skip the initial steps listed in the continuum and go directly to applying physical force or even lethal force, even when it is not called for. Many police officers are under the impression that just because they have a gun they are permitted to use it when they feel it is necessary, however, there are other ways to diffuse a situation that they should try first before using a deadly weapon. And when an officer of the law chooses to apply force in situations that don’t require it, they can be held accountable for their behavior.

 

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If a Detroit, MI police officer applied some level of force that resulted in you suffering an injury, contact a MI police brutality lawyer to find out what your legal rights are.

If you or someone you know was injured by a Detroit, MI police officer who applied force despite the fact that you were compliant and non-combative, you will want to contact a local Detroit, MI police brutality lawyer who can determine what form of action can be taken against the officer. It is important that you speak with an attorney before attempting to address the issue on your own as it can be rather difficult to initiate a case against an officer without being represented by an experienced and aggressive MI police misconduct lawyer.


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