A force continuum is a specified set of guidelines mandating the amount of force that police officers are legally allowed to use against a resisting suspect based on the situation they are in. The continuum has many different levels and officers are supposed to respond with the correct amount of force depending on the scenario they find themselves in.
An example of force continuum in law enforcement is as follows:
- The mere presence of an officer
- Verbal commands
- Bodily force
- Less-lethal weapons
- Lethal force
The list ordered above is generally the procedure police officers are expected to follow when they encounter a suspect. It is important to keep in mind that an officer can escalate from merely using their presence as a form of intimidation to using lethal force within seconds if they feel the need to do so. According to the force continuum, officers first use their presence to intimidate the suspect into suspicion. If they feel opposition from the suspect, they are expected to issue verbal commands and become louder when the party continues to oppose it.
If words are not enough, they can move on to using bodily force to subdue the victim. If the victim is too strong or if they fight back, they will then pull out their less-lethal weapons such as batons, conducted energy weapons, and chemical sprays. If everything fails, they can resort to the use of guns and lethal force to subdue the suspect.
What happens if an officer does not follow the continuum?
If an officer skips all the steps and goes directly to using force or lethal force, then they may be held responsible through the law for police brutality. Anyone who has been hurt by an officer should get in touch with a police brutality attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer who is experienced in dealing with police brutality cases can help a person determine where they stand with the law according to their situation.
If a person was not acting suspiciously and an officer used physical force on them without trying other less harmful methods first, they may be found guilty for violating a person’s basic human rights.
It can be intimidating to file a lawsuit against an officer or to even attempt to take legal action against an officer, but if a person has been harmed, they should not hesitate to speak up for themselves. Taking the next step and calling an attorney who will then help file a proper complaint against the officer will not only help a person put the officer to justice, but it will also help protect other citizens from the harmful behavior of the officer as well.
Acting under the color of law as a police officer is a noble profession, but if the officer fails to manage their position responsibly they deserve to be questioned for it. If their actions were severely unjust they may even lose their job permanently.