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  • Use of Force Continuum

    Since this has cropped up in several threads, I thought I would provide a brief overview of the Use of Force Continuum for the USA.

    This is based upon case law, and it pretty standard across the USA. There are some terminology variances between agencies, and some agencies and states may tighten up certain points, but I feel this will give a reliable overview.

    First, UoF in in the USA is set forth in a linear Continuum, low to high. Force is defined as any action which affects another person's ability to act (there are many definitions, but that one is commonly used by police).

    Officer presence
    Verbal command
    Soft Hand (grabbing, pinning, slapping, pushing, blocking, barring, etc)
    Hard or Heavy Hand (Punching, kicking, head butt, tackle, etc)
    Blunt Impact (baton, flashlight, club, rock, radio, any blunt object)
    Deadly Force (force which by its very nature is intended to inflict serious bodily injury and/or death.

    Electronic Control Devices (ECDs): The TASER is the most common. These are not yet fully fixed, and not all agencies allow their use. They started out as soft hand, but as of late are most commonly found either as Hard Hand or in a separate category just above or below Hard Hand.

    The "Plus One" rule: the police are allowed to use force one level higher than is used or threatened against them.

    Degree of Force: an officer is charged with using the minimum amount of effective force necessary to effect an arrest or restore order. Note the emphasis, and cross-reference this with Defense of Third party and Obligation to Act. This is the rule that leads to the center mass shooting: officer responds to a subject, who brandishes a firearm with hostile intend. The officer shoots the subject (deliberately) in the leg. The subject discharges his weapon and the bullet strikes a person ten blocks away. The officer has just violated the Obligation to Act and this rule: he or she did not use the amount of force to effectively act, or to protect third parties.

    If he shot the subject center mass and the same result occurred, the officer is not liable, because the officer used every means within his power to incapacitate the subject and prevent injury to others.

    This is also why officers train to keep firing until a subject drops: because that's the only way to ensure safety to bystanders and officers alike.

    Defense of a Third Party: Force may be used to defend a third party, including a non-specific third party.

    Duty to Act: An officer is sworn to take action. However, they are not required to place their own safety in danger. For example, if a subject knocks his wife down and begins kicking her, an officer is obligated to act. If a subject in a building is shooting at passers-by and there is no cover, an officer is not obligated to rush the house.

    Flight: An officer may not use deadly force against a fleeing subject unless that subject poses a clear and immediate threat of danger to others.

    Use of the Continuum: An officer does not have to apply the entire Continuum. In other words, if he or she comes upon a scene and is attacked by a subject throwing punches they do not have to perform each step in turn.

    State codes: Individual states have statutes which may add exceptions; for example in Texas deadly force may be used to prevent arson of a habitation or occupied building.

    Evaluation of use of force: This applies to both police and civilians, and is the key point which confuses many people. The Use of Force must be evaluated based upon the conditions perceived by the subject using force at the time the force was used.

    So, an officer responds to a call, is confronted by a subject rushing at him holding a machete in a threatening manner, shoots subject, subject dies. Afterwards it is established that the machete was a foam toy weapon. The court must examine the UoF from the perception of the officer at the time he pulled the trigger, and at that point the officer perceived the machete as real, and the subjects actions as designed to cause the officer serious bodily harm and/or death. Therefore, the UoF is valid and legal.

    I hope this helps.
    Any man can hold his place when the bands play and women throw flowers; it is when the enemy presses close and metal shears through the ranks that one can acertain which are soldiers, and which are not.

  • #2
    Great Post Arnold! As I was once a young man I learned the hard way about law enforcement. I learned its better and not as painful to just stop when a policeman confronts you and answer his questions politely. If you don't, well that's usually when the problems start. I have found the hard way that your ego will heal a lot faster than your body parts do.

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    • #3
      A more generalized version is shown below:

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      • #4
        Would the police be able to use lethal force in response to sat fists if the officer believed he was being overwhelmed? Thus violating the plus one rule. Thinking the Zimmerman case here, though with an officer replacing Zimmerman.
        "To be free is better than to be unfree - always."

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Surrey View Post
          Would the police be able to use lethal force in response to sat fists if the officer believed he was being overwhelmed? Thus violating the plus one rule. Thinking the Zimmerman case here, though with an officer replacing Zimmerman.
          Good question.

          Deadly force is defined as 'intended to cause serious bodily injury and/or death'. So if a subject is beating you with his bare fists and inflicting serious bodily injury, yes, that would justify a use of deadly force in response.

          Its not a violation of the plus one rule because the attacker have moved to deadly force.

          Keep in mind the categories are generalized, and the totality of the circumstances must always be weighed.

          Both Zimmerman and Ferguson drew upon your point.
          Any man can hold his place when the bands play and women throw flowers; it is when the enemy presses close and metal shears through the ranks that one can acertain which are soldiers, and which are not.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Arnold J Rimmer View Post
            Good question.

            Deadly force is defined as 'intended to cause serious bodily injury and/or death'. So if a subject is beating you with his bare fists and inflicting serious bodily injury, yes, that would justify a use of deadly force in response.

            Its not a violation of the plus one rule because the attacker have moved to deadly force.

            Keep in mind the categories are generalized, and the totality of the circumstances must always be weighed.

            Both Zimmerman and Ferguson drew upon your point.
            Thanks
            "To be free is better than to be unfree - always."

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            • #7

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              • #8
                AJ makes a nice list. TAG has a pretty chart. But in real life it doesn't work like this. When faced with overwhelming odds, armed to the teeth, a good Texas LEO holsters his gun and kicks the hell out of all the desperadoes.

                I have video proof on You Tube!
                My Avatar: Ivan W. Henderson Gunner/navigator B-25-26. 117 combat missions. Both Theaters. 11 confirmed kills. DSC.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Arnold J Rimmer View Post
                  Good question.

                  Deadly force is defined as 'intended to cause serious bodily injury and/or death'. So if a subject is beating you with his bare fists and inflicting serious bodily injury, yes, that would justify a use of deadly force in response.

                  Its not a violation of the plus one rule because the attacker have moved to deadly force.

                  Keep in mind the categories are generalized, and the totality of the circumstances must always be weighed.

                  Both Zimmerman and Ferguson drew upon your point.
                  What is meant by 'serious bodily injury'?

                  Given that punching is 'Heavy hand', surely using a gun in response is plus two?

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Aber View Post
                    What is meant by 'serious bodily injury'?

                    Given that punching is 'Heavy hand', surely using a gun in response is plus two?
                    Good question.

                    It is up to a prosecutor to establish in court, but as a reliable rule any injury which requires medical attention.

                    A punch in the face is heavy hand. A rain of powerful punches to the head would move the force used to blunt impact, or even deadly force, thus bringing deadly force into a legal option.

                    To use Ferguson, the officer sustains a bone injury to the orbit of his eye.

                    Keep in mind an officer is not required to sustain injury, and the UoF is judged by the user's perception at the time of use. So again to Ferguson, if the officer is being brutally & repeatedly punched and believes the subject is attempting to seriously injury him or kill him, deadly force is on the table.

                    There is certainly ample evidence of subjects being beaten to death or critically injured by punching or kicking.
                    Any man can hold his place when the bands play and women throw flowers; it is when the enemy presses close and metal shears through the ranks that one can acertain which are soldiers, and which are not.

                    Comment

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