Use of Force from the perspective of Police

By Lt. Dan Marcou
Picture the following hypothetical scenario: A chief at a press conference states, “Ladies and gentlemen I have gathered you here today, because police use of force cases are routinely mishandled by journalists and community leaders. It is my belief that journalists and community leaders may do a better job in this area if they have at least a basic understanding of what a justified use of force looks like.” There are three things the public needs to know about contacts with police. 1. Be courteous 2. Be cooperative 3. Be compliant Criminality, Not Color It is important for you to convey to the public that police officers pursue criminality, not color. Officers must have a reason to make contact with an individual. They must be able to explain later in court that they had either a reasonable suspicion or probable cause to believe the individual had committed or was about to commit an offense. The fact is that more than 95 percent of police contacts are handled without rising above the level of dialog. This is because most people are cooperative and compliant. This is the way it should be, because it is unlawful to resist and or obstruct an officer, while in the performance of his/her duty. If a person disagrees with a stop or an arrest, the place to argue the case vigorously is in a court of law, not on the street. Force Options When an officer meets resistance, officers are trained to use a level of force justified by the specific threat, or resistance they are presented with. For example, if a person pulls away from an officer making an arrest and snaps, “Don’t you touch me,” the officer can choose to apply a compliance holdto that person. These holds are designed to convince the person to comply. When a suspect is actively resisting, the officer can also choose to disengage and deploy a TASER or utilize pepper spray to overcome that resistance. It might surprise some people to discover that when a suspect strikes an officer, or even acts as if he or she is about to strike an officer, that officer can legally deliver impacts with what we call personal body weapons. Officers can punch, kick, or strike with elbows and/or knees to defend themselves and/or make an arrest. Officers can also choose to deliver baton impacts to targeted areas on the body. Officers can even strike a suspect more than once if once does not stop the suspect’s threat. If a suspect tries to hit an officer, don’t be surprised when that officer hits back. Use of Deadly Force I’ve never heard an officer say at the beginning of a shift, “I hope I get to shoot someone today.” While the vast majority of officers never fire their weapons in the line of duty, some have to. When an officer is faced with the threat of death or great bodily injury — or someone they are sworn to protect is faced with that same imminent threat — an officer is justified in using deadly force. There are three generally held misconceptions about deadly force that continually arise and need to be addressed: 1. An officer can shoot an unarmed man under certain conditions. An officer may have to use deadly force on an unarmed man who is larger, stronger, and/or attempting to disarm the officer, for example.  In the case of a suspect, who is battering an officer to the point that he or she may suffer death or great bodily harm, the use of deadly force is defensible. Police officers do not have to sustain a severe beating in the line of duty. Other factors that could justify an officer’s choice to utilize deadly force are the extent of that officer’s injury, exhaustion, or the number of assaultive adversaries the officer is confronted with. 2. An officer can, in certain conditions, shoot someone in the back. You see if a suspect is fleeing and their escape presents an imminent threat of death or great bodily harm to the community at large, the use of deadly force can be justified. On some occasions a round might enter through the back, because of the dynamics of the circumstance. 3. Officers are not — and never will be — trained to shoot to wound or shoot weapons out of subjects’ hands. These are not realistic options. Handguns are not accurate enough to deliberately attempt such things when lives are on the line. The Bottom Line From 2003 to 2012, 535 officers were killed in the line of duty in this country. Another 580,000 were injured in the line of duty. Entire Article on Use of Force by Police

About the author

Lt. Dan Marcou retired as a highly decorated police lieutenant and SWAT Commander with 33 years of full time law enforcement experience. He is a nationally recognized police trainer in many police disciplines and is a Master Trainer in the State of Wisconsin. He has authored three novels The Calling: The Making of a Veteran Cop , S.W.A.T. Blue Knights in Black Armor, and Nobody's Heroes are all available at Barnes and Noble andAmazon.com. Visit his website and contact Dan Marcou

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