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The Use Of Force By The Police

Definition of Police Force

Force is used to physically restrain someone. This action is usually undertaken by a member of the law enforcement to control an unruly individual or situation. The International Association of Chiefs of Police defines it as the effort which is required to compel a subject who is unwilling into compliance. However, there is no worldwide agreed on amount of force needed in such cases.

It is important for law enforcement personnel to balance the rights of the individual and ethical concerns, with the need for security. A justifiable reason to use force and inflict injuries on a civilian is if the officer is acting in self-defense. In the U.S. military guards on duty are briefed by their commanding officer regarding the use of force, before they are put on duty.

Factors involved in the decision

Every situation is different, as is every officer. This is why an awareness of a situation is necessary. Officers are subject to training in which they learn to judge the amount of force required to gain control in a variety of situations. Time constraints play an important part in the determination of whether force is needed or not.

Guidelines for the decision

There are five general steps which present a guideline as to the amount of force required in a situation. The level of force will correspond to a series of actions that an officer can take in order to deal with a situation. These start with the presence of an officer, and end with deadly force being used. The transitional steps involve verbalization, using empty hands to search and relieve any weapons, and using impact non-lethal weapons on the subject.

Using the force continuums

These are rough guidelines on the standard amount of force used in a certain situation. It provides a guideline for civilians and officers of the law and aims to clarify the force that is legal for an officer to use. These guidelines often play a central part in the policies that the agencies for law enforcement outline and use. There are a variety of models for force continuum and each agency will have their own version.

Using different levels of force

Officers for law enforcement should use force when it is necessary, and only to mitigate a situation, protect the citizens from harm or make the arrest. The amount of force used will depend on the incident, the officer’s training and their experience.

Force should always be the officer’s last option, used only to ensure the safety of the community when all other practices fail.

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