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Use-Of-Force Continuum

Following departmental guidelines regarding the use-of-force has never been more important for police to protect themselves and others than right now.

It’s no secret that “Defund the Police” advocates are looking for any excuse to smear officers. Additionally, biased media outlets are willing to stream cleverly edited video to make law enforcement appear overly aggressive. That’s why understanding the use-of-force continuum sanctioned by local, state, and federal departments is essential. Not only will practical knowledge of the continuum help guide effectiveness, but it will also help protect responsible police officers from unwelcome personal and professional attacks.

What is the Use-of-Force Continuum?

In simple terms, the use-of-force continuum is a set of policies that allow officers to increase the verbal and physical deterrents under specific circumstances. The basic idea is that officers use the least amount of physical contact required to negotiate a situation. On the civilian side of the equation, people would expect that uniform guidelines were crafted decades ago to get everyone on the same page. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.

It’s not uncommon for use-of-force policies to differ at the local, state, and federal levels. While the lack of standardization across the law enforcement professions may seem problematic for bystanders, each department typically provides guidelines to its rank-and-file. Officers adhere to the policies laid out by a given department. They can demonstrate they follow the procedures even when social media opinions differ.

What is Included in a Use-of-Force Policy?

The major difficulty that some officers may experience is taking the information and translating it into “boots-in-the-ground” applications. Tensions escalate in fractions of seconds when angry suspects are being questioned, or perpetrators resist arrest. That being said, here are some general guidelines reflected in many use-of-force continuums.

  • Officer Presence: The firm presence of a uniformed officer tends to diffuse situations that could otherwise turn violent. Police are tasked with being firm, professional, and reasonably polite for as long as possible without using physical force.
  • Verbalization: Commands are generally the next step in the continuum. These are made with assertiveness. Verbal cues are a strategy to gain compliance over a suspect or unruly individual without physical contact. These may include orders such as “stop,” “don’t move,” or “keep your hands where I can see them.” Many departments also pair the verbalizations with hand signals. This is done in case the individual receiving commands is hearing impared or otherwise communicatively challenged. 
  • Hand Control: The use of hands is the first step in physical contact in the event a suspect shows aggression and is deemed not to have a weapon. Soft control techniques include grabbing, holds, and joint locks, among others. Officers who wear protective suits enjoy lightweight protection in these dangerous situations.
  • Non-Lethal Force Tools: Today’s officers have wide-reaching tools at their disposal. These can include batons, chemical sprays, tasers, and body armor. They can all be used to subdue a criminal without reaching for a firearm. Outfitting patrol officers with protective gear and non-lethal devices can save lives.
  • Lethal Force: Deadly force is always considered a last resort when an assailant puts officers’ and civilians’ lives in jeopardy.

Use-of-force continuum policies do not happen in a vacuum. They are generally agreed-upon guidelines that educate officers about how to best handle an aggressor under certain circumstances. They cannot account for unknown factors that an officer must process in a split second. These guidelines are also not intended to be weaponized by anti-law enforcement groups as a way to second-guess the very people who keep our communities safe. The country has already seen spikes in crime in cities that hamstring good officers from doing their job to the best of their ability.

How to Support Police Officer Safety

The use-of-force continuum delivers increased safety when officers do not feel compelled to employ physical contact. The confidence a patrol officer gains from having non-lethal tools and a lightweight riot suit for protection allows them to prolong a firm presence and verbal commands.

Protective riot gear can also mean the difference between a police officer reaching for their sidearm because they took a hard impact to the body or head and are losing consciousness. The use-of-force protocol is less likely to escalate when police are given the tools and safety equipment they need. Haven Gear produces lightweight riot suits that present a strong police presence and deliver determined protections. Contact us today to learn more about our next-gen suits and riot gear.