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Use-of-Force Policies and Training: A Reasoned Approach

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 71 Issue: 10 Dated: October 2002 Pages: 25-32
Thomas D. Petrowski J.D.
Date Published
October 2002
8 pages
This article discusses the use of deadly force by police officers.
This article is the first of a two part series that examines law enforcement policies and training concerning the use of deadly force by police officers. The author begins by describing the dangers that police officers face in the line of duty and then turns to a discussion of the constitutional limits defining the use of deadly force by law enforcement officers. Several U.S. Supreme Court cases are examined in order to make the reader aware of previous rulings and guidelines concerning the use of deadly force. In the case Graham v. Connor, the Court defined how the use of force by law enforcement officers should be constitutionally evaluated. According to this guideline, the reasonableness of the use of force should be measured against the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene. This means that reasonableness should not be measured with the hindsight knowledge that comes after the incident is over. Instead, what is a reasonable use of force should be measured from the perspective of the officer who used that force. After the discussion of the constitutionality of the use of force, the author turns to the training and policies of police departments. He shows how most police departments train their officers in the use of force with a “use-of-force” continuum. The author criticizes this approach, claiming that it results in hesitation in the officer to use force, often to the officer’s detriment. Statistics are offered on the numbers of officers killed or injured in the line of duty, compared with the number of offenders killed by police use of force. The author comments that hesitation on the part of the officer is the cause of many officer injuries and death. 28 Endnotes