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What Is Compliance?

NCJ Number
Law and Order Volume: 51 Issue: 12 Dated: December 2003 Pages: 70-73
George T. Williams
Date Published
December 2003
4 pages
This article discusses the signs of subject compliance and noncompliance as the basis for an officer's decision about when to use and when to stop using force against the subject.
Compliance is a complete lack of physical resistance to the lawful orders of an officer. This includes behaving according to the clear commands of the officer, as reasonably perceived by the officer. Compliance does not mean there are no objections to being taken into custody through verbal statements and complaints about what the officer is doing; still, the subject is compliant when he or she acts in obedience to the officer's commands and instructions. Noncompliance, on the other hand, involves clear behaviors by the subject that indicate he or she is resisting complying with the officer's instructions. Noncompliance involves attempts to flee from or incapacitate the officer so as to avoid being taken into custody. It is often necessary for officer's to explain not only the behavior of the subject that warranted an officer's use of force, but also why the officer chose to use the type and level of force that may have injured or killed the subject. Not only is the type of force an issue, but also the duration of the force; i.e., did the officer continue to use force on the subject even after his or her resistance had ceased. Officers must stop using force against a subject when it is clear to a reasonable observer that the subject is behaving in accordance with the officer's instructions. Thus, compliance is a lack of resistance to lawful orders. Officer's are responsible for recognizing compliance and reacting reasonably so as to limit liability for the unreasonable use of force when the suspect is in a state of compliance.