The Levels of Use of Force Continuum
A use of force continuum includes varying levels of force that officers can follow to escalate or de-escalate the use of force in situations when force is justified. The levels of the use of force continuum vary, as many agencies have created their own use of force continuum. However, most continuums include levels similar to this:
Presence of an Officer
The mere presence of an officer can de-escalate a situation. This is the preferred method on the continuum, as it involves no use of force.
Verbalization includes the use of verbal orders, rather than physical force, to stop a crime or prevent threatening situations from escalating. Verbal orders should be clear and understandable, non-threatening, and calmly, but firmly, spoken. These verbal commands may include simple phrases such as “stop” or “don’t move,” or more complex directional phrases.
Empty-hand control is the use of bodily force, rather than weapons, to gain control of a threatening situation. This includes a “soft technique” such as holding or restraining an individual. If a “soft technique” is not effective, officers may use a “hard technique” which includes kicking or punching to restrain an individual. This is the lowest level of physical force, and has a lower likelihood of causing damage to the subject.
Less Lethal Options
Less lethal options are intended to confuse or incapacitate an individual, allowing the officer to gain control of the situation without the use of deadly force. These options may include a baton, a Taser, pepper spray, or other chemical sprays. This should only be used when other methods of force have been ineffective, as they have a higher chance of causing more severe damage to the suspect or to bystanders.
Lethal weapons should only be used when the suspect poses a threat of death or serious injury to an officer or other individual.