Effective Date: February 17, 2009
Last Reviewed: February 17, 2009

General Considerations and Guidelines

Because of their law enforcement and peacekeeping role, police officers may be required at times to resort to the use of physical force to enable them to fully carry out their responsibilities. Police officers may be confronted with situations requiring or resulting in the use of various degrees of force to effect a lawful arrest, to ensure public safety, or to protect themselves or others from harm. The degree of force used is dependent upon the facts surrounding the situation the officers’ face. Only a reasonable and necessary amount of force may be used. The degree of force the officer is forced to use often depends upon the amount of resistance or threat to safety the situation produces.

The objective of the use of force is to maintain and/or reestablish control over a situation. Control is reached when a person complies with an officer's directions and/or the suspect is restrained or apprehended and no longer presents a threat to the officer or others. Since officers will encounter a wide range of behaviors, they must be prepared to utilize a range of force options that are reasonable and necessary to maintain and/or reestablish control by overcoming resistance to the officers’ lawful authority while minimizing injuries.

Because there are an unlimited number of possibilities, allowing for a wide variety of circumstances, no written policy can offer definitive answers to every situation in which the use of force might be appropriate. Rather, this policy will set certain specific guidelines and provide officers with a concrete basis on which to utilize sound judgment in making reasonable and prudent decisions.

It is the policy of the Stonehill Police Department that Officers use only the force that is reasonably necessary

• to make a lawful arrest,

• to place a person into protective custody,

• to effectively bring an incident under control,

• or to protect the lives or safety of the officer and others.


Force: Any physical effort used to compel, repel and/or control.

Non-Lethal Force: (Non-Deadly Force) that force which is not likely or intended to cause serious bodily harm or death.

Lethal Force: (Deadly Force) that force which is likely or intended to cause serious bodily harm or death.

Prudence: Carefulness, precaution, attentiveness and good judgment as applied to action or conduct. That degree of care required by the circumstances.

Reasonable Force: That degree of force which is not excessive and is appropriate in making a lawful arrest, placing a person in protective custody, effectively bringing an incident under control or protecting the lives and safety of the officer or others

Use of Force by Sworn Officers

SWORN OFFICERS: Officers may use only the force that is reasonably necessary to accomplish lawful objectives such as to make a lawful arrest, to place a person into protective custody, to effectively bring an incident under control, or to protect the lives or safety of the officer and others.

PERCEIVED CIRCUMSTANCES: The level of force used by an officer shall be a response based upon: Threat Perception - the reasonable officer’s perspective of the situation in reference to the severity of any crime, the existence of an immediate safety threat to the officer or others, and the degree of compliance from the subject;

Perceived Subject Action(s) - the subject’s action(s) as perceived by the reasonable officer:

• Compliant: The officer maintains or gains compliance to desired directives via options of tradition, time, communication skills, etc.

• Passive Resistive: Sheer unresponsiveness. The subject’s degree of noncompliance is free of physical or mechanical enhancement.

• Active Resistive: The subject's noncompliance has become more active in scope and intensity to a level of energy with enhanced physical or mechanical defiance.

• Assaultive (Bodily Harm): An actual attack upon the officer or others. The scope and severity of the attack would not support the reasonable officer’s assessment of death or serious bodily harm to occur to the officer or others.

• Assaultive (Serious Bodily Harm/Death): The reasonable officer could conclude that death or great bodily harm may be inflicted as a result of the subject's actions.

Reasonable Officer Responses

• Cooperative Controls: (Compliant) - Includes the subject’s acceptance of authority by the use control techniques including; communication skills, common tactics, body language, etc.

• Contact Controls: (Passive Resistant) - "Hands on" techniques used to guide or direct the subject. The primary force component at this level could be non-pain compliance techniques, etc.

• Compliance Techniques: (Active Resistant) - The force forms could include elements of pain compliance, chemical irritants, joint restraints, electrical weapons in drive stun mode, etc.

• Defensive Tactics: (Assaultive) – The officer is justified in taking appropriate steps to immediately cease the assaultive action and to gain compliance and maintain control of the subject. Force could include weapon (baton) strikes, electrical weapon deployment, and canine apprehension.

• Deadly Force: (Lethal) - Absolute and immediate tactics must be deployed to stop the lethal risk and secure conclusive compliance and control. Force options could include those leading to permanent debilitation or even death, including firearms and weapons of available means.

Use of Lethal (Deadly) Force

Officers are authorized to use lethal force to:

Protect the officer or others from what is reasonably believed to be a threat of death or serious bodily injury; and/or

To effect an arrest only if:

1) The arrest is for a felony; AND

2) The officer reasonably believes that the force employed creates no substantial risk to innocent persons; AND

3) The officer reasonably believes (i.e. has “probable cause” to believe) that:

a) The crime for which the arrest is to be made involved conduct including the use or threatened use of deadly force; or

b) There is a substantial risk that the person to be arrested will cause death or serious bodily harm if such person’s apprehension is delayed.

Where practical prior to discharging a firearm, officers shall identify themselves as law enforcement officers and state their intent to shoot.

Officers may use deadly force to euthanize an animal that represents a threat to public safety or as a humanitarian measure where the animal is seriously injured when the officer reasonably believes that deadly force can be used without harm to the officer or others.

Deadly Force Restrictions

WARNING SHOTS: Firearms shall not be discharged as a bluff, warning, or signal shot.

MOVING VEHICLES: Officers should refrain from discharging a firearm at a moving or fleeing vehicle unless any occupant is using or threatening to use deadly force. Officers should be aware of the potential inability of a bullet to penetrate metal or glass surfaces of an automobile and the likelihood of ricocheting bullets causing injury to innocent persons. Officers should not shoot when the vehicle is no longer an imminent threat. Officers shall not shoot from a moving vehicle.

Use of Non-Lethal Force

Where deadly force is not authorized, officers may use only that level of force that is reasonably necessary to bring an incident under control.

Officers are authorized to use department-approved, non-deadly force techniques and issued equipment to:

b. Protect the officer or others from physical harm;

c. Restrain or subdue a resistant individual, while making a lawful arrest or placing a person in protective custody; and/or

d. Bring an unlawful situation safely and effectively under control.

The mere placing of handcuffs on a prisoner will not be construed to be a use of physical force. Use of restraining devices is mandatory on all prisoners, unless in the officer's judgment unusual circumstances exist which make the use of restraining devices impossible or unnecessary (e.g., very young juvenile, a handicapped or injured subject). Whenever possible, handcuffs should be “double-locked” to prevent unintended tightening of the handcuffs.

A weapon shall not be displayed or brandished as a warning or as a threat unless its actual use in the situation would be proper and in compliance with this policy regarding the use of force. This does not prohibit an officer from having a weapon readied when it is anticipated that a weapon may be required.

Other Use of Force Restrictions

Officers will not use “choke holds” or “neck restraints” when applying the use of non-lethal force techniques. Due to the potential for “positional asphyxia”, Officers will not employ “hog-tying” techniques to restrain an individual.

Use of Force by Non-Sworn Employees

NON-SWORN: Non-sworn employees have no authority to use force for law enforcement purposes. Non-sworn employees have no authority to use force except in the following situations:

Self Defense

Non-Deadly Force: For the use of non-deadly force to be justified, the employee must:

• Have reasonable concern for his/her safety;

• Pursued all possible alternatives to combat; and

• Force used must be no greater than necessary.

Deadly Force: For the use of deadly force, an employee must:

• Have a reasonable fear that he/she is imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm; and

• No other means will suffice to prevent such harm.


A non-sworn employee is justified in using force against another to protect a third person when:

• A reasonable person in the employee’s position would believe the intervention to be necessary for the protection of the third person, and

• In the circumstances, as that reasonable person would believe them to be, the third person would be justified in using such force to protect himself.

The reasonableness of the belief may depend in part on the relationships among the person involved.

The employee’s justification is lost if he uses excessive force. 

Medical Attention

After any level of force is used, the officer shall immediately evaluate the need for medical attention or treatment for that person upon whom the force was used and arrange for such treatment when:

• That person has a visible injury; or

• In the case of use of pepper spray, immediately after spraying a suspect, officers shall be alert to any indications that the individual needs medical care. This includes, but is not necessarily limited to, breathing difficulties, gagging, profuse sweating and loss of consciousness; or

• That person complains of injury or discomfort and requests medical attention.

NOTE: Any person requesting and/or deemed in need of immediate medical attention shall be transported (in accordance with the departmental policy, to the appropriate hospital or medical facility. All medical treatment received shall be noted in the officer's report.

Pepper Spray

1) Suspects subdued through the use of pepper spray may need to be decontaminated. Officers should refrain from decontaminating detainees while they are violent or assaultive.

2) Remove suspect from contaminated area. If the subject was sprayed in a closed room or vehicle, ventilate the area.

3) Suspects should be instructed to try to be calm and not to touch their face. If wearing contact lenses, remove as soon as reasonably possible.

4) Decontamination wipes may be used if available.

5) Allow suspect access to a running hose, holding cell sink, or eye wash Department if circumstances permit. The effected area may be washed with soap and water.

6) Creams and oils should be avoided as they lock the capsicum against the skin.

7) If symptoms such as breathing difficulties, gagging, profuse sweating and loss of consciousness persist, seek medical attention.

Injury to Prisoner

• The officer shall promptly notify his/her immediate supervisor of the incident.

• The officer shall attempt to locate and identify all witnesses, and obtain and document their statements.

• The officer shall prepare and submit all required reports. If more than one officer is involved in a use of force incident resulting in an injury, each officer shall complete a report outlining his/her actions and observations in the incident.


• If available, a Supervisor shall immediately respond to the scene of any incident where, as the result of the application of physical force, an officer is injured, or a prisoner has a visible injury, or complains of injury or discomfort and requests medical attention, and

The Supervisor shall:

• Ensure that officers receive any necessary assistance, including medical treatment, and that any injuries to officers are properly documented;

• Ensure that the need for medical treatment for the prisoner is properly evaluated and provided;

• Determine if further investigative personnel should respond to the scene and the level of investigative services to be utilized (including photos, measurements and diagrams). If an injury or complaint of pain exists, supervisors are encouraged to obtain photographs; and

NOTE: A photograph showing no injury may be as important as one which shows injury.

• File a report on the incident and his/her observations with the officer-incharge of the police Department.