Sample Essays on The Use of Force Continuum

The Use of Force Continuum

A use of force doctrine is a presentation of the degree of force applied in the respective situations that confront officers on duty, aimed at balancing the security needs with ethical concerns that affect suspects (Gray, 2008). Such concerns include the rights and welfare issues of intruders. Therefore, if an individual’s rights are violated, one may claim self-defense when accused of using force. In the United States, for instance, soldiers on duty are briefed on the use of force by the sergeant in order to boost objectivity. This means that not all situations necessitate equal amount of force to counter the outcomes, but full discretion must be exercised to uphold objectiveness (Feaver & Gelpi, 2011). As a result, the use of force is progressive depending on the magnitude of counter force employed by a suspect, the possible ways applicable to control a situation, and the police force value. This paper discusses the use of force continuum, the positive aspects along with the negative aspects that come along.

A number of factors determine the degree of force police officers and soldiers employs on a subject. These include the suspect’s opposition, the threat to civilians, along with the officers’ wellbeing. This amount of force is successive based on the situations, complications and the intent of the intruder. For instance, a police officer should not apply force if his or her presence is enough to command order. The principle appreciates that the existence of officers in a situation controls the subjects, though mostly applies to minor social cases that have little or no complications (Feaver & Gelpi, 2011). Additionally, if the presence precept does not bring order, the officers should verbally command the subject. This is aimed at causing the suspects communicate their intentions and taking orders from officers, hence providing sound information to control a situation. Next is the empty hand control that is aimed at relieving tension in a region. In this case, police officers are allowed to search, relieve weapons, and immobilize subjects with the intent to control their activities.

The use of force doctrine gives officers the power to employ intermediate weapons such as non-lethal chemicals and electronic impact on subjects. The intention is to gain control of a situation using the soundest technique on a subject, which lessen or cut short their aggression. For instance, police officers might use Conducted Energy Devices to immobilize subjects (Gray, 2008). However, if the above means do not control a situation, officers are allowed to employ deadly force to injure subjects that pose high risks to them, the victims, as well as to the public. This is the case if the threat posed by suspects to other persons is great and would lead to extremely adverse outcomes. Therefore, each agency has a set of rules and policies to guide their officers’ actions while responding to independent situations. The policy provides officers with various courses of action to undertake based on the magnitude of concerns. This continuum in general has several stages, and officers are advised to react with a level of force suitable to the state at hand, recognizing that the police officer might be prompted to move from one element of the continuum to a different one in a flash (Paoline & Terrill, 2007).

Thus, the use of force continuum serves as a guide to correctional, probation and police officers on how much force to apply against a resisting subject. The continuum is used as a police officers’ training tool to help them realize the principle of reasonable force while on duty. Additionally, this doctrine applies also to civilians such as in criminal trials to prove the reasonableness of the force employed against them. The reasonable force concept is defined as the amount of force that another officer would use under a similar situation to control the subject, Graham v. Connor (Paoline & Terrill, 2007). This application of force in resistance incidents is left at the officer’s discretion. Therefore, police officers are not held accountable if the situation demanded the degree of force employed. The officers are expected to weigh the cost-benefits of a case, the actions available, and inaction. This enables officers to make sound decisions on moral and justifiable duty related fulfills. However, an officer may argue psychological and emotional reasons for applying excessive force.

As well, the use of force theory has been developed to ease officers’ mental stress, thereby enhancing performance. This is because officers assess the extent of risks posed to them, the victims and the public prior to taking a forceful action. Thus, this provision enables officers to act on reasonable grounds. However, this is negated by the fact that different persons interpret situations differently. In situations that decisions made are subjective, it is clear that moral principles and conduct are not the determining factors in finding the solution to a case. As a result, persons that apply excessive force are criminally liable for what is determined as in excess of reasonable force in the circumstances. Another negative aspect that arises is the delirium syndrome that occurs during the individual’s physical strains. Persons suffering from excited delirium exhibit signs of severe mental disturbance and violence, which might be a cause of sudden death (Paoline & Terrill, 2007). Therefore, as much as police officers are allowed to use an equitable degree of force, this might lead to legal suits if the conditions change to their disadvantage. In situations that subjects demonstrate delirious signs, officers must avoid agitating them. Police officers must not give subjects drugs or employ force on their body such to cause pressure. The position in which subjects are restrained should allow them to breathe properly.

There have been several difficulties in balancing the interests of police officers to the rights of suspects. The safety of suspects in the theory is contrary to the interests of officers in situations that pose imminent threats. Under the rule, an officer may apply what is soundly reasonable force but end up being injured. This might again be extended to the innocent public in such a situation, which defeats the logic of using reasonable force. The problem develops due to a peculiarity of situations, individuals’ thinking, and the overall force determination. The findings in the force might support or dispute the degree of force employed by an officer to solve a situation. This has a high determination on the courses of action taken by officers in subsequent situations, thereby forming the basis of future solutions and outcomes (Gray, 2008). In addition, suspects might evaluate the conditions and possible courses of action prior to carrying out their chores, which influences their actions to control and manipulate officers. This negates the safety provisions available to an officer such as in a case where a target pretends to suffer from delirium syndrome. In conclusion, the use of force doctrine sets an effective guide to police officers, enabling them to respond to situations amicably and responsibly.



Feaver, P. D., & Gelpi, C. (2011). Choosing your battles: American civil-military relations and the use of force. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Gray, C. D. (2008). International law and the use of force. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Paoline, E. A., & Terrill, W. (2007). Police education, experience, and the use of force. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 34(2), 179-196.