Police uses of force are in the news frequently. When an officer uses force, be it physical or deadly, against a citizen, it tends to make the news. In light of recent news, we had the idea that many people may not be aware that there is a use of force continuum that officers are expected to follow.

While there are certainly some bad apples in any line of work, a rogue police officer or one that uses force too quickly can cause problems for both citizens and their fellow officers. Below is an explanation of the continuum that officers are trained and expected to use.

Officer Presence

The first response to resolve a situation is officer presence. In many cases, the presence of an officer is enough to deter or stop a crime. The officers are expected to remain professional and nonthreatening.


The second response is verbalization or force that is not physical. In this stage of the continuum, police use their voices to issue commands or demands. Officers may choose to raise their voices to gain attention and compliance, or they may shorten their commands to single words.

Bodily Force — Empty Handed

The third level of force includes grabs, holds and joint locks. These are called “soft techniques.” They are often not used to hurt but to control a subject. An officer may be required to move on to “hard techniques” like kicks and punches in order to subdue a subject.

Less-Lethal Methods

If bodily force does not work to subdue a subject or diffuse a situation, officers may move to less-lethal methods. These include the use of chemical sprays, batons, projectiles (bean bags and the like) or conducted energy devices (tasers).

Lethal Force

Lethal force is only to be used when there is a serious threat to another person or the officer.  The officer typically must make a decision in only seconds before deciding lethal force is necessary.

People can typically avoid any level on the above continuum beyond the first by simply complying with a police officer’s orders. That said, there are some instances when police behave or react inappropriately and there is very little control that the citizen has over the situation.

If you have been arrested in Fort Lauderdale and need an attorney, contact our office. We are here to assist you as you defend your rights in a court of law. Call now for a free case evaluation.

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