By Terry Miller
Officers face extremely high risks on a daily basis and for these individuals knowledge is power. -Photo by Terry Miller
Every day, law enforcement officers throughout the United States face danger while carrying out their sworn duties. When dealing with a dangerous-often unpredictable-situation, police officers often have very little time to assess and determine the proper response. Excellent training can enable and empower the officer to react and act appropriately to the threat or possible threat and respond with suitable tactics to address the circumstances, possibly including some level of force, if necessary.
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights states that “…in diffusing situations, apprehending alleged criminals, and protecting themselves and others, officers are legally entitled to use appropriate means, including force.” In dozens of studies of police use of force there is no single, accepted definition among the researchers, analysts, or the police. The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) in its study, Police Use of Force in America 2001, defined use of force as “The amount of effort required by police to compel compliance by an unwilling subject.” The IACP also identified five components of force: physical, chemical, electronic, impact, and firearm. To some people, though, the mere presence of a police officer can be intimidating and seen as use of force.
In Pasadena, officers are faced with the same issues every dept. faces on a daily basis and officers’ reactions and actions to any given scenario could be the difference between life and death.
Local media representatives were invited to attend a class Tuesday at the Police Firing Range and Training Center in which participants had the chance to see several different situations from an offcer’s perspective using a Power Point presentation and the Use of Force Simulator.
Officers Doug Hamblin and Anthony Russo, who led the class, and were joined by Lt. Phulente Riddle and Chief Phillip Sanchez who gave insightful perspective on many different situations officers face.
The opportunity for this reporter was truly eye-opening. After the PowerPoint presentation and a series of disturbing videos of officers being shot, and in some cases mortally wounded, Officer Anthony Russo equipped me with a handgun – a Glock- ( utilizing laser, not live ammunition), Tazer, and pepper spray and placed me an a scenario similar to one which any officer could face at any given time . The Use of Force simulator attempts to recreate that scenario and the new recruit (i.e. yours truly) had to respond accordingly and do what he thinks an officer would do in a similar situation. The force simulator was ininitially installed and training began in February 2011 but a newer, more up to date, version was later implemented and is now in use at the training facility.
The experience is profound and one learns a great deal about not what you see, but what you don’t see. How quickly one must see the big picture in any given scenario and the rapid decicions that peace officers must make in split seconds was indeed insightful.
One male colleague from another newspaper was given the scenario of a traffic stop where a pretty young girl, wearing a bikini top, gets out of the car and starts talking to the police officer. The new recruit did not see the large handgun in the door of the car which was very evident upon replay. In point of fact after discussion, not of the media reps, including one woman, saw the handgun which was clearly evident upon review of the video.
The point of the exercise is to understand how many factors are involved in any given situation and how important it is to see the big picture and not the obvious.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) in Data Collection on Police Use of Force, states that “…the legal test of excessive force…is whether the police officer reasonably believed that such force was necessary to accomplish a legitimate police purpose…” However, there are no universally accepted definitions of “reasonable” and “necessary” because the terms are subjective. A court in one jurisdiction may define “reasonable” or “necessary” differently than a court in a second jurisdiction. More to the point is an understanding of the “improper” use of force, which can be divided into two categories: “unnecessary” and “excessive.” The unnecessary use of force would be the application of force where there is no justification for its use, while an excessive use of force would be the application of more force than required where use of force is necessary.
A 1999 BJS report estimated that less than half of 1 percent of an estimated 44 million people who had face-to-face contact with a police officer were threatened with or actually experienced force. Other studies report similar statistics. It is these few situations, however, that attract public attention. Robert K. Olsen, former Minneapolis Police Chief and Past President, Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), early in 2004 called the use of force “the single most volatile issue facing police departments.” He noted that “just one use of force incident can dramatically alter the stability of a police department and its relationship with a community.”
Police department policies can have a significant impact on how force is used in street-level encounters, says a 2003 study by the Community Relations Services of the U.S. Department of Justice, Principles of Good Policing: Avoiding Violence Between Police and Citizens. And, the BJS Data Collection report mentioned above stresses the need for police executives to improve training of recruits and police officers on the use of force and the techniques for minimizing its application.
This course has been designed to give the student the knowledge and skills necessary to successfully design, develop and implement Use of Force training using static, dynamic and interactive training principles.
This course has been developed for those law enforcement professionals who train officers or agents in the principles of Use of Force, develop or revise Use of Force policy, and are responsible for review and evaluation of agency Use of Force incidents. It is not designed as an end user course which teaches an individual how to use force correctly. It utilizes adult learning principles as well as problem based training, role-play, lecture and demonstrations to give the student the skills they need to be successful developing and teaching their own training programs related to Use of Force.