Generally speaking, police officers must exercise some amount of force when they are involved in the arrest of persons of interest in the criminal proceedings. Force is permitted as it is necessary under specified circumstances including defense against perpetrators and cases of self-defense. Of course there are no universal classifications or definition on the extent of the force that these police officers use as each case of arrest is different and the perpetrators will respond in different ways. Nonetheless, the governing bodies such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police have created a structured definition of force as the amount of effort that police officers require to coerce compliance from unwilling subjects (as cited in Police Use of Force, 2015).
The amount of force that that these police officers use depends largely on the specific circumstance and the relevant authorities are aware that each situation is unique and each police officer is unique. Nonetheless, police officers are trained in their respective agencies on how to respond to specific situations that require force. In a life threatening situation, the police officer will use excessive force if there is strong resistance to the minor use of force to control the situation. As such, police officers must constantly remind themselves of their training in situation awareness and their ability to assess the danger of the situation and the need to regain control.
Under the Model Penal Code, police officers are allowed to use excessive or deadly force in circumstances that involve the suspect being arrested for using or threatening to use deadly force or harm others if their arrest is delayed. But, the case law of Kingsley v. Hendrickson shows that the arrestee can file suit against police officers who they believe have used excessive force to effectuate prevent the escape of the persons who has been charged. Despite the charges filed against the police officers for using a Taser to control the situation, the jury ruled in favor of the defendant and justified the use of force to regain control of the situation. In essence, the law suggests that deadly force can be used in arrests and in preventing a suspect’s escape in cases where deadly force has been used to effectuate the arrest initially. But, if the arrest did not involve deadly force, then the police officer cannot use deadly force to prevent the escape of the suspect.
Conversely, the use of deadly force in arresting a suspect can be justified if the police officer believes that the suspect has carried out a deadly felony such as rape, murder kidnapping among others. These offences warrant the use of lethal force to effectuate an arrest or even possible escape. In the case of Saucier v. Katz, the Supreme Court reiterates the Model Penal Code in reaffirming the doctrine of mistaken beliefs in the use of force (McGuiness, 2012) in cases of self-defense and apparent dangers (McGuiness, 2012)
In concluding, there are common guidelines that help these officers to determine the amount of force they use. At the onset, police officers use basic verbal and physical restraint, and the level of force may increase to less-lethal force and finally lethal force depending on the amount of control these officers have over the situation. The level of force that each officer uses depend on the training, personal convictions, and experience that the police officer has regarding a specific situation. But a number of questionable uses of force have led to continuous arguments on the abuse and excessive force use in arrests.
McGuiness, J. Michael, Law Enforcement Use of Force: The Objective Reasonableness
Standards under North Carolina and Federal Law, 24, Campbell L. Rev. 201, (2012), Retrieved from http://scholarship.law.campbell.edu 9 Feb 2016
Michael Kingsley v. Stan Hendrickson, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh
Circuit, No. 12 - 3639, Argued: April 23, 2013 – Decided March 3, 2014, Retrieved from www.cases.justice.com 9 Feb 2016
Police Use of Force (2015) National Institute of Justice (NIJ), Office of Justice Progress,
Retrieved from www.nij.gov 9 Feb 2016