Thursday, November 29, 2007

It's Called the "Use of Force Continuum"

You know, in order to be a law enforcement officer, in the state of Tennessee, you have to go through rigorous training, take written tests, pass firearms proficiency tests, not consort with convicted drug dealers, bank defrauders, or other convicted felons - unless you are elected to the office of Sheriff. There is no requirement for a Sheriff to have any experience in law enforcement. He or she could have been a college student, a cook, or even a warden. But, as soon as one is elected, the media starts asking them law enforcement related questions - as if they had risen through the ranks, and had a wealth of experience to draw upon. I'm afraid we have such a "leader" in our Shurf. He has never been a law enforcement officer, but he did stay at a Holiday Inn Express one time, while on a vendor junket. Here is his latest demonstration of law enforcement acuity:

From the channel 5 website

In fact, it is legal to carry a Taser in more than 40 states, include the Mid-South's tri-state area. But are they safe? Shelby County Sheriff Mark Luttrell told us they can be deadly.

" A Taser can be a lethal weapon," he said.

According to Luttrell, if you get a Taser, you're taking a huge risk legally. It may protect you on the street, but could hurt you in court.

" The reality of it is, it does have the potential of being lethal," he said. "And when you start getting into that potential, there are a lot of liability questions that come up."

It only takes a quick search online to find dozens of lawsuits surrounding the weapon and its use.

Retired Lieutenant John Harvey says -
There are also many lawsuits against police and sheriff's departments over people being hit with nightsticks, batons, flashlights, being handcuffed too tightly, etc.

I can kill you with a pencil, but that doesn't mean it's considered a "lethal" weapon. None of these are considered LETHAL force.

Considering all this talk about consolidating the MPD and the SCSO, I shudder to think the shurf might be in control of both.

To shurf Luttrell - there is this thing called the "use of force continuum." It is the rule for police officers/deputies/etc (not that you would know that). Basically, it says the officer is to take action against a combatant that is one level above the level of force being used against the officer. I recommend you let your officers do the law enforcement interviews, and you can talk about building that 300 million dollar jail you want so badly. (Wait until just before the next election cycle to do that though)

Here is an example of a force continuum which models many in use around the country (pay particular attention to where the word TASER falls in this list). There is no "standard" for the use of force continuum, but I've never seen one that considers a Taser to be lethal. Furthermore, I think the sheriff might find himself in a vigorous debate over his classification of Taser with the company's representatives. (As a matter of fact, I'm sending the link to this blog to Taser so they can contact him and inform him of where the Taser falls in the continuum)

From this website of retired Denver Police officer (and fellow gang member)- Sgt. George Godoy

Level One

Officer Presence . The mere presence of a police officer in uniform or in a marked police unit is often enough to stop a crime in progress or prevent most situations from escalating. Without saying a word, the mere presence of a police officer can deter crime by the simple use of body language and gestures. At this level gestures should be non-threatening and professional. This "zero" level of force is always the best way to resolve any situation if possible.

Level Two

Verbal Commands . Used in combination with a visible presence, the use of the voice can usually achieve the desired results. Whether you instruct a person to, "Stop.", "Don't Move.", "Be quiet.", "Listen to me.", "Let me see your ID.", or, "You're under arrest."-- voice commands in conjunction with your mere presence will almost always resolve the situation. The content of the message is as important as your demeanor. It’s always best to start out calm but firm and non-threatening. Your choice of words and intensity can be increased as necessary, or used in short commands in more serious situations. The right combination of words in combination with officer presence can de-escalate a tense situation and prevent the need for a physical altercation. Training and experience improves the ability of a police officer to communicate effectively with everyone he/she comes in contact with.

Level Three

Empty Hand Control . Certain situations will arise where words alone will not reduce the aggression. This is the time police officers will need to get involved physically. This is a level of control employed by police officers minus the aid of equipment or weapons. There are two subcategories called, “soft empty hand techniques” and “hard empty hand techniques.” Soft Empty Hand Techniques: At this level minimal force would involve the use of bare hands to guide, hold, and restrain -- applying pressure points, and take down techniques that have a minimal chance of injury. Hard Empty Hand Techniques: At this level the use of force includes kicks, punches or other striking techniques such as the brachial stun or other strikes to key motor points that have a moderate chance of injury.

Level Four

Pepper Spray, Baton, Taser. When the suspect is violent or threatening, more extreme, but non-deadly measures must be used to bring the suspect under control, or affect an arrest. Before moving to this level of force, it is assumed that less physical measures have been tried and deemed inappropriate. Pepper spray results in considerable tearing of the eyes, as well as temporary paralysis of the larynx, which causes subjects to lose their breath. Contact with the face causes a strong burning sensation. Pepper spray, once thought an effective street tool for police officers has lost popularity over the years because of its ineffectiveness, especially on intoxicated persons. The typical baton is a round stick of various lengths, and is made of hardwood, aluminum or plastic composite materials. A blow with a baton can immobilize a combative person, allowing officers to affect an arrest. Common impact weapon used by police today include the PR-24 and collapsible baton. Of all the options available at this level the Taser, in my opinion, is the most effective. The Taser discharges a high voltage spark (50,000 volts) at very low amperage. The Taser fires two small darts, connected to wires, which drops a suspect at non-contact distance. These devices are easily carried. They are lightweight and affordable. Extensive training is not required, and they may be more effective on persons under the influence of PCP and other drugs who do not respond to chemical irritants. They can be especially useful for controlling non-criminal violent behavior, such as persons who are mentally impaired, or under the influence of mind-altering substances.

Level Five

Less Lethal . This is a newer, acceptable and effective level of force that numerous police agencies have added to their use of force continuum policy and procedure. Less-lethal weapons were developed to provide law enforcement, military and corrections personnel with an alternative to lethal force. They were designed to temporarily incapacitate, confuse, delay, or restrain an adversary in a variety of situations. They have been used in riots, prison disturbances, and hostage rescues. Less-lethal weapons are valuable when: Lethal force is not appropriate. Lethal force is justified and available for backup but lesser force may subdue the aggressor. Lethal force is justified but its use could cause collateral effects, such as injury to bystanders or life-threatening damage to property and environment.

Level Six

Deadly Force . If a police peace officer has probable cause to believe that a suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others then the use of deadly force is justified. (see Tennessee v. Garner) By the very nature of the profession, peace officers may at times be confronted with a potentially lethal threat. In most of these instances, peace officers will have no other option but to discharge their firearm in order to protect their life or, the life of others.

The use of force is an integral part of a law enforcement officer's job, particularly when arresting criminal suspects. No one disputes that police should be permitted to protect themselves and others from threats to safety, but what is often disputed is an officer's assessment of a threat and the level of force selected to counter it. As a general principle, the level of force used should be tailored to the nature of the threat that prompted its use.


scso said...

The Taser is an extremely effective device. I studied the characteristics for a security agency and the company will tell you that they have never been successfully sued. Successfully been the key word.

The death in custody statistics are better for Tasered subjects than for subjects who do have been subdued with aerosol chemicals.

I think the sheriff should reconsider the use of these devices. There are thousands of use of force forms on the Taser site and it becomes immediately clear how well they work. The majority of injuries sustained by subjects are from falling to the ground after the devices deployed.

Anonymous said...

I have long wondered why the citizens of Shelby County elect many of the officials we do. Our current "shurf" is but one example.

Sadly, in the last election, neither candidate for the position was one a person could vote for with any enthusiasm. It is encouraging, however, to see someone such as yourself, who is respected in the law enforcement community, as well as the community at large, beginning to publicly comment on Luttrell's lack of fitness for the job he holds.

Perhaps you can encourage your friend Mike Fleming to the attention of the general public to this matter and, assuming a good candidate could be found to run against him (Retired Lieutenant John Harvey?) we could elect ourselves a "good shurf".

Anonymous said...

I think the sheriff is right about the use of taser, it is being used to often to make the policeman job easier,
The taser in the hands of a police officer that is not the sharpes knife in the draw could get people that have not be found guilty of anything killed.
The taser makes the police officer Judge, Jury and Executioner.
We don't want that now! Do we!

John Harvey said...

I can see why you and the shurf agree, neither of you have ever been a cop! Sorry, I just had to explain why a non-cop would think a taser shouldn't be used.

You see, cops aren't out to try to kill people, as a rule. We are out to try to keep the peace and do so with minimal force. However, we have found many tools that are helpful in that endeavor, such as pepper spray, tasers, stun guns, batons, open hand tactics, grappling, pressure points, pain compliance holds, etc. These things are used rather than lethal force, whenever they can be used. Most cops would never use a taser when it isn't warranted. When it is warranted though, it can be a great tool, and it can help SAVE a person's life, because the cop might not have to use a firearm to subdue the individual.

Tasers, like pepper spray, nightsticks, and batons, aren't lethal force, they are less than letha.