Use of Force

Summary: 

This policy provides guidelines on the reasonable use of force by law enforcement personnel.

Policy document: 

Body: 

Published with permission by SUNY College at Old Westbury,

University Police Department

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Use of Force

300.1 PURPOSE AND SCOPE

This policy provides guidelines on the reasonable use of force. While there is no way to specify

the exact amount or type of reasonable force to be applied in any situation, every member of

this department is expected to use these guidelines to make such decisions in a professional,

impartial, and reasonable manner (Executive Law § 840).

In addition to those methods, techniques, and tools set forth below, the guidelines for the

reasonable application of force contained in this policy shall apply to all policies addressing the

potential use of force, including but not limited to the Control Devices policy.

300.1.1 DEFINITIONS

Definitions related to this policy include:

Deadly force - Force reasonably anticipated and intended to create a substantial likelihood of

causing death or very serious injury. This includes force that, under the circumstances, is readily

capable of causing death or serious physical injury (Executive Law § 840).

Feasible - Reasonably capable of being done or carried out under the circumstances to

successfully achieve the arrest or lawful objective without increasing risk to the officer or another

person.

Force - The application of physical techniques or tactics, chemical agents, or weapons to another

person. It is not a use of force when a person allows him/herself to be searched, escorted,

handcuffed, or restrained.

Imminent - Ready to take place; impending. Note that imminent does not mean immediate or

instantaneous.

Totality of the circumstances - All facts and circumstances known to the officer at the time,

taken as a whole, including the conduct of the officer and the subject leading up to the use of force.

300.2 POLICY

The use of force by law enforcement personnel is a matter of critical concern, both to the public

and to the law enforcement community. Officers are involved on a daily basis in numerous and

varied interactions and, when warranted, may use reasonable force in carrying out their duties.

Officers must have an understanding of, and true appreciation for, their authority and limitations.

This is especially true with respect to overcoming resistance while engaged in the performance

of law enforcement duties.

The SUNY College at Old Westbury, University Police Department recognizes and respects the

value of all human life and dignity without prejudice to anyone. Vesting officers with the authority

to use reasonable force and to protect the public welfare requires monitoring, evaluation, and a

careful balancing of all interests.

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Policy Manual

Use of Force

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300.2.1 DUTY TO INTERCEDE AND REPORT

Any officer present and observing another law enforcement officer or a member using force that

is clearly beyond that which is objectively reasonable under the circumstances shall, when in a

position to do so, intercede to prevent the use of unreasonable force.

Any officer who observes another law enforcement officer or a member use force that is

potentially beyond that which is objectively reasonable under the circumstances should report

these observations to a supervisor as soon as feasible.

300.2.2 PERSPECTIVE

When observing or reporting force used by a law enforcement officer, each officer should take into

account the totality of the circumstances and the possibility that other law enforcement officers

may have additional information regarding the threat posed by the subject.

300.3 USE OF FORCE

Officers shall use only that amount of force that reasonably appears necessary given the facts

and circumstances perceived by the officer at the time of the event to accomplish a legitimate law

enforcement purpose.

The reasonableness of force will be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the

scene at the time of the incident. Any evaluation of reasonableness must allow for the fact that

officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the amount of force that reasonably

appears necessary in a particular situation, with limited information and in circumstances that are

tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving.

Given that no policy can realistically predict every possible situation an officer might encounter,

officers are entrusted to use well-reasoned discretion in determining the appropriate use of force

in each incident.

It is also recognized that circumstances may arise in which officers reasonably believe that it

would be impractical or ineffective to use any of the tools, weapons or methods provided by this

department. Officers may find it more effective or reasonable to improvise their response to rapidly

unfolding conditions that they are confronting. In such circumstances, the use of any improvised

device or method must nonetheless be reasonable and utilized only to the degree that reasonably

appears necessary to accomplish a legitimate law enforcement purpose.

While the ultimate objective of every law enforcement encounter is to avoid or minimize injury,

nothing in this policy requires an officer to retreat or be exposed to possible physical injury before

applying reasonable force.

300.3.1 USE OF FORCE TO EFFECT AN ARREST

A police officer or a peace officer may use reasonable physical force to effect an arrest, prevent

escape of a person from custody, or in defense of self or others from imminent physical force

(Penal Law § 35.30).

Force shall not be used by an officer to (Executive Law § 840):

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Use of Force

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(a) Extract an item from the anus or vagina of a subject without a warrant, except where

exigent circumstances are present.

(b) Coerce a confession from a subject in custody.

(c) Obtain blood, saliva, urine, or other bodily fluid or cells from an individual for scientific

testing in lieu of a court order where required.

300.3.2 FACTORS USED TO DETERMINE THE REASONABLENESS OF FORCE

When determining whether to apply force and evaluating whether an officer has used reasonable

force, a number of factors should be taken into consideration, as time and circumstances permit.

These factors include but are not limited to:

(a) Immediacy and severity of the threat to officers or others.

(b) The conduct of the individual being confronted, as reasonably perceived by the officer

at the time.

(c) Officer/subject factors (e.g., age, size, relative strength, skill level, injuries sustained,

level of exhaustion or fatigue, the number of officers available vs. subjects).

(d) The effects of suspected drug or alcohol use.

(e) The individual’s mental state or capacity.

(f) The individual’s ability to understand and comply with officer commands.

(g) Proximity of weapons or dangerous improvised devices.

(h) The degree to which the individual has been effectively restrained and his/her ability

to resist despite being restrained.

(i) The availability of other reasonable and feasible options and their possible

effectiveness.

(j) Seriousness of the suspected offense or reason for contact with the individual.

(k) Training and experience of the officer.

(l) Potential for injury to officers, suspects, and others.

(m) Whether the individual appears to be resisting, attempting to evade arrest by flight,

or is attacking the officer.

(n) The risk and reasonably foreseeable consequences of escape.

(o) The apparent need for immediate control of the individual or a prompt resolution of

the situation.

(p) Whether the conduct of the individual being confronted no longer reasonably appears

to pose an imminent threat to the officer or others.

(q) Prior contacts with the individual or awareness of any propensity for violence.

(r) Any other exigent circumstances.

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300.3.3 PAIN COMPLIANCE TECHNIQUES

Pain compliance techniques may be effective in controlling a physically or actively resisting

individual. Officers may only apply those pain compliance techniques for which they have

successfully completed department-approved training, or DCJS training approved by another

police department in which they were employed at the time of the training. Officers utilizing any

pain compliance technique should consider:

(a) The degree to which the application of the technique may be controlled given the level

of resistance.

(b) Whether the individual can comply with the direction or orders of the officer.

(c) Whether the individual has been given sufficient opportunity to comply.

The application of any pain compliance technique shall be discontinued once the officer

determines that compliance has been achieved.

300.3.4 STATE RESTRICTIONS ON THE USE OF OTHER RESTRAINTS

Any application of pressure to the throat, windpipe, neck, or blocking the mouth or nose of a person

in a manner that may hinder breathing or reduce intake of air is prohibited unless deadly physical

force is authorized (Exec. Law § 840).

300.3.5 ALTERNATIVE TACTICS - DE-ESCALATION

When circumstances reasonably permit, officers should use non-violent strategies and techniques

to decrease the intensity of a situation, improve decision-making, improve communication, reduce

the need for force, and increase voluntary compliance (e.g., summoning additional resources,

formulating a plan, attempting verbal persuasion).

300.3.6 USE OF FORCE TO SEIZE EVIDENCE

In general, officers may use reasonable force to lawfully seize evidence and to prevent the

destruction of evidence. However, officers are discouraged from using force solely to prevent

a person from swallowing evidence or contraband. In the instance when force is used, officers

should not intentionally use any technique that restricts blood flow to the head, restricts respiration,

or which creates a reasonable likelihood that blood flow to the head or respiration would be

restricted. Officers are encouraged to use techniques and methods taught by the SUNY College

at Old Westbury, University Police Department for this specific purpose.

300.4 DEADLY FORCE APPLICATIONS

When reasonable, the officer shall, prior to the use of deadly force, make efforts to identify

him/herself as a peace officer and to warn that deadly force may be used, unless the officer

has objectively reasonable grounds to believe the person is aware of those facts. IT IS THE

EXPRESSED INTENT OF THIS POLICY TO ESTABLISH A "DEFENSE OF LIFE" STANDARD

GOVERNING THE USE OF DEADLY PHYSICAL FORCE BY MEMBERS OF THE UNIVERSITY

POLICE DEPARTMENT.

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Use of Force

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Use of deadly force is justified in the following circumstances involving imminent threat or imminent

risk:

(a) An officer may use deadly force to protect him/herself or others from what he/she

reasonably believes is an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury.

(b) Imminent does not mean immediate or instantaneous. An imminent danger may exist

even if the suspect is not at that very moment pointing a weapon at someone. For

example, an imminent danger may exist if an officer reasonably believes that the

individual has a weapon or is attempting to access one and intends to use it against

the officer or another person. An imminent danger may also exist if the individual is

capable of causing serious bodily injury or death without a weapon, and the officer

believes the individual intends to do so.

300.4.1 MOVING VEHICLES

Shots fired at or from a moving vehicle involve additional considerations and risks, and are rarely

effective.

When feasible, officers should take reasonable steps to move out of the path of an approaching

vehicle instead of discharging their firearm at the vehicle or any of its occupants.

An officer should only discharge a firearm at a moving vehicle or its occupants when the officer

reasonably believes there are no other reasonable means available to avert the imminent threat

of the vehicle, or if deadly force other than the vehicle is directed at the officer or others.

Officers should not shoot at any part of a vehicle in an attempt to disable the vehicle.

300.5 REPORTING THE USE OF FORCE

Any use of force by a member of this department shall be documented promptly, completely, and

accurately in an appropriate report, depending on the nature of the incident. The officer should

articulate the factors perceived and why he/she believed the use of force was reasonable under

the circumstances.

To collect data for purposes of training, resource allocation, analysis, and related purposes, the

Department may require the completion of additional report forms, as specified in department

policy, procedure, or law (Executive Law § 840).

See the Report Preparation Policy for additional circumstances that may require documentation.

300.5.1 NOTIFICATIONS TO SUPERVISORS

Supervisory notification shall be made as soon as practicable following the application of force in

any of the following circumstances:

(a) The application caused a visible injury.

(b) The application would lead a reasonable officer to conclude that the individual may

have experienced more than momentary discomfort.

(c) The individual subjected to the force complained of injury or continuing pain.

(d) The individual indicates intent to pursue litigation.

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(e) Any application of a control device.

(f) Any application of a restraint device other than handcuffs, shackles, or belly chains.

(g) The individual subjected to the force was rendered unconscious.

(h) An individual was struck or kicked.

(i) An individual alleges unreasonable force was used or that any of the above has

occurred.

Supervisory notification shall include telephonic notification to both the Chief and Deputy Chief

of Police, through the chain of command. This notification requirement shall also include when

another law enforcement agency applies force to an individual being taken into our custody.

300.6 MEDICAL CONSIDERATIONS

Once it is reasonably safe to do so, medical assistance shall be obtained for any person who

exhibits signs of physical distress, has sustained visible injury, expresses a complaint of injury or

continuing pain, or was rendered unconscious. Any individual exhibiting signs of physical distress

after an encounter should be continuously monitored until he/she can be medically assessed.

Individuals should not be placed on their stomachs for an extended period, as this could impair

their ability to breathe.

Based upon the officer’s initial assessment of the nature and extent of the individual’s injuries,

medical assistance may consist of examination by an emergency medical services provider or

medical personnel at a hospital or jail. If any such individual refuses medical attention, such

a refusal shall be fully documented in related reports and, whenever practicable, should be

witnessed by another officer and/or medical personnel. If a recording is made of the contact or an

interview with the individual, any refusal should be included in the recording, if possible.

The on-scene supervisor or, if the supervisor is not available, the primary handling officer shall

ensure that any person providing medical care or receiving custody of a person following any

use of force is informed that the person was subjected to force. This notification shall include a

description of the force used and any other circumstances the officer reasonably believes would

be potential safety or medical risks to the subject (e.g., prolonged struggle, extreme agitation,

impaired respiration).

Individuals who exhibit extreme agitation, violent irrational behavior accompanied by profuse

sweating, extraordinary strength beyond their physical characteristics, and imperviousness to pain

(sometimes called “excited delirium”), or who require a protracted physical encounter with multiple

officers to be brought under control, may be at an increased risk of sudden death. Calls involving

these persons should be considered medical emergencies. Officers who reasonably suspect a

medical emergency should request medical assistance as soon as practicable and have medical

personnel stage away.

See the Medical Aid and Response Policy for additional guidelines.

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Use of Force

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300.6.1 ADDITIONAL STATE REQUIREMENTS

An officer will take steps to obtain medical attention for a person who reasonably appears to be

mentally ill and is behaving in a manner that is likely to result in serious harm to the person or

to others.

Officers will document requests for medical or mental health treatment as well as efforts to arrange

for such treatment.

300.7 SUPERVISOR RESPONSIBILITIES

A supervisor should respond to a reported application of force resulting in visible injury, if

reasonably available. When a supervisor is able to respond to an incident in which there has been

a reported application of force, the supervisor is expected to (Executive Law § 840):

(a) Obtain the basic facts from the involved officers. Absent an allegation of misconduct

or excessive force, this will be considered a routine contact in the normal course of

duties.

(b) Ensure that any injured parties are examined and treated.

(c) When possible, separately obtain a recorded interview with the individual upon whom

force was applied. If this interview is conducted without the individual having voluntarily

waived his/her Miranda rights, the following shall apply:

1. The content of the interview should not be summarized or included in any related

criminal charges.

2. The fact that a recorded interview was conducted should be documented in a

property or other report.

3. The recording of the interview should be distinctly marked for retention until all

potential for civil litigation has expired.

(d) Once any initial medical assessment has been completed or first aid has been

rendered, ensure that photographs have been taken of any areas involving visible

injury or complaint of pain, as well as overall photographs of uninjured areas.

1. These photographs should be retained until all potential for civil litigation has

expired.

(e) Identify any witnesses not already included in related reports, including any officers

present at the incident, and when possible, obtain a recorded interview.

(f) Review and approve all related reports.

1. Supervisors should require that officers who engaged in the use of force submit

the appropriate report.

(g) Determine if there is any indication that the individual may pursue civil litigation.

1. If there is an indication of potential civil litigation, the supervisor should complete

and route a notification of a potential claim through the appropriate channels.

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(h) Evaluate the circumstances surrounding the incident and initiate an administrative

investigation if there is a question of policy noncompliance or if for any reason further

investigation may be appropriate.

1. Disciplinary actions will be consistent with any applicable disciplinary guidelines

and collective bargaining agreements.

In the event that a supervisor is unable to respond to the scene of an incident involving the reported

application of force, the supervisor is still expected to complete as many of the above items as

circumstances permit.

300.7.1 LIEUTENANT RESPONSIBILITIES

The Lieutenant shall review each use of force by any personnel within his/her command to ensure

compliance with this policy and to address any training issues.

300.7.2 ADDITIONAL LIEUTENANT RESPONSIBILITIES

The Lieutenant should ensure that the department Investigator is provided with enough information

to meet the use of force reporting requirements for the DCJS (Executive Law § 837-t; 9 NYCRR

6058.3). See the Office of the Administrative Assistant Policy for additional guidelines.

300.8 TRAINING

Officers will receive periodic training on this policy and demonstrate their knowledge and

understanding.

Subject to available resources, officers should receive periodic training on:

(a) Guidelines regarding vulnerable populations, including but not limited to children,

elderly, pregnant persons, and individuals with physical, mental, or intellectual

disabilities.

(b) De-escalation tactics, including alternatives to force.

(c) Applications of use of force and conflict strategies as required by the state Use of

Force Model Policy (Executive Law § 840).

300.9 POLICY AVAILABILITY

This policy shall be readily available to the public upon request and shall be posted on the

department website (Executive Law § 840).

300.10 USE OF FORCE ANALYSIS

At least annually, the Deputy Chief of Police should prepare an analysis report on use of force

incidents. The report should be submitted to the Chief of Police. The report should not contain the

names of officers, suspects, or case numbers, and should include:

(a) The identification of any trends in the use of force by members.

(b) Training needs recommendations.

(c) Equipment needs recommendations.

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(d) Policy revision recommendations.