Use of Force

Summary: 

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

Policy document: 

Body: 

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). 

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).
  • 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. 

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. 

300.2.1 DUTY TO INTERCEDE

Any officer present and observing another officer 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. An officer who observes another employee use force that exceeds the degree of force permitted by law should promptly report these observations to a supervisor. 

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): 

(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 (i.e., age, size, relative strength, skill level, injuries sustained, level of exhaustion or fatigue, the number of officers available vs. subjects). 

(d) The effects of drugs or alcohol. 

(e) Individual’s mental state or capacity. 

(f) Proximity of weapons or dangerous improvised devices. 

(g) The degree to which the individual has been effectively restrained and his/her ability to resist despite being restrained. 

(h) The availability of other options and their possible effectiveness. 

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

(j) Training and experience of the officer. 

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

(l) Whether the individual appears to be resisting, attempting to evade arrest by flight or is attacking the officer. 

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

(n) The apparent need for immediate control of the individual or a prompt resolution of the situation. 

(o) Whether the conduct of the individual being confronted no longer reasonably appears to pose an imminent threat to the officer or others. 

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

(q) Any other exigent circumstances. 

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 CAROTID CONTROL HOLD

The carotid control hold is not a technique that is taught or trained for by members of the University Police Department. However, consistent with the spirit of paragraph 300.3, nothing in this policy shall prevent an officer from taking whatever steps are reasonably necessary to protect their lives or the lives of others in certain extreme circumstances. 

300.4 DEADLY FORCE APPLICATIONS

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. The use of deadly force is justified only in the following circumstances: 

(a) An officer may use deadly force to protect him/herself or others from what he/she reasonably believes would be 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 subject is not at that very moment pointing a weapon at someone. For example, an imminent danger may exist if an officer reasonably believes any of the following: 1. The individual has a weapon or is attempting to access one and it is reasonable to believe the individual intends to use it against the officer or another person. 2. The individual is capable of causing serious bodily injury or death without a weapon and it is reasonable to believe the individual intends to do so. 

300.4.1 SHOOTING AT OR FROM MOVING VEHICLES

Shots fired at or from a moving vehicle are rarely effective. Officers should 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 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). 

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. 

(e) Any application of a conducted energy device (Taser), OC spray (Mace), baton, or any other less-lethal 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 any of the above has occurred. Supervisory notification shall include telephonic notification to both the Deputy Chief of Police and the 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

Prior to booking or release, 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. 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 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). 

300.7 SUPERVISOR RESPONSIBILITIES

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. 

(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. 

(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. The Lieutenant should ensure that the Investigator is provided with enough information to meet the use of force reporting requirements for the DCJS (Executive Law § 837-t). 

300.7.2 INVESTIGATIVE UNIT RESPONSIBILITIES

The Investigator shall ensure that reports are submitted to the DCJS when an officer (Executive Law § 837-t): 

(a) Brandishes, uses, or discharges a firearm at or in the direction of another person. 

(b) Uses a carotid control hold or similar restraint that applies pressure to the throat or windpipe of a person in a manner that is reasonably likely to hinder breathing or reduce intake of air. 

(c) Displays, uses, or deploys a chemical agent or control device, including but not limited to oleoresin capsicum (OC), pepper projectiles, tear gas, batons, or kinetic energy projectiles (see the Control Devices Policy). 

(d) Brandishes, uses, or deploys an impact weapon. 

(e) Brandishes, uses, or deploys an electronic control weapon, including an electronic stun gun, flash bomb, or long-range acoustic device (see the Conducted Energy Device Policy). 

(f) Engages in conduct which results in the death or serious bodily injury of another person. 

300.8 TRAINING

Officers will receive annual training on this policy and demonstrate their knowledge and understanding. Training topics should include applications of use of force and conflict strategies as required by the State Use of Force Model Policy (Executive Law § 840). 

300.9 PUBLICATION OF POLICY

This policy shall be readily available to the public upon request and shall be posted on the department website (Executive Law § 840).