Use of Force

In President's Message, Use of Force by rapsheet

Most of us are aware of the inherent dangers that cops face on a daily basis. While some of us have been involved in multiple force incidents, all of us do a good job treating each instance as a unique situation with its own set of circumstances. No cop leaves the precinct looking to be involved in a force incident; however, we all know that the potential for it is involved in most of the calls we respond to every shift.

Most use of force incidents occur and are resolved quickly with the desired outcome to be achieved without injury to anyone involved. However, in the force incidents that require an officer to use higher levels of force, including deadly force, just how prepared are we to deal with the aftermath? As we all know, the logistics of a deadly force incident can take up to a year to conclude with the grand jury, internal investigation, and possible civil court process. If a use of force incident is politically charged, it can result in an officer being criminally charged, civilly sued, or have their employment terminated.

So, the question is how can we prepare ourselves prior to having a high profile force incident? A good place to start is to understand the Portland Police Bureau’s use of force policy 1010.00.  The Portland Police Bureau force policy is based on the Graham standard of “objective reasonableness” where officers are judged by what a reasonable officer in that situation, at the same place, and the same time would have done.  Those reviewing the force incident, weather it is supervisors, prosecutors, Grand Jury participants, Police Review Board members, and judges are not allowed to judge the incident with 20/20 hind sight but by the confines of the Graham Standard.

When documenting the force incident in either a report, a compelled statement, or voluntary statement, it is important to articulate the factors that had a direct bearing on your application of force. It is not unusual, especially in use of deadly force incidents, for the involved officer to need several days before they have a clear recollection of the incident. Factors such as time of day, lighting, weather, traffic, pedestrians, and information known at the time of the incident are all significant and important. The involved officer’s experience, level of training, and their level of training in the specific type of force used are also important factors to articulate.

Obviously, Portland Police Officers are well trained and well prepared in the use of all levels of force but preparing you for the aftermath and the process involved with the use of force falls on the shoulders of the PPA, EAP, and you the involved member. The more educated you are in regards to the PPB force policy the better prepared you are to assist in the process.