Use of force can be defined as the right granted to the authority or an individual to settle conflicts through measures that are aimed at either preventing or dissuading a given party from a certain course of action or physical intervention to stop the individual(s) from taking a certain course of action. As such, use of force may be applied by the military, the police, other security personnel or corrections in an effort to stop or prevent crime.
The executive branch may also exercise the use of force in such cases as deploying the military or the police in an effort to maintain law and order or to defend the sovereignty of the country in question.
However, the use of force by the executive branch is dependent on political jurisdiction passed by the legislative branch. In essence, the use of force is vested in statutes in the constitution with a series of progressive actions authorizing given authorities and security bodies to apply the use of force in certain situation.
Unlike the use of negotiation and conflict resolution techniques, forced is useable by a law enforcement officer if a law breaker decline from desisting a certain course of action or if he attempts to run. Use of force in this context includes physical restraint and lethal force to solve or to restrain such an individual from committing the crime. The general rule however remains that only a reasonable force maybe used and only the necessary one given the circumstances under which force is required.
As such, individuals authorizing the use of force are always held accountable for the degree or the level of force employed in any given situation (Marie, 2001, p. 43). Law enforcement officers and security personnel are usually faced with varying situation in their line of duty that requires them to use force in deterring crime or even to protect themselves. An example of such a situation is when a police officer is involved in a shoot out with criminals. In such a situation, force will be required not only to deter the criminals but also for self defense.
While use of force is permissible in certain circumstances, the level and the degree to which force is applied is usually limited by the circumstance in question. Security and police officers are required to use only the necessary force given a certain circumstance and are thus held responsible and accountable for force used in such circumstances. On the other hand, the degree of force applied by an officer is dependent on not only the circumstance at hand but also on how such an officer is equipped in terms of a gun, handcuffs or other equipment and tools used by law enforcement officers such as pepper spray.
As opposed to police officers, security officers are not authorized to make arrests but situation may bid them to take a criminal into custody. Whether a security officer or a police officer, dealing with any situation require the application of reasonable force by avoiding excessive force under the circumstance in question (Regina, 2001, p. 38). In this regard, the officer involved is required to access the seriousness of the situation, the risk associated with such a situation and the situation immediacy.
In case it is a security officer who is present in such a situation, the best action to take is to inform law enforcement authorities to take the relevant action. Diffusing any given situation requires that the police officers be well trained and informed regarding the laws applicable and especially on the use of force continuum which gives the necessary guidelines in regard to the degree of force applicable in different situations (Thomas, 2002, p. 62). The use of force continuum can be broken down to six levels that are designed in an elastic manner in the context of the need for using force given that situations keep on changing.
For example, a situation may require that the level of force used bounce from level one to level two and back again in a matter of minutes or seconds. In regard to the use of force continuum, the first level includes the presence of a visible and uniformed police officer or a marked vehicle. This is usually seen as enough to stop or deter a crime. The presence of an officer here includes walking, running or standing. Also defined in the concept of presence is use of vehicle lights, speaker or a horn. In this context, the police officer is capable of stopping a crime without a word but rather through the use of gestures and body language.
However, such gestures should be professional and non-threatening. The second level involves the combination of presence of an officer and the use of verbal communication to deter or stop a crime in progress. In essence, variation in voice can be used such as whispering, shouting or just normally to achieve the desired results. Officers are usually advised to start calmly in a firm but non-threatening manner. Words chosen and their intensity can be varied as deemed necessary and short commands can be used in dealing with serious situations.
This level requires that a police officer be well trained in communication skills so as to be able to communicate effectively in any given situation. In essence, the use of verbal communication combined with the presence of the police officer can be able to deter or stop a crime without the need for physical force (Ian, 1998, p. 23). Level three involves the use of control holds and restraints where words and presence fails to apply. This requires the physical involvement of the police officer present in the situation. However, minimal force should be used including bare hands for guiding, restraining or holding the law breaker.
Thus at this level, use of offensive moves such as punching should be avoided. The officer in question may make use of pain compliance holds where ordinary holds fail to control a suspect who is aggressive. On the other hand, the officer may make use of handcuffs where a suspect exhibits traits of aggression, where he or she poses a real threat of where such a suspect exhibits the possibility of fleeing. On the other hand, not all suspects require handcuffs and if the officer uses handcuffs, he is responsible for guiding such an individual to prevent him from falling or tripping.
Great care should also be observed to avoid any bodily harm to the suspect such as positional asphyxiation. Training is therefore important to help police officers apply the necessary measures in situations that require use of control holds and restraints (Marie, 2001, p. 52). The forth level of use of force continuum involves the use of chemical agents to diffuse a crime. If the officer establishes that the suspect is threatening or violent, extreme but non violence measures can be used to control the suspect. This however is subject to the assumption that all other levels of force continuum have failed to be effective.
In this regard, pepper splay or tear gas can be used to diffuse the situation. It is important to note here that proper care should be taken when using chemical agents to deter or stop a crime as such agents may cause death or severe reactions to suspects with allergic and other medical conditions. Moreover, they can cause the suspect to fall down a staircase or walk into traffic (Regina, 2001, p. 27). Level five involves measures aimed at temporary incapacitating the suspect in question. The assumption behind use of force in this level is that the circumstance was extreme, immediate and violent.
The officer then can use empty hands or impact tools. In this regard, defensive and offensive moves are allowed but must be applied properly and in the right circumstances. Temporary incapacitation is useful in preventing an injury in regard to the officer and other people involved in the situation. The officer may make use of baton blows on certain joints areas or on soft tissues or use of stun gun to incapacitate the suspect long enough to handcuff him or get more help. Care must however be taken while applying any measures as some of them such as neck compressions are very risky and poses a threat to the livelihood of the suspect.