Use of Force
Law enforcement officers around the country and in New York state are authorized to use reasonable and legitimate force in specific circumstances. Federal constitutional and state statutory standards dictate when and how much force can be used. This policy is founded in these standards, but is not intended to be an exhaustive recitation of state and/or federal legal framework governing use of force.
The federal and state standards by which use of force is measured are both founded in the basic premise of objective reasonableness. The amount of force that is used by the officers shall be the amount of force that is objectively reasonable under the circumstances for the officer involved to effect an arrest, prevent an escape or in defense of themselves or others. The standard of objective reasonableness, established by the United States Supreme Court in Graham v. Connor, is used in this policy and is intended to provide officers with guidelines for the use of force, including deadly physical force.
As the Supreme Court has recognized, this reasonableness inquiry embodies “allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments — in circumstances that are tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving — about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.”
This policy is written in recognition of 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 a careful balancing of all interests.
- Objectively Reasonable – An objective standard used to judge an officer’s actions. Under this standard, a particular application of force must be judged through the perspective of a reasonable officer facing the same set of circumstances, without the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, and be based on the totality of the facts that are known to that officer at the time that the force was used.
- Deadly Physical Force – Physical force which, under the circumstances in which it is used, is readily capable of causing death or other serious physical injury.
- Physical Injury – Impairment of physical condition or substantial pain.
- Serious Physical Injury – Physical injury which creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes death or serious and protracted disfigurement, protracted impairment of health or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any body organ
Use of Force
- In general terms, force is authorized to be used when reasonably believed to be necessary to effect a lawful arrest or detention, prevent the escape of a person from custody, or in defense of one’s self or another.
- Under the Fourth Amendment, a police officer may use only such force as is “objectively reasonable” under the circumstances. The reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene.
Determining the Objective Reasonableness of Force
- When used, force should be only that which is objectively reasonable given the circumstances perceived by the officer at the time of the event.
- Factors that should be used in determining the reasonableness of force include, but
are not limited to:
- The severity of the crime or circumstance;
- The level and immediacy of threat or resistance posed by the suspect;
- The potential for injury to citizens, officers, and suspects;
- The risk or attempt of the suspect to escape;
- The knowledge, training, and experience of the officer;
- Officer/subject considerations such as age, size, relative strength, skill level, injury or exhaustion, and the number of officers or subjects.
- Other environmental conditions or exigent circumstances.
Duty to Intervene
- Any officer present and observing another officer using force that he/she reasonably believes to be clearly beyond that which is objectively reasonable under the circumstances shall intercede to prevent the use of unreasonable force, if and when the officer has a realistic opportunity to prevent harm.
- An officer who observes another officer use force that exceeds the degree of force as described in subdivision A of this section should promptly report these observations to a supervisor.
Use of Deadly Physical Force
- Deadly physical force may be used by an officer to protect themselves or another person from what the officer reasonably believes is an imminent threat of serious physical injury or death.
- Deadly physical force may be used to stop a fleeing suspect where:
- The officer has probable cause to believe the suspect has committed a felony involving the infliction or threat of serious physical injury or death and,
- The officer reasonably believes that the suspect poses an imminent threat of serious physical injury to the officer or to others.
- Where feasible, some warning should be given prior to the use of deadly physical force.
Prohibited Use of Force
- Force shall not be used by an officer for the following reasons:
- To extract an item from the body or a cavity of a subject without a warrant, except where exigent circumstances are present;
- To coerce a confession from a subject in custody;
- To obtain physical evidence from an individual for the purpose of scientific testing in lieu of a court order where required;
- Against persons who are handcuffed or restrained unless it is used to prevent injury, escape, or otherwise overcome active or passive resistance posed by the subject.
Reporting and Reviewing the Use of Force
- Any injuries resulting from a use of force incident shall result in the appropriate medical attention being provided to the injured party.
- Members involved in use of force incidents as described below shall notify their supervisor
as soon as practicable and shall complete a departmental use of force report and per
Executive Law 837-t Use of Force Data Collection, dated April 2019 requires each police
department to report any occurrence in which a police officer employs use of force.
UPD is mandated to report use of force incidents to the NYS Division of Criminal Justice
- Use of force that results in a physical injury.
- Use of force incidents that a reasonable person would believe is likely to cause an injury.
- Where force is used to overcome active resistance.
- Incidents that result in a complaint of pain from the subject except complaints of minor discomfort from compliant handcuffing.
- Incidents where a conducted energy device (CED) was intentionally discharged or accidentally discharged after being displayed.
- Incidents where a firearm was discharged at a subject.
- A standardized use of force form will be used to document any reportable use of force incident.
Procedures for Investigating Use of Force Incidents
- Where practicable, a supervisor will respond to the scene to begin the preliminary force investigation.
- A supervisor that is made aware of a force incident shall ensure the completion of a use of force report by all officers engaging in reportable use of force and, to the extent practical, make a record of all officers present.
- Photographs will be taken which sufficiently document any injuries or lack thereof to officers or suspects.
- The [applicable person, unit or bureau] will receive the supervisor’s report and conduct an investigation.
- Consistent with agency disciplinary protocols and any applicable collective bargaining agreements, agency policy establishes standards for addressing the failure to adhere to use of force guidelines.
- All officers receive training and demonstrate their understanding on the proper application of force.
- Training topics include use of force, conflict prevention, conflict resolution and negotiation, and de-escalation techniques and strategies, including, but not limited to, interacting with persons presenting in an agitated condition as well as duty to intervene and prohibited conduct.
- This policy is not intended to be a substitute for proper training in the use of force. Comprehensive training is the key to the real-world application of the concepts discussed within this policy.