July 17th, 2019

4 11 19 pacOne of the attendees gets ‘shot’ during a scenario acted out during Thursday evening’s Police And Community meeting. LPD Lt. Chris Head went over the different types of resistance and force that could be encountered in situations involving law enforcement. L&T photo/Elly GrimmELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


Law enforcement officials face tough decisions on the job every day, including when to use force on a suspect. 

Thursday evening, members of the community got a taste of those types of decisions thanks to the Liberal Police Department’s most recent Police And Community (PAC) meeting. The evening consisted of LPD Lt. Chris Head talking about the different types of force used by officers along with the viewing of a handful of videos and a handful of demonstrations of different scenarios. 

“In the complex society we live in, officers are confronted daily with different situations, some of which require control to be used only when the situation could not be resolved by the other options, or would be considered ineffective under the prevailing circumstances,” Head said. “Officers are not prohibited from exercising force on people who affect apprehension and who could affect public safety. Personnel will use only the reasonable force necessary to bring about a positive result. While use of physical force may be necessary, it should be reasonable so officers can protect themselves and the public from harm. And that’s our policy with LPD, that is directly in our policy manual. For other police departments, that could be different, but for the most part, they all have roughly the same outline. Our policies are made after a case that ultimately went to the Supreme Court.”

Head then talked about the levels of subject resistance, which include psychological intimidation, passive resistance, active resistance and active aggression. 

“Most of the time, when me make a stop, people are going to be cool and we won’t have to fight anyone,” Head said. “Some people might be a little more angry or annoyed, but most of the time, it doesn’t turn into anything major. Whenever we start talking about the use of force, the lowest level of resistance is when someone’s going to try and psychologically intimidating us like giving us the stink eye or not listening to what we have to say, and usually with our presence alone, that can be enough to diffuse the situation and talk the suspect(s) down. Then with the verbal controls, that’s when we typically hear all the ‘I’m not going to jail’ or ‘You’re not big enough to take me on’ and they’re just overall refusing to cooperate, and we definitely listen to what they say because if they do utter a threat, we have to assume it’s something they could actually do. Passive resistance is when someone keeps trying to resist being put in handcuffs or restraints and basically locking up. Active resistance is when the suspect is physically resisting being arrested and working to pull away from us or run away from us but don’t actually try to strike us – they know once we get them in the cuffs, they’re going to jail, but this is one that can also escalate really quickly, which can be really bad. Our policy also prohibits us from using a taser for a non-violent crime, like if we go to Walmart for a shoplifter, but even those situations could go south really quickly.”

Head then went into the last two levels of resistance seen from suspects. 

“The next-to-last level is when the suspect is trying to strike at officers with their hands or personal weapons, and that’s the type of situation where it’s a full-blown fight, and we go through basically all the levels before that happens,” Head said. “That’s also where we use intermediate weapons like batons or tasers or the chemical spray to subdue the suspect. A lot of times you’ll see in the media how an officer was involved in the shooting of an unarmed suspect, but an unarmed suspect could still kill an officer – an example of that would be the Michael Brown case from Missouri, and it’s been determined that situation didn’t quite happen the way it was played out. If someone has some type of weapon, we’re going to use our authorized weapons to protect ourselves and the public. Sometimes the intermediate tools work, but every one of our officers can talk about a time when those wouldn’t have been enough for their particular situation.”

Head also talked about when force could be justified.

“Police officers may judge the use of reasonable force for situations when threatened by a suspect or to overcome unlawful resistance,” Head said. “It must not be excessive or unreasonable. It can be used to stop unlawful behavior and protect officers or the suspect(s) from injuring themselves or others. Then with deadly force, that regulation is defined as force that can cause serious or deadly injury and includes discharging a firearm. If we find ourselves in a situation where deadly force could be needed, we have to have probable cause, almost like any other case we work. And with deadly force, that can be used when the officer feels it was in defense of human life, including their own, and in defense of any other lives in the vicinity.”

Head also talked about some other parts of the LPD policy regarding the use of force and also talked about a couple cases that brought about parts of the current use of force policy used throughout the U.S. Head also gave several different types of situations that could require the use of force and also talked about the objective reasonableness test used by law enforcement. 

“That talks about whether or not an officer's actions are reasonable in light of the facts and circumstances confronting him, without regard to his underlying intent or motivation,” Head said. “If you look at probable cause and objective reasonableness, probable cause is what a reasonable person would do, and objective reasonableness is what a normal officer would do. And the reason for that is police officers are trained different than the public in certain situations. What this tests answers is under the circumstances facing that officer, would anything else have been done? There’s no such thing as hindsight 20/20 with this.”

Head then showed some videos and invited those in attendance to participate in some scenarios before ending the evening. 

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