Use of Force Policy Development Workshop Course Description
Coming soon to a training site near you!
March 19, 2014 at the Northwest Indiana Law Enforcement Academy in Hobart. ($125 enrollment fee)
The chief executive officer of any Indiana law enforcement agency is charged with oversight of
any and all matters of policy, procedure and operations. While it would be difficult to establish
a constant hierarchy of priorities, there is a universal and well founded attention directed
toward use of force policy, training and internal review. It has become increasingly clear that
there is some degree of confusion regarding the degree and type of specificity that should be
incorporated in agency policy for the purpose of establishing boundaries for the actions of
uniformed officers confronting threats to their safety and the safety of others. Fear of liability,
particularly in civil actions, has in some cases fostered an approach to use of force policy
which is both unrealistic and counterproductive to the accomplishment of the legitimate law
enforcement mission, and can even make defense against Fourth Amendment challenges more
The seminal case defining the modern constitutional constraints on law enforcement use of force
is the 1989 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Graham v. Connor. That decision demonstrates
that the Court understands the dynamics of violent encounters and the practical safety issues
law enforcement officers face. The Court makes it clear that the law profoundly distinguishes
between the dangerous and the endangered, and pays great deference to officers who use force to
defend themselves or another.
FBI officer victimology studies and information provided by the departments of victim officers
indicate that approximately 85 percent of officers feloniously killed in the line of duty never
discharged their duty weapons. Review of individual case studies revealed that victim officers
often hesitated – even in the face of an immediate threat. During post-incident review of
assaults on police conducted as a part of U. S. Department of Justice studies, victim officers
often indicated that they were uncertain about what force options were permissible under law or
department policy, and that they did not perceive their attacker to be a serious threat until it was
This hesitation is tragic and often avoidable.
By adopting overly restrictive policies (meaning policies that are more restrictive than the
Constitutional standard), departments hold themselves to a higher standard than the law allows.
While mere policy violations normally do not give rise to civil rights lawsuits, some courts
have held such actions may be viable when the policies have been adopted for the benefit of
those who may be ultimately injured. Even if such policy-based suits fail, departments with
overly restrictive policies expose themselves to “experts” who will opine that lack of compliance
with department policy indicates an unreasonable use of force, and thereby invite increased
trouble and expense in lengthy litigation. Perhaps the most troubling result is the unnecessary
but inevitable confusion and hesitation in using appropriate force by department officers, a
prescription for increased harm to officers and citizens alike.
Indiana law regarding police use of force reflects the decision in Graham. When law
enforcement officers use force, the ultimate legal questions are: 1) why the officer perceived
the subject of their force to be either a threat or to otherwise hinder the seizure in a threatening
manner; and 2) whether that perception and the response were objectively reasonable. Policy
makers and trainers must focus on core use of force principles, and avoid needless restrictions
on officers’ response to threats. There can never be bright-line rules; every use of force situation
is unique; police officers must respond to the threat of violence, and do so quickly; policy and
training should focus on overcoming hesitation, not encouraging it.
This workshop is intended to provide information and assistance to department heads and
trainers in their efforts to develop relevant and effective use of force policy. It is often helpful
to be able to review applicable law, research and recommendations in a condensed and concise
presentation. The workshop is also accompanied by sample forms and format, which are
intended to provide attendees with tangible tools to begin putting a use of force policy in print.
Additionally, a comprehensive use of force report will be discussed – a critical tool that can be
invaluable in accomplishing training, investigation and legal defense objectives.
interested in hosting this or any other course(s).