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Use of Force - Part V


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Audio File

Part V: Myth vs. Reality:
Probably no subject is plagued with more myths than use of force.


  1. Myth. You can’t fire unless fired upon.
    The reality is that waiting to be fired upon, or waiting for the suspect to point the gun, … or even waiting to see the gun may be too late for the officer. The Graham analysis allows police officers to react to the threat of violence, not violence itself.
  2. Myth. Deadly force can only be used as a last resort.
    Many law enforcement agencies have use of force policies. A policy may state, “Deadly force can only be used as a last resort.” Another may state, “Use the minimal force” and “Always give a warning.” Objective reasonableness is the law; not policy. When the facts come together that the suspect poses a significant threat, shooting falls within the range of reasonabless. Using the minimal force, exhausting all lesser means of force, or always giving a warning could create an unnecessary risk for the officer.
  3. Myth. Anyone with a gun is a danger.
    The United States is a democracy that balances individual freedoms with law enforcement. One right that free citizens have is to bear arms. Home owners have a right to keep firearms in their homes for self-defense. A homeowner who steps out onto his front porch with a gun to investigate a possible disturbance is doing nothing more than any free citizen might do. But when officers are lawfully present (to investigate crimes or execute warrants) they may order occupants to put their firearm down, and where the order goes unheaded, they are not required to wait for someone take a bead on them.