Use of Force Model FAQs

The National Use of Force Model was designed as a training aid for use in Canadian Police Colleges. It has since been copied and reproduced with various word changes to suit a wide variety of professional applications. It is a wonderful tool when used for the purpose for which it was designed. Unfortunately, individuals seem to insist on trying to use it in venues for which it was not intended...such as the courtroom!

It has been said of people's personality traits that "our weaknesses are our strengths, taken to the extreme". That statement I would also apply to this model and its' attendant verbiage.

First let's look at the most repeated FAQs for this Use of Force Model, then I'll attempt to illustrate what I mean by those last two sentences ;-)

From the Use of Force Model;

Identify the three sets of assessment factors.

The situation
Subject behaviours
Security personnel's perception/tactical considerations (impacting factors)

Identify five behavioural levels.

Cooperative, Passive Resistance, Active Resistance, Assaultive; Grievous, Bodily Harm or Death.

Identify the five corresponding response levels.

Officer Presence, Communication, Soft and Hard Physical Control, Intermediate Weapons, Lethal Force.

Name some of the "impacting factors".

Strength/overall fitness
Personal experience
Critical incident stress symptoms
Cultural background

Name some of the "pre-attack" cues.

Ignoring the professional
Repetitious questioning
Aggressive verbalization
Emotional venting
Refusing to comply with lawful request
Ceasing all movement
Invasion of personal space
Adopting an aggressive stance

Great, so a tool that can help us all understand this information and more; and help us inter-relate the various components involved, is a good thing, right? Ahh, yes and maybe....

The Downside of The
National Use of Force Model

The first problem with the use of any Use of Force Model occurs when people attempt to introduce it into the courtroom to "show the judge and jury what (they) mean". Don't do this! Any good lawyer will grab this opportunity to turn you and your credibility inside out. This is a tool that can be made to work extremely well against you instead of for you. The lawyers are in court every day. No matter how often you're there, you can't begin to match that.

Don't get into word games with lawyers. No matter how good you think you are, they are professional word magicians. Leave them to their profession and you stick to yours.

The next problem, and almost as bad, is trying to bring all that nice verbiage you learned from the Use of Force Model into the courtroom. This includes using it in your notebooks or reports. These materials come to court and, as soon as the oppositions lawyer can get you to start reading them aloud, the word games start again.

Look at some of the words we use; "cooperative" and "communication" are every day words that are "safe" if used correctly.

How about "Passive Resistance" or "Active Resistance"?

"Wait, did you say my client was passive? So he wasn't actually doing anything. How then was he resisting??? Resistance! Resistance to what? My client didn't believe you had any authority to do what you were doing. What you claim as resistance was, in fact my client's insistence that you were in the wrong.

I suggest that if you had gone back to the communication you referred to, my client would have been much more cooperative if he understood fully what was happening."

I hope you get the idea. If you use words that can have different meanings to different groups you are going to get torn to shreds on the stand.

"Soft physical control? What do you mean Soft or Control? You bloody near broke my client's arm!!"

Oh yeah! You can dig yourself a hole in a hurry by trying too hard to appear professional. The jury will never have been in a fight let alone a "Use of Force". You have to paint clear word pictures of what happened. Not try to put everything in neat little pigeon holes that mean nothing but confusion for the jurors.

State specifically what he/she did and let the jury put it into their own frames of reference. e.g. "He raised his clenched fists, tucked his chin down, rose up on the balls of his feet, started "bobbing" like a boxer and threw a right cross at my head."

Now that's "active resistance" but don't use those terms. Just paint a clear word picture (like I just did) and watch the jury's reaction (and watch the lawyer cringe) to be sure you were understood.

The Use of Force Model is a great training tool. Let's keep it for that and keep it out of the courtroom.

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