Essay Sample on Law Enforcement Use of Force

Published: 2023-05-01
Essay Sample on Law Enforcement Use of Force
Type of paper:  Research paper
Categories:  Police Police brutality Human rights Special education
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1673 words
14 min read

The responsibility for law enforcement is left to the police in almost every state in addition to protecting lives and property (Ariel and Henderson et al. 2016). It is natural for a police officer to use force against uncooperative subjects while carrying out their duties. Still, as they compel such subjects to comply with the law, the effort used should be moderate in amount and frequency. As a guideline to the use of force, different situations call for unique levels of force when compelling unwilling subjects to submit. When force is not used while the situation requires the officer to use force, or when there is an inappropriate use of force, the life of either the civilian or the officer may be endangered. Some factors follow after an officer resolves to use of force in law enforcement. Justification of the use of force involves the level of officer training, and whether or not the department involved in the use of force would be held liable after that. Different states may have different measures or classifications of the use of force.

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The presence of a police officer is considered a form of force as they are symbolic of their respective state authority. The verbalized command follows second as a form of force to convince uncooperative individuals to engage in a lawful consequence of their actions. Physical efforts aimed at controlling the situation are the third use of force where the police may engage their hands and or their bodies to control an individual's behavior, search them or stop them from their current actions. If the situation persists, the use of non-lethal weapons comes in handy at the fourth level. It may include the use of chemicals, impact, and electronics, among other non-lethal weapons, giving way to the fifth, lethal level. The fifth level entails the use of deadly weapons that may lead to death or permanent injury in case the non-corporative individual survives (Dorn 2018). Since the police are trained to use force to facilitate law enforcement, this topic is subject to discussion since this has led to conflicts among police and communities in the recent past.

The necessity of the use of force

Situational awareness, a fundamental skill that every law enforcement officer needs in their daily operation, determines whether or not the officer applies force in response to a situation they intend on regaining control. The officer's level of training and experience determines the decision they must take, within the shortest time possible and the amount of force required, to regain control of the current situation (Di and Huhta 2019). According to the National Institute of Justice, it is necessary to use the right amount of force when an officer makes such duties as an arrest, situation mitigation, and during self-defense or while defending others. Even when the use of force is necessary, the United Nations Human Rights, through the basic principles on the use of force, requires that the government and law enforcement agencies restrain the use of lethal force to the minimum. They are encouraged to increase supply of non-lethal weapons. For the protection of law enforcement officers, they should bulletproof vests, shields, and bulletproof means of transport are proposed to minimize their use of lethal force for self-defense.

The use of force is therefore necessary when other means of regaining control over a situation are rendered useless, and when in the application, the use of force should at all times respect and serve to protect life. While some circumstances require officers to kill another human in self-defense or the protection of another, some may delay or even not use the necessary force at this point, and this exposes themselves and others to risk. For this reason, the American military train individual soldiers in readiness for combat to prevent such cases as a soldier taking a bullet on behalf of another while not firing at an exposed enemy soldier (Cohen 2019).

Regimes governing the use of force

The use of force is controlled by international human rights law. This regime has a set of regulations that apply both during times of peace and conflict. The operations of this body are reflected in either domestic law or international human rights law when dealing with armed conflicts. International human rights law serves to ensure that the right to life is protected even at times when the use of force is authorized. Further guidance with regard to the use of force is outlined in the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials (CCLE) of 1979 the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (BPUFF) of 1990 (White 2016).

Training on the use of force

Training enables law enforcement officers to understand the appropriate time to use force and the variety of options they have for their consideration. Principle 20 of the underlying policies on the use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials outlined in the United Nations Human Rights Office of the high commission states, "In the training of law enforcement officials, Governments and law enforcement agencies shall give special attention to issues of police ethics and human rights, especially in the investigative process, to alternatives to the use of force and firearms, including the peaceful settlement of conflicts, the understanding of crowd behavior, and the methods of persuasion, negotiation, and mediation, as well as to technical means, to limit the use of force and firearms. Law enforcement agencies should review their training programs and operational procedures in the light of particular incidents." (Ohchr 2020).

Department policies are necessary to outline situations that require the use of force, the tools, and training methods to be employed.

After the training, officers are aware of their responsibilities, and through training, they can implement threat assessment and control measures comfortably. The policy implementation is conducted from class setups that enable officers to understand how each level of the use of force and adequately applied them subsequently in their daily operations. In addition to a class setup, a comfortable environment that enhances learning and experiencing what it is like to face the physical and psychological aspects of the use of lethal weapons is provided. Such situations are characterized by simulated gunfire, paint-firing arms, and simulated ammunition, among others.

Abuse of the use of force

While law enforcement officers need to make quick decisions while determining the amount and frequency of the force to be used, some officers may abuse the same authority and hence fail at protecting their communities. It is a requirement that before the ultimate use of deadly force, all officers should give way for the use of non-lethal force, but not with a situation like a shootout or an ambush that calls for the use of lethal force as the ultimate way to regain control (Mears and Warren et al. 2017). The different forms of force should be used based on the training such an officer has received regarding the departmental policy. To follow up with the conduct of an officer in the pursuit of reducing criminal and departmental liability that results from the use of force, documentation of officers' behavior is necessary. Early detection of misconduct or abuse of their authority can be established, and essential retraining, counseling, or even disciplinary action initiated. Eliminating abuse of the use of force not only benefits law enforcement agencies but also assures the general public that their law enforcement officers' actions are the right actions for their protection and safety, reducing conflict between these two parties.


The use of the required amount of force by law enforcement officials is critical in regaining control over the situation that threatens the presence of law and order in society. Through various policies in line with international human rights law, governments, and law enforcement agencies strive to develop local strategies and training to ensure the protection of human rights with the use of force closely monitored. Still, abuse to the use of force is inevitable with some officials in different states.

To counter the adverse effects of the abuse of the use of force by law enforcement officials, pieces of training and continuous assessment is carried out and documented. When found necessary, officials are retrained, offered counseling, or disciplinary actions are taken against their abuse of the use of force. Since the development of the policies that govern the use of law must be both local and internationally regulated, international human rights law provides the basic principles that are incorporated in the training of law enforcement officials and the development of state constitutions. The result is a system that works in harmony for the protection of human rights, especially the right to life. Lastly, while the use of force is necessary, priority is given to the levels of force to be employed based on situational analysis. Excessive use of force is discouraged, and this helps minimize conflict within the society between law enforcement officials and the communities involved.


Ariel, B., Sutherland, A., Henstock, D., Young, J., Drover, P., Sykes, J., Henderson, R. (2016). Wearing body cameras increases assaults against officers and does not reduce police use of force: Results from a global multi-site experiment. European Journal of Criminology, 13(6), 744-755.

Cohen, E. A. (2019). Citizens and soldiers: The dilemmas of military service. Cornell University Press.

Di Nota, P. M., & Huhta, J. M. (2019). Complex motor learning and police training: applied, cognitive, and clinical perspectives. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 1797.

Dorn, D. M. (2018). Law Enforcement Decision Making with Suspects Who Are Mentally Ill: What Is Reasonable Use of Force?

Mears, D. P., Craig, M. O., Stewart, E. A., & Warren, P. Y. (2017). Thinking fast, not slow: How cognitive biases may contribute to racial disparities in the use of force in police-citizen encounters. Journal of criminal justice, 53, 12-24

Skolnick, J. H. (2011). Justice without trial: Law enforcement in a democratic society. Quid pro books.

White, F. H. (2016). Balabanov's Bandits: The Bandit Film Cycle in Post-Soviet Cinema. Canadian Journal of Film Studies, 25(2), 82-103.)

Ohchr. (2020). Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms. The United Nations Human Rights.

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