De-escalation: The Best Practice To Limit Excessive Force Claims From Non-Violent Suspects

A 21-year-old Black man recently sued the city of Louisville, Kentucky, on allegations of wrongful arrest and excessive force.

The attorneys for the plaintiff claim the officers knew they failed to establish reasonable suspicion and probable cause and intentionally caused the plaintiff fear of death. They further alleged that the police department has a "custom and practice…of violating the rights" of Black residents.

The man was arrested in 2023 while he was walking "in the vicinity of a stolen vehicle." An officer allegedly pulled his unmarked police vehicle onto the sidewalk near the plaintiff and approached with his gun drawn. Although the plaintiff complied, the officer allegedly repeatedly cursed and pointed his gun in a forceful way at the plaintiff. The plaintiff claims he was afraid the officer would shoot him.

Another officer arrested the plaintiff. "Jahmael Benedict sues Louisville police department, alleges wrongful arrest, excessive force" www.aol.com (Jan. 26, 2024).

 

Commentary

 

Force should only be employed when there is reason to suspect that a person is dangerous, and the person is refusing to comply with verbal commands.

In most cases, issues can be controlled without the use of force. The use-of-force continuum technique is a step-by-step process that requires officers to "respond with a level of force appropriate to the situation at hand".

Most interactions with the public should start with "presence". If officer presence is not effective to maintain peace, the next step is verbalization, in which officers make commands in a calm, non-threatening way. Officers may increase their volume and shorten commands, if a person does not comply.

Only after presence and verbal commands fail should bodily force be considered. The recommendation is to start with soft empty hand control, then hard empty hand control. If these fail, officers may use less-lethal methods to gain control of the situation, including blunt impact, chemical, and Conducted Energy Devices (CEDs). "The Use-of-Force Continuum" nij.ojp.gov (Aug. 03, 2009).

 

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