Law Enforcement & Protection

Written by James Hirby and Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

Law Enforcement & Protection American criminal justice, a powerful engine of public safety and social control, operates under a balanced constitutional system to ensure that it does not become oppressive. The three aims of government stated in the preamble are relevant to criminal justice: (1) ‘establish justice’ – establish courts of law and other means to allow individuals to pursue justice when conflicts arise; (2) ‘insure domestic tranquility’ – create the means to suppress riots, prevent crime and secure public safety or order; and (3) ‘secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.’  Order and liberty are both necessary for a stable society yet often conflict with one another. Up until 1960 criminal justice concerned itself with processing suspects while ignoring their constitutional and civil rights. The Warren Court began increasing individual’s rights and was dubbed the ‘due process era’ (Zalman 2002).  The Warren Court changed the missions and goals of law enforcement from processing suspects to an agency which works together to accomplish desired goals while each unit works together. Through the court rulings, civil and constitutional rights were expanded to everyone while allowing police agencies the opportunities to achieve goals of investigating and suppressing crime. Law enforcement agencies have been forced to develop and enforce appropriate policies, procedures, rules, and regulations dealing with use of force, use of weapons, and use of personal protection equipment in hopes of ensuring the order-liberty tension is resolved in a manner satisfactory to police, members of society, and suspects (Peak 2001).


Violence and crime are among the most important reasons law enforcement agencies exist. As individuals misbehave, they disrupt society, and the government must protect itself and the members of society. Sometimes, though, the police overstep their limits. Unfortunately, we live in a world that increasingly displays distaste for the use of physical force to direct or control the behavior of others. Police are prepared and forced to use physical force against its citizens and are under considerable pressure to limit and restrict the use of force. Are police able to limit and restrict their use of force with the type of criminals we see today? The use of force is critical to the success of all agencies in law enforcement and the improper implementation can lead to civil unrest, lawsuits, mistrust, and internal conflict in criminal justice agencies. Leaders in criminal justice agencies must detail and enforce strict policies for the use of force while protecting its officers in their daily duties. Policy makers who enact policies involving use of weapons, personal protection equipment, and use of force issues must consider many factors.


Weapons, Personal Protection Equipment & Use of Force

Officers today are unlike Mayberry’s Deputy Fife, who carried a rusty knife and dusty gun with one bullet.  Today’s officers are forced due to circumstance to use less lethal weapons, riot control agents, teargas grenade guns, teargas solution squirters, pistols, batons, tasers, stun guns, water cannons, riot control guns,  and various other weapons (Wikipedia 2008). Bullet proof armor is required for many officers and criminals have found a way to make bullets which penetrate the armor.  Maintaining order requires the use of weapons, personal protection equipment, and the use of force. The use of force refers to the right of an individual or authority figure to settle conflicts or prevent certain actions by applying measures to dissuade individuals from a course of action or to physically intervene to stop individuals. The use of force and weapons is governed by statute and is used as a last resort once conflict resolution techniques fail to work. Only necessary force may be applied and the amount of force must be reasonable and necessary.  Verbal command is the first option if circumstances permit (Wikipedia 2008).


Policies and Procedures for Use of Force

Use of force rather through weapons or physical attack brings about continuous problems leading to policies and procedures. Although each police department varies a bit on the policies and procedures they are somewhat the same.  According to Sheriff James R. Arnold the following describes how and when to use force. The use of force is allowed if appropriate and reasonable to affect a lawful arrest, to protect the arresting officer or other innocent individuals in immediate danger. Unnecessary force is not permitted while performing their duties.  The Sheriff continues by defining reasonable force as using the appropriate amount of force necessary to affect an arrest. Certain situation call for pre emptive action but should be executed in good faith and for the purpose of protecting themselves or other individuals. Law enforcement agents are to choose the necessary response to gain control of the situation based on policies and take into consideration his or her physical capabilities, perception, training, and experience (Arnold 2008).


Sheriff James Arnold continues by describing the appropriate manner for handling force. Techniques used vary depending upon the level of resistance encountered. Special circumstances present themselves from time to time such as: closeness of a weapon, injury, exhaustion, and distance from suspect, and information known about the suspect. Striking an individual with an impact weapon to vital areas of the body should only be used in response to a deadly force assault. The following chart describes the suggested action response use of force continuum.

Suspect Actions and Deputies Responses

1. Not responding to commands- or verbal of physical danger cues of suspect leads to the deputy using balance displacement, escort or come along techniques, requesting assistance from other officers, verbal or physical commands, and other officers presence.

2. If the suspect is pulling away from the Deputy or refusing to move or becomes dead weight the deputy is allowed to strike nerve motor points or muscle masses, take downs, use joint manipulation or pressure and use of point compliance is allowed.

3. If the suspect is wrestling or pushing the officer the officer is permitted to strike structural areas, use mace or pepper spray, use electrical devices and baton restraints.

4. If the suspect is striking or kicking the officer baton techniques are permitted.

5. If the suspect attempt or uses weapons against the officer, attempts to disarm the officer, or participates in a life threatening weaponless assault the officer is permitted to use deadly force.


Circumstances such as an elderly, disabled, unconscious, and injured and presents no threat requires the officer to not use force unless necessary. Officers are not to hog tie a suspect. If an officer can detect injury medical attention is to be seeked at once.  Once force has been used or an injury occurs, the officer is to report the situation to his supervisor within 24 hours unless a crisis prevents reporting within 24 hours. The officer must report the incident in a timely manner.  Using of firearms is to be used to protect from death or serious bodily damage, protecting another officer from death or serious bodily damage, apprehend a fleeing felon reasonably known to be armed with a weapon, and verbal warnings should be given if possible before firing a weapon. Warning shots are not allowed (Arnold 2008).


These policies are close to the same in all police departments. If followed the community will be more willing to cooperate with officers, lives will be saved, and the lawsuits will lessen in time. Deviation from the policies causes tension throughout the community between the citizens and police and crime rates are usually higher once the police are no longer trusted within the community.



We are fooling ourselves if we believe the solution to the deep seated problems of excessive use of force can be solved through procedures and policies alone.  The problem will be solved when we figure out as a society how to teach every single youngster their responsibility for citizenship. Shared values and individual responsibility is the key to officers not having to use force on the job. Many of the use of force issues are due to the rampant crime and individuals not willing to abide by the ‘social contract’ in which allows for a peaceful society (Schmalleger 2002). In the end, physical force should only be used to the extent necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore order when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to achieve police objectives. In many cases, officers are forced to apprehend dangerous individuals and hesitation could be deadly for the officer or other members of society. Training and screening of officers is necessary but finding ways to teach citizens to act civilized and appropriate is also necessary to prevent the unnecessary use of force. The necessary and unnecessary use of force poses several challenges for police agencies. Use of force issues often lead to loss of public trust. Once the public no longer trusts law enforcement problems arise within the community which requires immediate attention. Fixing the community as a whole will lead to less issues due to use of force.



Criminal Procedure: Constitution and Society, Third Edition, by Marvin Zalman.              Published by Prentice – Hall, an imprint of Pearson Education, Inc. Copyright © 2002 by Pearson Education, Inc.

Justice Administration : Police, Courts, and Corrections Management, Third Edition, by Kenneth J. Peak. Copyright © 2001 by Prentice-Hall, an imprint of Pearson Education, Inc.

Criminology Today: An Integrative Introduction, Third Edition, by Frank Schmalleger. Published by Prentice – Hall, Inc., an imprint of Pearson Education, Inc. Copyright © 2002 by Pearson Education, Inc.

More On This Topic

Comments are closed.