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Model Rules for Law Enforcement Officers: A Manual on Police Discretion

Copyright 1974, I.A.C.P.

Sec. 3.03. Under normal circumstances, only the methods or instrumentalities listed below may be used to apply force. These methods are listed in ascending order from the least severe to the most drastic. It is the officer's responsibility to first exhaust every reasonable means of employing the minimum amount of force before escalating to a more severe application of force.

(a) Physical strength and skill.
(b) Approved mace, gas or noxious substance.
(c) Approved baton, sap or blackjack.
(a) Approved service revolver or other approved firearm and approved

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Sec. 4.01. Non-deadly force may be used in instances where a police officer must take aggressive physical action to achieve a lawful objective, as enumerated in Section 1.01.

Sec. 4.02. Whenever a police officer finds it necessary to use non-deadly force to achieve a lawful police objective, it shall be incumbent upon that officer to exhaust every reasonable means of employing the least amount of force to effect the purpose before escalating to the next, more forceful method. However, nothing in this rule shall be interpreted to mean that an officer is required to engage in prolonged hand-to-hand combat or struggle rather than resort to that method which will most quickly and safely bring the arrestee under control.

Sec. 4.03. Chemical mace may be used when the officer, while performing his official duties, is required to use physical force, either to protect himself from assault or to subdue a person engaged in unlawful activities. Chemical mace shall not be used if the resistance is minor, not hazardous to the officer (or a third party), or if the resistance can be overcome by the officer's physical prowess, or by several officers acting together.

Sec. 4.04. The baton (short or long) may be used by an officer to subdue a violently resisting subject or in self defense or defense of a third party if lesser methods have failed or if circumstances warrant the immediate use of the baton.

(a) Blows from the baton capable of inflicting permanent injury must be avoided. (b) The baton should not be used as a club or bludgeon and it shall not be raised above the head to strike a blow to any person. (c) Blows delivered with a baton shall be short and snappy and shall be delivered only to the vulnerable areas of the body which will render the opponent temporarily incapacitated but will not cause serious bodily harm.

Sec. 4.05. The baton may also be used as a barricade or repelling device in crowd control situations, or to ward off blows from an assailant.

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Fortunately, while an officer may have to resort to use of non-lethal force fairly frequently, situations requiring the use of deadly weapons are relatively infrequent. The definition of non-deadly force, Section 2.02, includes the specific instruments normally available to an officer. Physical strength or skill, mace or the baton is neither "likely" nor "intended" to cause great bodily harm if properly used. No one, however, will dispute the fact that the improper and unreasonable use of any of the above methods or instruments could cause severe injury and even death.

Section 4.01 calls attention to the fact that law and sound police practice recognize the need to apply reasonable non-deadly force where necessary and practical. However, if the circumstances are such that non-deadly force would be ineffective, or its use would not prevent great bodily harm to the officer or a third party, it would be justifiable to use deadly force.

In an effort to minimize the possibility of unnecessary force, these rules establish an escalating scale of force. The lowest, least drastic method of a police officer using force would be physical strength and skill (holding, throwing, restraining, pushing, pulling, singly or with help from other officers). Physical prowess is a reasonable method of overcoming the resistance of a person who is unarmed or simply failing to abide by the officers lawful command to submit.

There are few situations where an officer should resort to any force greater than physical prowess. Escalating this type of force may mean simply bringing in more officers. It should be remembered that good police procedure dictates that, on potentially hazardous calls for service, more than one officer should be automatically assigned and reinforcements should be called upon, if necessary. The key to restraint and diminishing resistance is superiority of manpower, and no officer should ever be faulted for requesting assistance. The officer who enters a bar room brawl or domestic disturbance alone, unless absolutely necessary or when a cover unit is not available, is in need of retraining. The theory behind superiority of manpower involves not only the protection of the officer, but also the protection of the person to be taken into custody. One man may not have the ability to effectively control a subject and must therefore resort to a degree of force greater than if two officers simply restrained the individual. Although both forms of force may constitute lawful violence in that they were reasonable under the circumstances, the latter is by far a more effective and superior police tactic.

Section 4.03 refers to the use of chemical mace in rendering the resistor incapable of further resistance. Chemical mace should be used only if physical strength and skill are ineffective or impractical. Although mace can be used effectively in most cases, there have been instances where mace has simply not been successful or has further angered the subject, resulting in increased aggression.

In instances where physical strength and skill or mace are ineffective or their use might constitute a danger to the officer or a third party, the officer is justified in using the baton or sap to overcome resistance and to end the conflict.

The application of the baton is considered the most drastic form of non-deadly force. It must be used judiciously and only if lesser methods have failed or their use would be impractical.


Model Penal Code Rule on Deadly Force

Sec. 1307. Use of Force in Law Enforcement

(1) Use of Force Justifiable to Effect an Arrest. Subject to the provisions of this Section and of Section 3.09, the use of force upon or toward the person of another is justifiable when the actor is making or assisting in making an arrest and the actor believes that such force is immediately necessary to effect a lawful arrest.

(2) Limitations on the Use of Force.
(a) The use of force is not justifiable under this Section unless:

(i) the actor makes known the purpose of the arrest or believes that
it is otherwise known by or cannot reasonably be made known to the
person to be arrested; and
(ii) when the arrest is made under a warrant, the warrant is valid or

believed by the actor to be valid. (b) The use of deadly force is not justifiable under this Section unless:

(i) the arrest is for a felony; and
(ii) the person effecting the arrest is authorized to act as a peace
officer or is assisting a person whom he believes to be authorized to
act as a peace officer; and
(iii) the actor believes that the force employed creates no
substantial risk of injury to innocent persons; and
(iv) the actor believes that:
(1) the crime for which the arrest is made involved conduct including
the use or threatened use of deadly force; or
(2) there is a substantial risk that the person to be arrested will
cause death or serious bodily harm if his apprehension is delayed.

(3) Use of Force to Prevent Escape from Custody. The use of force to prevent the escape of an arrested person from custody is justifiable when the force could justifiably have been employed to effect the arrest under which the person is in custody, except that a guard or other person authorized to act as a peace officer is justified in using any force, including deadly force, which he believes to be immediately necessary to prevent the escape of a person from a jail, prison, or other institution for the detention of persons charged with or convicted of a crime.

Model Penal Code, Sec. 1307(2)(b)(i)(iv) (Proposed Official Draft, 1962)


Complaints about police practices can be filed with the Omaha Police

The complainant should appear in person at division headquarters if at all possible because complaints generally are not taken by telephone. Contact:

Omaha Police Division
505 South 15th Street

Omaha, Nebraska
(402) 444-5811 (Internal Security)

If you believe your constitutional rights have been violated by the police, you can file a complaint with:

United States Attorney
215 North 17th Street

Omaha, Nebraska
(402) 221-4774


Federal Bureau of Investigation

215 North 17th Street

Omaha, Nebraska
(402) 348-1210

The Public Interest Law Center of Omaha offers a referral service for those who want to file suit against abusive police officers. Volunteer attorneys will not charge initial attorney fees but will charge for other expenses such as depositions. Every effort is made to keep costs at a minimum. The Law Center is staffed with volunteers and has no office. Contact can be made by telephone. Call: 348-1075.

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