National Consensus Policy On Use Of Force (October 2017)



This National Consensus Policy on Use of Force is a collaborative effort among 11 of the most significant law enforcement leadership and labor organizations in the United States. The policy reflects the best thinking of all consensus organizations and is solely intended to serve as a template for law enforcement agencies to compare and enhance their existing policies.



The purpose of this policy is to provide law enforcement officers with guidelines for the use of less-leathal and deadly force.


It is the policy of this law enforcement agency to value and preserve human life. Officers shall use only the force that is objectively reasonable to effectively bring an incident under control, while protecting the safety of the officer and others. Officers shall use force only when no reasonably effective alternative appears to exist and shall use only the level of force which a reasonably prudent officer would use under the same or similar circumstances.

The decision to use force "requires careful attention to the facts and circumstances of each particular case, including the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officer or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight."

In addition, "the 'reasonableness' of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight. . .the question is whether the officers' actions are 'objectively reasonable' in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them."1


DEADLY FORCE: Any use of force that creates a substantial risk of causing death or seriously bodily injury.

LESS-LETHAL FORCE: Any use of force other than that which is considered deadly force that involves physical effort to control, restrain, or overcome the resistance of another.

OBJECTIVELY REASONABLE: The determination that the necessity for using force and the level of force used is based upon the officer's evaluation of the situation in light of the totality of the circumstances known to the officer at the time the force is used and upon what a reasonably prudent officer would use under the same or similar situations.

SERIOUS BODILY INJURY: Injury that involves a substantial risk of death, protracted and obvious disfigurement, or extended loss or impairment of the function of a body part or organ.

DE-ESCALATION: Taking action or communicating verbally or non-verbally during a potential force encounter in an attempt to stabilize the situation and reduce the immediacy of the threat so that more time, options, and resources can be called upon to resolve the situation without the use of force or with a reduction in the force necessary. De-escalation may include the use of such techniques as command presence, advisements, warnings, verbal persuasion, and tactical repositioning.

EXIGENT CIRCUMSTANCES: Those circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to believe that a particular action is necessary to prevent physical harm to an individual, the destruction of relevant evidence, the escape of a suspect, or some other consequence improperly frustrating legitimate law enforcement efforts.

CHOKE HOLD: A physical maneuver that restricts an individual's ability to breathe for the purposes of incapacitation. This does not include vascular neck restraints.

WARNING SHOT: Discharge of a firearm for the purpose of compelling compliance from an individual, but not intended to cause physical injury.



  1. Use of physical force should be discontinued when resistance ceases or when the incident is under control.
  2. Physical force shall not be used against individuals in restraints, except as objectively reasonable to prevent their escape or prevent imminent bodily injury to the individual, the officer, or another person. In these situations, only the minimal amount of force necessary to control the situation shall be used.
  3. Once the scene is safe and as soon as practical, an officer shall provide appropriate medical care consistent with his or her training to any individual who has visible injuries, complains of being injured, or requests medical attention. This may include providing first aid, requesting emergency medical services, and/or arranging for transportation to an emergency medical facility.
  4. An officer has a duty to intervene to prevent or stop the use of excessive force by another officer when it is safe and reasonable to do so.
  5. All uses of force shall be documented and investigated pursuant to this agency's policies.


  1. An officer shall use de-escalation techniques and other alternatives to higher levels of force consistent with his or her training whenever possible and appropriate before resorting to force and to reduce the need for force.
  2. Whenever possible and when such delay will not compromise the safety of the officer or another and will not result in the destruction or evidence, escape of a suspect, or commission of a crime, and officer shall allow an individual time and opportunity to submit to verbal commands before force is used.


When de-escalation techniques are not effective or appropriate, an officer may consider the use of less-lethal force to control a non-compliant or actively resistant individual. An officer is authorized to use agency-approved, less-lethal force techniques and issued equipment.

  1. to protect the officer or others from immediate physical harm,
  2. to restrain or subdue an individual who is actively resisting or evading arrest, or
  3. to bring an unlawful situation safely and effectively under control.


  1. An officer is authorized to use deadly force when it is objectively reasonable under the totality of the circumstances. Use of deadly force is justified when one or both of the following apply:

a. to protect the officer or others from what is reasonably believed to be an immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury.
b. to prevent the escape of a fleeing subject when the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed, or intends to commit a felony involving serious bodily injury or death, and the officer reasonably believes that there is an imminent risk of serious bodily injury or death to the officer or another if the subject is not immediately apprehended

2. When feasible, the officer shall identify himself or herself as a law enforcement officer and warn of his or her intent to use deadly force.
3. Deadly Force Restrictions

a. Deadly force should not be used against persons whose actions are a threat only to themselves or property.
b. Warning shots are inherently dangerous. Therefore, a warning shot must have a defined target and shall not be fired unless

(1) the use of deadly force is justified;
(2) the warning shot will not pose a substantial risk of injury or death to the officer or others; and
(3) the officer reasonably believes that the warning shot will reduce the possibility that deadly force will have to be used.

c. Firearms shall not be discharged at a moving vehicle unless

(1) a person in the vehicle is threatening the officer or another person with deadly force by means other than the vehicle; or
(2) the vehicle is operated in a manner deliberately intended to strike an officer or another person, and all other reasonable means of defense have been exhausted (or are not present or practical), which includes moving out of the path of the vehicle.

d. Firearms shall not be discharged from a moving vehicle except in exigent circumstances. In these situations, an officer must have an articulable reason for this use of deadly force.
e. Choke holds are prohibited unless deadly force is authorized.


1. All officers shall receive training, at least annually, on this agency's use of force policy and related legal updates.
2. In addition, training shall be provided on a regular and periodic basis and designed to

a. provide techniques for the use of and reinforce the importance of de-escalation;
b. simulate actual shooting situations and conditions; and
c. enhance officers' discretion and judgement in using less-lethal and deadly force in accordance with this policy.

3. All use-of-force training shall be documented.


Every effort has been made to ensure that this document incorporates the most current information and contemporary professional judgement on this issue. However, the law enforcement administrators should be cautioned that a "sample" policy can meet all the needs of any given law enforcement agency.

Each law enforcement agency operates in a unique environment of court rulings, state laws, local ordinances, regulations, judicial and administrative decisions, and collective bargaining agreements that must be considered and should therefore consult its legal advisor before implementing any policy.