When I was a patrol sergeant, one of my
officers received a call for a "mental case"
in the middle of the street attacking
passing motorists.  The primary officer
and two back-up officers arrived
simultaneously, and they observed a
woman, of considerable size, rushing up
to passing cars and pounding her fists
against the vehicles.

When the officers approached her, she
grabbed one of the officers by the lapels
of his coat, and she literally threw him
across the hood of his police car.  When I
arrived seconds later, I saw the woman
surrounded by the three officers.  The
officers were not hitting her with sticks or
making any attempt to grab her.  
Instead, every time she'd lunge at one of
the officers, he'd move and another
officer would attract her attention.  It
was quite a sight watching the officers
duck and weave as the woman repeatedly
tried to grab onto them.

What was immediately obvious to me, as
well as to the officers, was that she was
tiring.  Almost as quickly as it began, the
street dance ended when the woman
collapsed onto the pavement.  The
officers rushed in and quickly handcuffed
her.  While it was not apparent that the
woman was in any physiological distress,
she was immediately transported to the
hospital for an emergency psychiatric

Sadly, the woman died on the way to the
hospital.  The autopsy would reveal her
cause of death to be cocaine
intoxication.  Incredibly, the level of
cocaine was so high that it should have
precluded exertion of any physical activity
let alone attacking cars and police
officers.  According to the medical, her
fate was sealed before she went on her
One can only imagine the criticism and
assumptions which would have been
immediately leveled at the officers had
they struck or otherwise applied the force
necessary to put that wild woman down.  
In this particular case, she was unarmed,
contained, and she was no threat to
others or to the officers as long as they
kept out of her way.  Some men might
think it embarrassing to have a woman
chase them in circles in front of an
audience.  In this case, one member of
the audience was appreciative of the
officers' actions.  One of the motorists
who was attacked approached me, and
he complimented the officers for the
restraint they showed -- especially
following the assault on the first officer.

Today, police officers are being watched
closer than ever before.  You should
never let this fact prevent you from
applying force when necessary to protect
yourself or others; however, you should
remain mindful of the responsibilities you
assume when you apply force.
Police departments have been placed in a
pretty tight spot.  The Top Cops are only
top cops because of their political
connections, and the politicians they
work for are super sensitive to bad
press.  When it comes to money, it's
always easier to settle litigation with
other people's money -- in this case the
taxpayers' -- and move on.

Now, you might think that as long as you
follow your departmental guidelines for
use of force, you'll be okay.  In most
instances, you'll be correct in that
assumption.  However, many factors, or
questions, can come into play anytime
force is used.  Some of these questions
could include:  Who is the person upon
which the force was exerted?  Can your
use of force be placed into a politically
correct context?  Does your past record
regarding frequency of your use of force
make you more vulnerable to
exaggeration and embellishment?  Of
course, there will be some reasonable
standards applied as well.  While any use
of force should be viewed solely in
relation to reasonable standards, you'll
learn that, when it comes to police
officers, reasonable standards are okay
as long as there are not more pressing
social or political circumstances present.

When you use physical force, you'll
potentially face two groups of critics.  
The first group is comprised of people
who have never been in a fight since
grade school...if then.  They'll view
themselves as intellectually superior, and
they'll boast their educational
achievements as evidence of that
superiority.  The second group will be
comprised of the less achievement
oriented segment of society...sometimes
referred to as criminals.  The second
group will often display their
underestimated intelligence by their clever
and total manipulation of the first group.

When you use force, your department
will have a process to review the
appropriateness of your actions.  The
level of the force used, and its outcome
will determine the extent of the review.  
The use of deadly force will obviously
receive the most extensive and rigorous
review as it should.

Whatever level of force you use, you may
well be subjected to review by people
who have very little understanding of
force and its application.  Today, there
are quite a few police officers in
supervisory and command positions who
possess very little, if any, personal
experience in applying force.  Some,
outside of training, have never put
handcuffs on a person.

Not to worry.  You have the ability to use
your brain when it comes to your
decision to use force:
Your decision to use force should always
be based on the reasonable need for
force, and your reasoned consideration
of the effect on the person who is the
recipient of the force.  However, as you
begin your police career, you have more
to consider than previous generations of
police officers.

You should always attempt to resolve
situations without the use of force, but
you'll soon learn that a lot of people have
no appreciation for your conflict
resolution skills.  If you do become a
police officer, get use to the fact that you
will, on occasion, be required to exercise
physical force to make people comply
with the laws you're sworn to enforce.  

No matter how much training you receive,
you must remember that everybody else,
no matter what their profession;
occupation, or life experience may be, will
have a better understanding of your job
than you do.  When it comes to a police
officer's use of force, the experts will
come out of the woodwork.

...media and litigation

Use of force by police officers is, and
should be, a serious concern of citizens
in any free society.  Today, that concern,
or I should say...interest, has been
increased dramatically through media and

More than ever before, the "experts"
have tremendous support from the
media and lawyers.  The media's purpose
is news and ratings, and the
lawyers...well, money...what else?
"You should always attempt to
resolve situations without the use of
force, but you'll soon learn that a lot
of people have no appreciation for
your conflict resolution skills."
~ Barry M. Baker
Copyright © 2016  Barry M. Baker