What is Use of Force?
A use of force policy details the different engagement options available to first responders and specifies which actions are appropriate for certain situations. Its purpose is to minimize security threats and diffuse high-intensity emotions.
For example, anger can escalate, but it’s hard to maintain extreme levels for long periods of time, explains Ahrens. An officer can take advantage of fluctuations in a person’s emotional state by intervening before the potential aggressor reaches their boiling point.
“The force continuum is designed to break the modality of anger,” Ahrens says. “Use of force options are available so a guard can intercede into a person’s anger and circumvent the process of someone continuing to act out.”
Taking a page from law enforcement, a full use of force policy includes five levels of engagement:
- Presence: guards serve as visual deterrents and observe and report any activity.
- Verbal: vocals are used to challenge and command individuals of interest.
- Restraints: officers may use physical holds or devices to secure an aggressor. This is the first level where hands-on contact is approved for defensive use.
- Incapacitation: first responders may use hands-as-weapons or blocking devices (baton, Taser) on soft tissue to resolve a situation. This may include chemical agents.
- Deadly force: generally reserved for armed security, but also includes the use of any offensive tactic or weapon applied in a lethal manner.
“Remember that the use of force is predicated on the location, tools, and resources available to incident responders, and the situation itself,” Ahrens stresses. These levels aren’t hard and fast rules, but the policy is a frame of reference that security can automatically recall during an exchange.
Due to liability concerns, most building owners will depend on the first two levels, with special provisions built in for extreme scenarios.
“The most common is a ‘no use of force’ or a ‘hands off’ policy,” notes Stanley. “Others will outline a ‘minimal’ or ‘reasonable’ use of force policy.”