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Use of Force: Escalation De-escalation Pyramid

Use of Force Continuum

The use of force continuum provides additional guidelines regarding how much force can be used in a given self-defense situation. These guidelines usually are determined by individual agencies and states and are, therefore, not universal. The continuum also might be used in court to help the jury decide if the person on trial used reasonable force based on the circumstances.

To help people use the continuum to avoid using excessive force, the National Use of Force Framework was developed. Although this framework primarily applies to law enforcement officers, it can also be useful for civilians. It can provide a reference for making decisions and then explaining your actions, but it is not intended to be used as a justification for your actions. The framework includes three categories to be considered.

1. Assessment: You assess the situation, taking into consideration the circumstances and your perception of what is happening.

2. Subject’s Behavior: You decide which of the five behavioral categories applies to the person you think is a threat (the subject).

  • Cooperative: The subject is listening to what you say.

  • Passive Resistant: The subject is not responding to verbal communication.

  • Active Resistant: The subject resists being restrained.

  • Assaultive: The subject is pushing, kicking, hitting, or using other physical contact.

  • Grievous Bodily Harm or Death: The subject is threatening another person’s life.

3. Response Options: When choosing a response option, you must follow the reasonableness standard that is accepted in your state. In some states, the law says that you may only use deadly force or threaten to use force if you reasonably believe such action is necessary to defend yourself or another person against a subject’s use of deadly force. Based on your assessment of the situation and the subject’s behavior, here are the six general ways to respond to protect your life and/or your property.

  • Presence: You let the subject see that you are there.

  • Communication: You talk to the subject. This could include letting the subject know that you are planning to get assistance from others.

  • Soft Physical Control: You restrain the subject by applying pressure to specific points or by using another similar approach.

  • Hard Physical Control: You hit, kick, or strike the subject.

  • Alternatives to Firearms:Alternatives include sprays or electrical devices.

  • Deadly Force: This is the last response option that you should consider using.

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