Continuum of Force

The Use of Force Continuum has five levels of force for police to use. Law, and ethics, do not require cops to use all four levels before deadly force.

A few weeks back I found this article in a Facebook law enforcement page, and then I went on a tear. It shows how quickly a cop must react to a very volatile situation. I can think of few things, to put it politely, more screwed up than this. The suspect was using his one-year-old son as a human shield. The article doesn’t do it justice. Watch the video:


Video: Fla. man kidnaps son, uses him as human shield against police

PALM COAST, Fla. — A man is behind bars facing a kidnapping charge after taking his son from home and using the infant as a human shield against officers when they tried to apprehend him…

…authorities were called to a home due to a suspected child abduction. Once they arrived, they were informed by the infant’s mother that her boyfriend, Brandon Loehner, had taken their baby and left the home armed with a pistol.

Loehner, 27, caught the officers’ attention while swerving recklessly through lanes and driving into the median with this vehicle. Police attempted to stop the car, which turned into a pursuit that ended with the suspect exiting the vehicle at a local McDonald’s.

Video shows Loehner fleeing on foot, only to be cornered by officers near the drive-thru. He is seen thrusting the infant in front of his body, using the crying child as a human shield against officers and ignoring their commands.

A deputy was able to tase the suspect and grab the baby, as the man continued to resist arrest on the ground. Through this video, you can hear the young child calling for his dad as police attempt to arrest him. He was eventually subdued with the help of a K9 officer…

I would love this waste of sperm to sue the cops on the arrest. Assuming the case mades it to a trial, twelve parents on a civil jury would laugh as they said no. With any luck this gets his parental rights cut off (And hopefully other items. He doesn’t need to breed anymore). Thank God the kid is alright, and the K9 didn’t get an infection from this rabid animal.

I thought of this after seeing this article in As a review, there are Five Levels of Force for a cop to use:

Officer Presence —If an officer is there, people will often not cause a problem.

Verbalization — Force is not-physical. Officers issue calm, nonthreatening commands, such as “Stop!”

Empty-Hand Control — Officers use bodily force to gain control of a situation, e.g., grabs, holds, joint locks, punches, or kicks.

Less-Lethal Methods — Officers use less-lethal technologies to gain control of a situation: Blunt impact, e.g, baton strikes; Chemical sprays or Conducted Energy Devices (CEDs).

Lethal Force — Firearms, hard strikes above the neck, techniques that can cause death or serious bodily injury.

Now in handling a situation, an officer can pick one, or more of these options. It must be understood, upon arrival, an officer may start with just his presence. Then it may go up quickly to Intermediate Force, or higher, as the situation dictates. The author here explains this well, and why the term “Continuum” may be a problematic term for the public.

Why the term ‘use of force continuum’ is misleading

Continuum does not accurately describe police response options to resistance

Tyson Kilbey

Use of Force from All Angles

Although this is not often relayed to the general public, statistical data indicates that the use of force by police is highly infrequent when compared to the number of contacts police have with members of the community. And incidents in which police use deadly force are rare…

…Even though police have an overwhelmingly positive record in the use of force arena, many law enforcement officers do not have as deep an understanding of use of force as they should…

…In this article, I suggest that we can advance this effort simply by evaluating the terminology we use to teach and explain police use of force.

“Use of force continuum”

The term I specifically would like to discuss is the “use of force continuum.”

The term “continuum” is so often used to explain force options that it has become the most recognized way to describe law enforcement’s use of force options by the general public. But is “continuum” the most accurate term to describe police response options to resistance? I would argue no.

A simple definition of continuum can be paraphrased as a sequence or progression of elements that vary slightly in perpetuity or over a defined section. An example of a defined continuum would be the temperature range between freezing and boiling.

Use of force options by police officers do have variations in the degree of risk of injury, and officers and the public need to understand these differences. But, there is no smooth and sequential difference in use of force options.

For example, the difference between a verbal order and an empty hand control technique is not the same as the difference between the deployment of pepper spray and the firing of a handgun. Each force option available to an officer carries degrees of risk specific to the option being used. While there are undoubtedly general differences among the force options, there simply is not a continuum of slightly varying degrees.

Use of force is not a step-by-step process…

The term continuum implies there is a need to always use lower-level options before higher options. That is incorrect.

Going back to the five levels of force, you can go from Officer Presence (lowest level) to Deadly Force (highest level) instantly. An officer is called for a trespassing call. He approaches the suspect, and before the cop can say anything, the suspect pulls out a gun and is pointing it at the officer. At that moment, the officer pulls his pistol out and is legally justified to fire, severely injuring or killing him. He is not required, legally or ethically to go through Verbalization, Empty-Hand Control, or Less-Lethal Methods. And there is the issue for many critics of police.

In the justified police shooting of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson, the 300 pound man who just robbed a store owner attempted to take the cop’s weapon. The officer did not have time to deescalate the situation, as Brown was charging him and would likely have overpowered Wilson. At that moment, Officer Wilson had reasonable fear of loss of life or serious injury.

This leads us back to the strong belief of some in “de-escalation” by the officer. Cops going on shift do not want to get into a shooting, or a fight at all. But “de-escalation” is like effective communication. The target it the receiver, in this case the suspect. If he is not willing to “de-escalate,” the cop can’t make him. The cop, besides having to control the immediate situation, must insure the safety of others.

See the father of the year holding his child. He was willing to use his kid to protect himself from legal accountability. After driving like a maniac, endangering countless civilians, he is willing to use a one-year-old as a human shield. Therefore, is he a threat to others? The answer is yes. And the deputies on the scene telling him to put the kid down did not work. What do you do now?

Thankfully the use of Empty-Hand and Less Lethal force handled the situation. Hopefully people will understand words will not work when you have a lunatic not receptive to just calming dialogue.

Michael A. Thiac is a retired Army intelligence officer, with over 23 years experience, including serving in the Republic of Korea, Japan, and the Middle East. He is also a retired police patrol sergeant, with over 22 years’ service, and over ten year’s experience in field training of newly assigned officers. He has been published at The American Thinker,, and on his personal blog, A Cop’s Watch.

Opinions expressed are his alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of current or former employers

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