Understanding when the use of force is appropriate and what level of force can be applied is critical to both the police officer and the private security officer.

Earlier stated differences in the concepts of excessive and reasonable force do not help the average layperson or officer remove the ambiguity in the meanings of these phrases. Because it is not possible to specify the appropriate police response to every given situation, police department trainers and academics have developed numerous ways to conceptualize the escalation of police force. These conceptual models have been since labeled as “use of force continuums.” Use of force continuums acknowledge that police force is not a static concept or an issue that an abstractly stated policy statement can deal with. Rather these typologies recognize that police-citizen confrontations are dynamic. Faulkner (1991) states that force is “not just a word, a push or a pull, but all of the above in a rapidly advancing random order.” Furthermore he states that it is best to think of police-citizen encounters in terms of areas of resistance and control. It is within these areas that police force must be understood.

Faulkner (1991) and others claim that proper training on the use of force through the avenues of resistance and control can help define within modal categories, when and what officer responses are necessary given a narrowly defined scenario (O’Linn, 1992; Graves et al., 1992). Serving as a training officer with the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy, Faulkner defined an “action-response use of force continuum” that explains officer’s responses to a resistor’s actions. As shown in Figure 1.1, Faulkner (1991) conceptualizes that officer responses to individual actions vary along 12 dimensions. The lower end of the responses begin with the officers’ presence while the upper end culminates with the infliction of deadly force.
O’Linn (1992) explains that since law enforcement officers are expected to make split second decisions based on rapidly evolving situations, the incorporation of a use of force continuum into departmental policy will provide the guidance to officers in making force decisions.

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