This policy provides guidelines on the reasonable use of force. While there is no way to specify the exact amount or type of reasonable force to be applied in any situation, every member of this office is expected to use these guidelines to make such decisions in a professional, impartial, and reasonable manner (Executive Law § 840).
In addition to those methods, techniques, and tools set forth below, the guidelines for the reasonable application of force contained in this policy shall apply to all policies addressing the potential use of force, including but not limited to the Control Devices and Conducted Energy Device policies.
Definitions related to this policy include:
Brandish - For Use of Force reporting purposes, brandish means to point at a person or persons.
Deadly Physical force - Physical force which, under the circumstances which it is used, is readily capable of causing death or serious physical injury (Executive Law 840) [NYS Penal Law Article 10, Section 10 .
Feasible - Reasonably capable of being done or carried out under the circumstances to successfully achieve the arrest or lawful objective without increasing risk to the deputy or another person.
Force - The application of physical techniques or tactics, chemical agents, or weapons to another person. It is not a use of force when a person allows him/herself to be searched, escorted, handcuffed, or restrained.
Imminent - Ready to take place; impending. Note that imminent does not mean immediate or instantaneous.
Totality of the circumstances - All facts and circumstances known to the deputy at the time, taken as a whole, including the conduct of the deputy and the subject leading up to the use of force.
Objectively Reasonable - An objective standard used to judge a deputy's actions. Under this standard, a particular application of force must be judged through the perspective of a reasonable deputy facing the same set of circumstances, without the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, and based on the totality of the facts that are known to the deputy at the time that the force was used.
The use of force by law enforcement personnel is a matter of critical concern, both to the public and to the law enforcement community. Deputies are involved on a daily basis in numerous and varied interactions and, when warranted, may use reasonable force in carrying out their duties.
Deputies must have an understanding of, and true appreciation for, their authority and limitations. This is especially true with respect to overcoming resistance while engaged in the performance of law enforcement duties.
The Putnam County Sheriff's Office recognizes and respects the value of all human life and dignity without prejudice to anyone. Vesting deputies with the authority to use reasonable force and to protect the public welfare requires monitoring, evaluation, and a careful balancing of all interests.
Any deputy present and observing another law enforcement officer or a member using force that is clearly beyond that which is objectively reasonable under the circumstances shall, when in a position to do so, intercede to prevent the use of unreasonable force.
Any deputy who observes another law enforcement officer or a member use force that is potentially beyond that which is objectively reasonable under the circumstances should report these observations to a supervisor as soon as feasible.
When observing or reporting force used by a law enforcement officer, each deputy should take into account the totality of the circumstances and the possibility that other law enforcement officers may have additional information regarding the threat posed by the subject.
Deputies shall use only that amount of force that reasonably appears necessary given the facts and circumstances perceived by the deputy at the time of the event to accomplish a legitimate law enforcement purpose and which is consistent with Article 35 of the Penal Law.
The reasonableness of force will be judged from the perspective of a reasonable deputy on the scene at the time of the incident. Any evaluation of reasonableness must allow for the fact that deputies are often forced to make split-second decisions about the amount of force that reasonably appears necessary in a particular situation, with limited information and in circumstances that are tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving.
Given that no policy can realistically predict every possible situation a deputy might encounter, deputies are entrusted to use well-reasoned discretion in determining the appropriate use of force in each incident.
It is also recognized that circumstances may arise in which deputies reasonably believe that it would be impractical or ineffective to use any of the tools, weapons or methods provided by this office. Deputies may find it more effective or reasonable to improvise their response to rapidly unfolding conditions that they are confronting. In such circumstances, the use of any improvised device or method must nonetheless be reasonable and utilized only to the degree that reasonably appears necessary to accomplish a legitimate law enforcement purpose.
While the ultimate objective of every law enforcement encounter is to avoid or minimize injury, nothing in this policy requires a deputy to retreat or be exposed to possible physical injury before applying reasonable force.
When circumstances reasonably permit, deputies should use non-violent strategies and techniques to decrease the intensity of a situation, improve decision-making, improve communication, reduce the need for force, and increase voluntary compliance (e.g., summoning additional resources, formulating a plan, attempting verbal persuasion).
A police officer or a peace officer in the course of effecting or attempting to effect an arrest, or of preventing or attempting to prevent the escape from custody, of a person he or she reasonably believes to have committed an offense, may use physical force when and to the extent he or she reasonably believes such to be necessary to effect an arrest, or to prevent escape of a person from custody, or in self-defense or to defend a third person from what he or she reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use physical force (Penal Law § 35.30).
Force shall not be used by an deputy (Executive Law § 840):
When determining whether to apply force and evaluating whether a deputy has used reasonable force, a number of factors should be taken into consideration, as time and circumstances permit. These factors include but are not limited to:
Pain compliance techniques may be effective in controlling a physically or actively resisting individual. Deputies may only apply those pain compliance techniques for which they have successfully completed office-approved training. Deputies utilizing any pain compliance technique should consider:
The application of any pain compliance technique shall be discontinued once the deputy determines that compliance has been achieved.
A carotid control hold is a technique designed to control an individual by temporarily restricting blood flow through the application of pressure to the side of the neck and, unlike a chokehold, does not restrict the airway. The proper application of the carotid control hold may be effective in restraining a violent or combative individual. However, due to the potential for injury, the use of the carotid control hold is limited to those circumstances where deadly force is authorized and is subject to the following:
Any application of pressure to the throat, windpipe, neck, or blocking the mouth or nose of a person in a manner that may hinder breathing or reduce intake of air is prohibited unless deadly physical force is authorized (Exec. Law § 840).
This application is subject to the same guidelines and requirements as a carotid control hold.
In general, deputies may use reasonable force to lawfully seize evidence and to prevent the destruction of evidence. However, deputies are discouraged from using force solely to prevent a person from swallowing evidence or contraband. In the instance when force is used, deputies should not intentionally use any technique that restricts blood flow to the head, restricts respiration, or which creates a reasonable likelihood that blood flow to the head or respiration would be restricted. Deputies are encouraged to use techniques and methods taught by the Putnam County Sheriff's Office for this specific purpose.
When reasonable, the deputy shall, prior to the use of deadly force, make efforts to identify him/ herself as a peace officer and to warn that deadly force may be used, unless the deputy has objectively reasonable grounds to believe the person is aware of those facts.
Use of deadly force is justified in the following circumstances involving imminent threat or imminent risk:
Imminent does not mean immediate or instantaneous. An imminent danger may exist even if the suspect is not at that very moment pointing a weapon at someone. For example, an imminent danger may exist if a deputy reasonably believes that the individual has a weapon or is attempting to access one and intends to use it against the deputy or another person. An imminent danger may also exist if the individual is capable of causing serious bodily injury or death without a weapon, and the deputy believes the individual intends to do so.
Shots fired at or from a moving vehicle involve additional considerations and risks, and are rarely effective.
When feasible, deputies should take reasonable steps to move out of the path of an approaching vehicle instead of discharging their firearm at the vehicle or any of its occupants.
A deputy should only discharge a firearm at a moving vehicle or its occupants when the deputy reasonably believes there are no other reasonable means available to avert the imminent threat of the vehicle, or if deadly force other than the vehicle is directed at the deputy or others.
Deputies should not shoot at any part of a vehicle in an attempt to disable the vehicle.
Any use of force by a member of this office shall be documented promptly, completely and accurately in an appropriate report, depending on the nature of the incident. The deputy should articulate the factors perceived and why he/she believed the use of force was reasonable under the circumstances. To collect data for purposes of training, resource allocation, analysis and related purposes, the Office may require the completion of additional report forms, as specified in office policy, procedure, or law (Executive Law § 840). See the Report Preparation Policy for additional circumstances that may require documentation.
Supervisory notification shall be made as soon as practicable following the application of force in any of the following circumstances:
Once it is reasonably safe to do so, medical assistance shall be obtained for any person who exhibits signs of physical distress, has sustained visible injury, expresses a complaint of injury or continuing pain, or was rendered unconscious. Any individual exhibiting signs of physical distress after an encounter should be continuously monitored until he/she can be medically assessed. Individuals should not be placed on their stomachs for an extended period, as this could impair their ability to breathe.
Based upon the deputy’s initial assessment of the nature and extent of the individual’s injuries, medical assistance may consist of examination by an emergency medical services provider or medical personnel at a hospital or jail. If any such individual refuses medical attention, such a refusal shall be fully documented in related reports and, whenever practicable, should be witnessed by another deputy and/or medical personnel. If a recording is made of the contact or an interview with the individual, any refusal should be included in the recording, if possible.
The on-scene supervisor or, if the on-scene supervisor is not available, the primary handling deputy shall ensure that any person providing medical care or receiving custody of a person following any use of force is informed that the person was subjected to force. This notification shall include a description of the force used and any other circumstances the deputy reasonably believes would be potential safety or medical risks to the subject (e.g., prolonged struggle, extreme agitation, impaired respiration).
Individuals who exhibit extreme agitation, violent irrational behavior accompanied by profuse sweating, extraordinary strength beyond their physical characteristics, and imperviousness to pain (sometimes called “excited delirium”), or who require a protracted physical encounter with multiple deputies to be brought under control, may be at an increased risk of sudden death. Calls involving these persons should be considered medical emergencies. Deputies who reasonably suspect a medical emergency should request medical assistance as soon as practicable and have medical personnel stage away.
See the Medical Aid and Response Policy for additional guidelines.
A deputy should take steps to obtain medical attention for a person who reasonably appears to be mentally ill and is behaving in a manner that is likely to result in serious harm to the person or to others.
Deputies should document requests for medical or mental health treatment as well as efforts to arrange for such treatment.
See the Report Preparation Policy for additional circumstances that may require documentation. When a supervisor is able to respond to an incident in which there has been a reported application of force, the supervisor is expected to (Executive Law § 840):
In the event that a supervisor is unable to respond to the scene of an incident involving the reported application of force, the supervisor is still expected to complete as many of the above items as circumstances permit.
The Division Captain shall review each use of force by any personnel within his/her command to ensure compliance with this policy and to address any training issues.
The Supervisor shall ensure that enough information to meet the use of force reporting requirements for the DCJS is in the report (Executive Law § 837-t; 9 NYCRR 6058.3).
The Division Captain shall forward a copy of the Use of Force Report to the Undersheriff for review and retention.
Deputies will receive periodic training on this policy and demonstrate their knowledge and understanding.
Subject to available resources, deputies should receive periodic training on:
This policy shall be readily available to the public upon request and shall be posted on the office website (Executive Law § 840).