Use Of Force – Citizen’s Police Academy Notes
As I have written before, I am taking the Owatonna Police Department's Citizen's Academy, and I am learning so much, it's hard to process all of it in one evening. I find that I am recalling information that was mentioned, even days later. I have such respect for the sworn officers and the split-second decisions that they need to make on a daily basis.
Monday evening we learned about Use of Force, with Sgt. Josh Sorensen and Det. Matt Oeltjenbruns, and it was very informative, as well as entertaining. The officers are held to a high standard as far as using force, they need to keep a few things in mind, basically looking at proximity, means, and intent. Is the person close enough to hurt someone, do they have something that can be used as a weapon, and is the intent to cause harm there? This comes from the Supreme Court Case, Graham v. Connor in 1984. I found the best explanation of this precedent from Policmag.com, they have a great article explaining the objective reasonableness standard in Graham. The article also goes on to explain that 20/20 hindsight cannot be used to evaluate a use of force case.
It is rare that our sworn officers have to pull their weapons to fire upon anyone, for which we can be grateful for. I will no longer look at police-involved shootings the same way again, they have so many different things going through their minds, and they are trained in these encounters. As a member of the public, I will never have the same information that they do at the time, nor will I ever experience the same adrenaline, rapid onset of stress, and emotions that they do when in that position.
We went through a few scenarios, one of which had Det. Oeltjenbruns pull a plastic gun out, and even though I saw it, even though I KNEW it was fake, I still wanted to get out of the way, in fact, I tried to back up, but froze and could not go anywhere. Very informative, and I am glad that they are out there, and I don't have to be. It should be noted that our officers are also trained to not use force, except as a last resort, and if the following are met:
(1) to protect the peace officer or another from apparent death or great bodily harm;
(2) to effect the arrest or capture, or prevent the escape, of a person whom the peace officer knows or has reasonable grounds to believe has committed or attempted to commit a felony involving the use or threatened use of deadly force; or
(3) to effect the arrest or capture, or prevent the escape, of a person whom the officer knows or has reasonable grounds to believe has committed or attempted to commit a felony if the officer reasonably believes that the person will cause death or great bodily harm if the person's apprehension is delayed.
Again, I would recommend that everyone take this class the next time it is offered, they all do a great job of explaining what their jobs actually consist of, and they make it entertaining. It's not all dry facts, a definite plus for me.