Use of Force Policy

In accordance with the New York State Executive Law section 840(4)(d)(3), Executive Law 837-t and 9 NYCRR 6058, The City of Tonawanda Police Use of Force policy is available for public examination. This policy is a public document.

Date: April 2, 1991
Revised: May 11, 2006 Chief Cindy J. Young, January 14, 2013 Chief John F. Ivancic, September 20, 2016 Chief William L. Strassburg II, June 26, 2019 Chief William L. Strassburg II, August 7, 2019 Chief William L. Strassburg II

I. Policy
The federal and state standards by which use of force is measured are both founded in the basic premise of objective reasonableness. The amount of force that is used by the officers shall be the amount of force that is objectively reasonable under the circumstances for the officer involved to effect an arrest, prevent an escape, or in defense of themselves or others. The standard of objective reasonableness, established by the United States Supreme Court in Graham v. Connor, is used in this policy and is intended to provide officers with guidelines for the use of force, including deadly physical force.
As the Supreme Court has recognized, this reasonableness inquiry embodies “allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments – in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving – about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.”
This policy is written in recognition of the value of all human life and dignity without prejudice to anyone. Vesting officers with the authority to use reasonable force and to protect the public welfare requires a careful balancing of all interests.

II. Definitions

A. Objectively Reasonable – An objective standard used to judge an officer’s actions. Under this standard, a particular application of force must be judged through the perspective of a reasonable officer facing the same set of circumstances, without the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, and be based on the totality of the facts that are known to that officer at the time that the force was used.

B. Deadly Physical Force – Physical force, which, under the circumstances in which it is used, is readily capable of causing death or other serious physical injury.

C. Physical Injury – Impairment of physical condition or substantial pain.

D. Serious Physical Injury – Physical injury which creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes death or serious and protracted disfigurement, protracted impairment of health or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.

III. Use of Force

A. In general terms, force is authorized to be used when reasonably believed to be necessary to effect a lawful arrest or detention, prevent the escape of a person from custody, or in defense of one’s self or another.

B. Under the 4th Amendment, a police officer may use only such force as is “objectively reasonable” under the circumstances. The reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene.

IV. Determining the Objective Reasonableness of Force

A. When used, force should be only that which is objectively reasonable given the circumstances perceived by the officer at the time of the event.

B. Factors that may be used in determining the reasonableness of force include, but are not limited to:

1. The severity of the crime or circumstances;
2. The level and immediacy of threat or resistance posed by the suspect;
3. The potential for injury to citizens, officers, and suspects;
4. The risk or attempt of the suspect to escape;
5. The knowledge, training, and experience of the officer;
6. Officer/subject considerations such as age, size, relative strength, skill level, injury or exhaustion, and the number of officers or subjects;
7. Other environmental conditions or exigent circumstances.

V. Duty to Intervene

A. Any officer present and observing another officer using force that he/she reasonably believes to be clearly beyond that which is objectively reasonable under the circumstance shall intercede to prevent the use of unreasonable force, if and when the officer has a realistic opportunity to prevent harm.

B. An officer who observes another officer use force that exceeds the degree of force as described in subdivision A of this section should promptly report these observations to a supervisor.

VI. Use of Deadly Physical Force

A. Deadly physical force may be used by an officer to protect themselves or another person from what the officer reasonably believes is an imminent threat of serious physical injury or death.

B. Deadly physical force may be used to stop a fleeing suspect where:

1. The officer has probable cause to believe the suspect has committed a felony involving the infliction or threat of serious physical injury or death; and,
2. The officer reasonably believes that the suspect poses an imminent threat of serious physical injury to the officer to others.
3. Where feasible, some warning should be given prior to the use of deadly physical force.

VII. Prohibited Uses of Force

A. Force shall not be used by an officer for the following reasons:

1. To extract an item from the anus or vagina of a subject without a warrant, except where exigent circumstances are present;
2. To coerce a confession from a subject in custody;
3. To obtain blood, saliva, urine, or other bodily fluid or cells, from an individual for the purposes of scientific testing in lieu of a court order where required;
4. Against persons who are handcuffed or restrained unless it is used to prevent injury, escape, or otherwise overcome active or passive resistance posed by the subject.

VIII. Reporting & Reviewing the Use of Force

A. Any injuries resulting from a use of force incident shall result in the appropriate and timely medical attention being provided to the injured party.

B. Members involved in use of force incidents as described below shall notify their supervisor as soon as practicable and shall complete a departmental use of force report.

1. Use of force that results in a physical injury.
2. Use of force incidents that a reasonable person would believe is likely to cause an injury.
3. Incidents that result in a complaint of pain from the suspect except complaints of minor discomfort from compliant handcuffing.
4. Incidents where a conducted energy device (CED) was intentionally brandished, used, discharged or accidently discharged after being displayed.
5. Incidents where a firearm was brandished, used or discharged at a subject.
6. Incidents where a chemical agent is displayed, used or deployed.
7. Incidents where an impact weapon is brandished, used or deployed; including but not limited to a baton or a billy.
8. Incidents where a chokehold or similar restraint that applies pressure to the throat or windpipe of a person in a manner that may hinder breathing or reduce the intake of air.

C. A standardized use of force form should be used to document any reportable use of force incident.

D. Where required, the Use of Force incident report will be submitted to DCJS through current reporting procedures.

IX. Procedures for Investigating Use of Force Incidents

A. Where practicable, a supervisor should respond to the scene to begin the preliminary force investigation.

B. A supervisor that is made aware of force incident shall ensure the completion of a use of force report by all officers engaging in reportable use of force and, to the extent practical, make a record of all officers present.

C. Photographs should be taken which sufficiently document any injuries or lack thereof to officers or suspects.

D. The Patrol Captain or his/her designee will receive the supervisor’s report and conduct an investigation. The process will include, but not be limited to the following:

1. Review the use of force report
2. Review the retention of training and application of tactics in subduing an uncooperative subject
3. Determine if the use of physical force was within departmental guidelines
4. Determine if there is a need for remedial, reinforced, or additional training

E. Consistent with agency disciplinary protocols and any applicable collective bargaining agreements, agency policy should establish standards for addressing the failure to adhere to use force guidelines.

X. Training

A. All officers should receive training and demonstrate their understanding on the proper application of force.

B. Training topics will include use of force, conflict prevention, conflict resolution and negotiation, and de-escalation techniques and strategies, including, but not limited to, interacting with persons presenting in an agitated condition as well as duty to intervene and prohibited conduct.

This policy is not intended to be substitute for proper training in the use of force. Comprehensive training is the key to the real-world application of concepts discussed within this policy.