U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Applying the Powell Doctrine to Law Enforcement

NCJ Number
Police Chief Volume: 68 Issue: 10 Dated: October 2001 Pages: 114-119,122
Edward Leach
Date Published
October 2001
7 pages
This article discusses use of force by law enforcement units.
General Colin Powell's Doctrine of the U.S. Armed Forces is that the United States should be "the meanest dog in town" to frighten a potential enemy and deter it from considering any action against the United States. When force is used, it should be with "overwhelming strength and no halfway measures." In law enforcement, these principles are routinely applied in both field and tactical operations. Overwhelming strength is first and foremost a deterrent. Military personnel are prohibited from enforcing civil law, leaving law enforcement to provide resources for a situation that requires military-type firepower and assault tactics. Paramilitary units such as SWAT teams are the only viable option for law enforcement to effectively protect the general public against extremist militias and other antigovernment groups. Law enforcement adherence to Powell Doctrine principles decreases the use of force by and against law enforcement officers. Application of the Powell Doctrine is clear: have overwhelming and superior resources available, primarily as a deterrent, but use them decisively when needed.


No download available