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

Escalation of Police Use of Force

NCJ Number
Trooper Volume: 5 Issue: 5 Dated: (September 1980) Pages: 54-55,57,59,61
H Purdue
Date Published
5 pages
Five categories of police force are described, and some points that police officers should know in escalating their use of force are noted.
The five categories include Level One or Verbal, Level Two or Weaponless, Level Three or Less Lethal Weaponry, Level Four or Lethal Force (Defensive), and Level Five or Lethal Force (Offensive). The officer's response should begin at Level One, where he employs verbal crisis intervention techniques. Only if this intervention fails should he escalate on the ladder of defensive, controlling force. The escalation of force can also exist within categories. In Level Two, for example, three escalating levels of unarmed self-defense by police can be envisioned: passive self-defense forcibly restraining the suspect, and striking the suspect in order to subdue him. The use of Lethal Force (Offensive), is by far the rarest use of force by police; it involves officers who are prepared to walk into known high-threat-level situations. Police officers should be aware that they can deescalate the use of force, that they must often take their cues from their antagonist, and that their use of deadly force will be scrutinized carefully by judges and jurors who have not faced the life-and-death situation in the same way. Photographs illustrating the categories of force are provided.


No download available