The authority to use force to effect an arrest or preserve public safety is a defining characteristic of law enforcement officers that sets them apart from other government agents. Properly applied, it can protect officers, victims, those accused of crimes, and bystanders. Misused or abused, it can do deep and lasting damage to community members and law enforcement legitimacy.

Law enforcement officers have multiple force options at their disposal, ranging from any significant physical contact that restricts the movement of a person to the use of less lethal and lethal weapons. Law enforcement agencies' use of force policies and training typically establish authorized force options, proper deployment techniques, circumstances appropriate to each authorized force option, and reporting requirements after the deployment of each force option.

cropped view of female police officer standing guard

Resources Related to Use of Force

Visit the Knowledge Lab’s full resource index here.

  • Reset

Guidebook/Tool, Webpage | 2023

Justice Department Fact Sheet on Implementing Executive Order on Advancing Effective, Accountable Policing, and Criminal Justice Practices to Enhance Public Trust and Public Safety

  • Crime and Violence Response
  • Community Trust and Partnerships
  • Mental Health and Crisis Response
  • Response to Mass Demonstrations
  • Stops, Searches, and Arrests
  • Use of Force

Report | 2023

Equity and Law Enforcement Data Collection, Use, and Transparency

  • Community Trust and Partnerships
  • Stops, Searches, and Arrests
  • Use of Force
A Law Enforcement Officer's Duty Belt

Guidebook/Tool, Policy | 2023

Electronic Control Weapons

  • Crime and Violence Response
  • Use of Force

Research Brief | 2023

Research Translation: Assessing the Impact of Co-Responder Team Programs: A Review of Research

  • Community Trust and Partnerships
  • Mental Health and Crisis Response
  • Use of Force
A Law Enforcement Officer's Duty Belt

Research Brief | 2023

Preventing the Use of Deadly Force

  • Use of Force

Case Study, Report | 2022

Comprehensive Assessment of the Seattle Police Department

  • Community Trust and Partnerships
  • Mental Health and Crisis Response
  • Response to Mass Demonstrations
  • Stops, Searches, and Arrests
  • Use of Force

Report | 2022

Launch Event Executive Brief

  • Community Trust and Partnerships
  • Use of Force

After Action Report | 2022

An After-Action Review of City Agencies’ Responses to Activities Directly Following George Floyd’s Death on May 25, 2020

  • Response to Mass Demonstrations
  • Use of Force

Recommendations from Civil Rights Litigations

Explore the modules below to learn how Civil Rights Litigation has touched upon use of force. The information provided within these modules has been gathered from various consent decrees, settlement agreements, and assistance letters. The modules are intended to support agencies in improving their Constitutional policing practices. Additional information and resources may be needed to implement the recommendations successfully. To learn more about civil rights litigation, visit the Knowledge Lab's Federal Interventions Dashboard.

Supervision, Accountability, and Policy

De-escalation & When to Use Force

Tactics & Weapons

Reporting & Data Collection

The information provided within these modules has been gathered from various sources, including consent decrees, research, and practitioner and department-developed resources. These webpage modules are intended to be a guide for departments to use to improve their Constitutional policing practices. Additional information and resources may be needed to implement the recommendations successfully. This resource is intended to be dynamic, and the Knowledge Lab will continue to update and add to these modules to provide additional and current guidance for departments.

Empowering Law Enforcement Excellence

A Beacon of Guidance at the National Law Enforcement Knowledge Lab

Explore targeted areas such as evidence-based de-escalation, responses to mental illness, lawful procedures, and fostering just, fair, and impartial police practices. Elevate your agency's performance and legitimacy with our guidance and support.