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

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A Law Enforcement Officer's Duty Belt

Article | 2022

Research on Body-Worn Cameras and Law Enforcement

  • Use of Force

Report | 2022

Contacts Between Police and the Public, 2020

  • Stops, Searches, and Arrests
  • Use of Force

Report | 2021

A Crisis of Trust: A National Policing Institute Report to the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners on the Los Angeles Police Department Response to First Amendment Assemblies and Protests Occurring May 27 – June 7, 2020

  • Crime and Violence Response
  • Community Trust and Partnerships
  • Response to Mass Demonstrations
  • Use of Force

Guidebook/Tool | 2021

Assessing the Impact of Crisis Intervention Teams: A Review of Research

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

Report | 2021

Examining the Impact of Integrating Communications, Assessment, and Tactics (ICAT) De-escalation Training for the Louisville Metro Police Department: Report 2 – Supplemental Findings

  • Mental Health and Crisis Response
  • Use of Force

Research Brief | 2021

Racial Disparities in Law Enforcement Stops

  • Stops, Searches, and Arrests
  • Use of Force

Article | 2021

Preventing Harm and Saving Careers Through Intervention Training: Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement (ABLE)

  • Response to Mass Demonstrations
  • Use of Force
A Law Enforcement Officer's Duty Belt

Guidebook/Tool, Report | 2020

National Consensus Policy and Discussion Paper on Use of Force

  • 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.