5 considerations when reviewing use-of-force training and policy in your facility

Simply using a police model is a mistake as it lacks the specific content that is unique to corrections

With the recent use of force incident in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the subsequent national reaction, there is no better time to review your correctional facility's use of force program and policy.

Several components are vital to the successful implementation and management of use-of-force programs and policies in corrections. Here are five considerations:

1. ensure training is corrections-specific

A use-of-force training program for corrections staff must be specific to corrections. One of the biggest problems I encounter as a consultant when assessing jail use of force is the lack of a corrections-specific training program. Simply using a police model is a mistake as it lacks the specific content that is unique to corrections. For example, corrections use of force is restricted in an institution to a greater degree than other areas of law enforcement. Factors that affect the institutional use of force include:

  • The need for physical force options is reduced in the controlled environments in an institution.
  • Background information on the subject aids in the classification and prevention of use-of-force situations.
  • Rapid multiple officer response minimizes the need for use-of-force options.
  • Surveillance technology aids in early detection and suppression of situations that require the use of force.
  • The physical design of an institution aids in the isolation of problem areas.
  • The ability to wait out potential violent confrontations and control the moment of initial contact reduces the need for physical force options.
  • Rule violations result in disciplinary action rather than a physical arrest process that oftentimes lead to physical confrontations.
  • The availability of on-site, rapid supervisory response limits the decision-making role of the individual officer.

2. review confrontation avoidance/de-escalation procedures

The use of professional communication skills must be incorporated into your training program and policies to ensure staff practice these skills while training other control measures and techniques. In addition, in planned use-of-force scenarios, confrontation avoidance should involve consulting supervisory and support staff to gain information about the subject and provide an opportunity for gaining voluntary compliance. A best practice is to allow for multi-disciplinary staff to attempt to gain voluntary compliance.

3. Provide officer override training

The duty to intercede must be part of your policy to ensure staff are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to identify and stop any unnecessary or excessive use of force. This training should include corrections-specific, scenario-based simulation to allow staff the opportunity to practice identifying and interceding skills.

4. Conduct use-of-force reviews

Policy must provide for documented use-of-force reviews, which should include the initial supervisor review to ensure policy components are met and a formal committee review of all incidents. The supervisory review should include the completion of a checklist that ensures policy components are met. There should also be a process where the supervisor determines if the force was used in accordance with policy and determine if follow-up actions such as training or investigation are necessary. The committee review should also provide for the ability to recommend training, policy change or further investigation.

5. Collect and analyze data

The collection and analysis of use-of-force data is an important part of your program. Data should be collected and analyzed often to determine problems, trends, training needs and policy change needs. Facilities often lack this component, however, the incorporation of this practice is vital to ensure you are tracking incidents and providing for a full review of your data and practices.

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