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Self-control in use of force

You don’t get to “win” the fight. You stop when the violence or active resistance has stopped

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Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Today’s Tip is for all my friends in public safety who may become involved in a violent encounter. In a use-of-force incident, do you know when to stop?

I still remember the words of a law enforcement instructor early in my career: “The moment the suspect is subdued, the fight is over.” This is the mandate even when subduing a violent suspect or fending off a physical attack. You don’t get to “win” the fight. You stop when the violence or active resistance has stopped.

Physical violence is not normal for most of us. And when we encounter it, we may experience an extreme emotional response. That in turn can lead us to use excessive force.

Fortunately, there are ways you can learn to control your emotions in a violent encounter. First, we must cultivate the qualities of self-control, impulse control, and emotional discipline. Second, we must train on use of force. Not simply to practice safe tactics, but also to expose ourselves to the anxiety, fear, and anger that a violent incident may provoke in us.

Think about a professional boxer or Mixed Martial Arts fighter. They don’t lose control in the ring. They train, over and over again, so that normally shocking experiences like being punched in the face do not distract them from the primary objective. They use force to prevail – but within the established rules, without losing control.

Friends, violence is inevitable in our profession. The people we encounter don’t always observe the rules of personal decorum and human interaction. But WE must be better than that. We must train to remain calm in a violent situation and achieve our law enforcement purpose, without going too far. I’ll say it again: The moment the suspect is subdued, the fight is over.

And that’s Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Until next time, Gordon Graham, signing off.

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Gordon Graham has been actively involved in law enforcement since 1973. He spent nearly 10 years as a very active motorcycle officer while also attending Cal State Long Beach to achieve his teaching credential, USC to do his graduate work in Safety and Systems Management with an emphasis on Risk Management, and Western State University to obtain his law degree. In 1982 he was promoted to sergeant and also admitted to the California State Bar and immediately opened his law offices in Los Angeles.