OFFICE OF THE CHIEF OF POLICE
SPECIAL ORDER NO.
APPROVED BY THE BOARD OF POLICE COMMISSIONERS ON
SUBJECT: POLICY ON THE USE OF FORCE – REVISED
PURPOSE: On September 12, 2019, Senate Bill 230 was signed into law by California Governor Gavin Newson. This new law requires each law enforcement
agency to maintain a policy, effective January 1, 2021, that provides guidelines on the use of
force, utilizing de-escalation techniques and other alternatives to force when feasible, specific
guidelines for the application of deadly force, and factors for evaluating and reviewing all use of
force incidents, among other specified items. This Order revises Department Manual Section
1/556.10, Policy on Use of Force, in order to conform to this new law.
I. PREAMBLE TO USE OF FORCE. The use of force by members of law enforcement is a matter of critical concern both to the public and the law enforcement community. It is recognized that some individuals will not comply with the law or submit to control unless compelled to do so by the use of force; therefore, law enforcement officers are sometimes called upon to use force in the performance of their duties. The Los Angeles Police Department also recognizes that members of law enforcement derive their authority from the public and therefore must be ever mindful that they are not only the guardians but also the servants of the public.
The Department’s guiding principle when using force shall be reverence for human life. Officers shall attempt to control an incident by using time, distance, communication, and available resources in an effort to de-escalate the situation, whenever it is safe, feasible and reasonable to do so. As stated below, when warranted, Department personnel may use objectively reasonable force to carry out their duties. Officers may use deadly force only when they reasonably believe, based on the totality of circumstances, that such force is necessary in defense of human life. Officers who use unreasonable force degrade the confidence of the community we serve, expose fellow officers to physical hazards, violate the law and rights of individuals upon whom unreasonable force or unnecessary deadly force is used, and subject the Department and themselves to potential civil and criminal liability. Conversely, officers who fail to use force when warranted may endanger themselves, the community and fellow officers.
Use of De-Escalation Techniques. It is the policy of this Department that, whenever feasible, officers shall use techniques and tools consistent with Department de-escalation training to reduce the intensity of any encounter with a suspect and enable an officer to have additional options to mitigate the need to use a higher level of force while maintaining control of the situation.
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Verbal Warnings. Where feasible, a peace officer shall, prior to the use of any force, make reasonable efforts to identify themselves as a peace officer and to warn that force may be used, unless the officer has objectively reasonable grounds to believe that the person is aware of those facts.
Proportionality. Officers may only use a level of force that they reasonably believe is proportional to the seriousness of the suspected offense or the reasonably perceived level of actual or threatened resistance.
Fair and Unbiased Policing. Officers shall carry out their duties, including use of force, in a manner that is fair and unbiased. Discriminatory conduct on the basis of race, religion, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, housing status, or disability while preforming any law enforcement activity is prohibited.
Use of Force − Non-Deadly. It is the policy of this Department that personnel may use only that force which is “objectively reasonable” to:
• Defend themselves;
• Defend others;
• Effect an arrest or detention;
• Prevent escape; or,
• Overcome resistance.
Factors Used to Determine Objective Reasonableness. Pursuant to the opinion issued by the United States Supreme Court in Graham v. Connor, the Department examines the reasonableness of any particular force used: a) from the perspective of a reasonable Los Angeles Police Officer with similar training and experience, in the same situation; and b) based on the facts and circumstances of each particular case. Those factors may include, but are not limited to:
• The feasibility of using de-escalation tactics, crisis intervention or other alternatives to force;
• The seriousness of the crime or suspected offense;
• The level of threat or resistance presented by the subject;
• Whether the subject was posing an immediate threat to officers or a danger
to the community;
• The potential for injury to citizens, officers or subjects;
• The risk or apparent attempt by the subject to escape;
• The conduct of the subject being confronted (as reasonably perceived by
the officer at the time);
• The amount of time and any changing circumstances during which the
officer had to determine the type and amount of force that appeared to be reasonable;
• The availability of other resources;
• The training and experience of the officer;
• The proximity or access of weapons to the subject;
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• Officer versus subject factors such as age, size, relative strength, skill
level, injury/exhaustion and number of officers versus subjects; and,
• The environmental factors and/or other exigent circumstances.
Drawing or Exhibiting Firearms. Unnecessarily or prematurely drawing or exhibiting a firearm limits an officer’s alternatives in controlling a situation, creates unnecessary anxiety on the part of citizens, and may result in an unwarranted or accidental discharge of the firearm. Officers shall not draw or exhibit a firearm unless the circumstances surrounding the incident create a reasonable belief that it may be necessary to use the firearm. When an officer has determined that the use of deadly force is not necessary, the officer shall, as soon as practicable, secure or holster the firearm. Any drawing and exhibiting of a firearm shall conform with this policy on the use of firearms. Moreover, any intentional pointing of a firearm at a person by an officer shall be reported. Such reporting will be published in the Department’s year-end use of force report.
Use of Force − Deadly. It is the policy of this Department that officers shall use deadly force upon another person only when the officer reasonably believes, based on the totality of circumstances, that such force is necessary for either of the following reasons:
• To defend against an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to
the officer or to another person; or
• To apprehend a fleeing person for any felony that threatened or resulted in
death or serious bodily injury, if the officer reasonably believes that the person will cause death or serious bodily injury to another unless immediately apprehended.
In determining whether deadly force is necessary, officers shall evaluate each situation in light of the particular circumstances of each case and shall use other available resources and techniques if reasonably safe and feasible. Before discharging a firearm, officers shall consider their surroundings and potential risks to bystanders to the extent reasonable under the circumstances.
Note: Because the application of deadly force is limited to the above scenarios, an officer shall not use deadly force against a person based on the danger that person poses to themselves, if an objectively reasonable officer would believe the person does not pose an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to the officer or another person.
Department’s Evaluation of Deadly Force. The Department will analyze an officer’s use of deadly force by evaluating the totality of the circumstances of each case consistent with California Penal Code Section 835(a) as well as the factors articulated in Graham v. Connor.
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Rendering Aid. After any use of force, officers shall promptly provide basic and emergency medical assistance to all members of the community, including victims, witnesses, subjects, suspects, persons in custody, subjects of a use of force and fellow officers:
• To the extent of the officer’s training and experience in first aid/CPR/AED; and
• To the level of equipment available to an officer at the time assistance is
Warning Shots. It is the policy of this Department that warning shots shall only be used in exceptional circumstances where it might reasonably be expected to avoid the need to use deadly force. Generally, warning shots shall be directed in a manner that minimizes the risk of injury to innocent persons, ricochet dangers and property damage.
Shooting at or From Moving Vehicles. It is the policy of this Department that firearms shall not be discharged at a moving vehicle unless a person in the vehicle is immediately threatening the officer or another person with deadly force by means other than the vehicle. The moving vehicle itself shall not presumptively constitute a threat that justifies an officer’s use of deadly force. An officer threatened by an oncoming vehicle shall move out of its path instead of discharging a firearm at it or any of its occupants. Firearms shall not be discharged from a moving vehicle, except in exigent circumstances and consistent with this policy regarding the use of Deadly Force.
Note: It is understood that the policy regarding discharging a firearm at or from a moving vehicle may not cover every situation that may arise. In all situations, officers are expected to act with intelligence and exercise sound judgment, attending to the spirit of this policy. Any deviations from the provisions of this policy shall be examined rigorously on a case by case basis. The involved officer must be able to clearly articulate the reasons for the use of deadly force. Factors that may be considered include whether the officer’s life or the lives of others were in immediate peril and there was no reasonable or apparent means of escape.
Requirement to Report Potential Excessive Force. An officer who is present and observes another officer using force that the present and observing officer believes to be beyond that which is necessary, as determined by an objectively reasonable officer under the circumstances based upon the totality of information actually known to the officer, shall report such force to a superior officer.
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Requirement to Intercede When Excessive Force is Observed. An officer shall intercede when present and observing another officer using force that is clearly beyond that which is necessary, as determined by an objectively reasonable officer under the circumstances, taking into account the possibility that other officers may have additional information regarding the threat posed by a subject.
Deadly Force. Deadly force is defined as any use of force that creates a substantial risk of causing death or serious bodily injury, including but not limited to, the discharge of a firearm.
Feasible. Feasible means reasonably capable of being done or carried out under the circumstances to successfully achieve the arrest or lawful objective without increasing risk to the officer or another person.
Imminent. Pursuant to California Penal Code Section 835a(e)(2), “[A] threat of death or serious bodily injury is “imminent” when, based on the totality of the circumstances, a reasonable officer in the same situation would believe that a person has the present ability, opportunity, and apparent intent to immediately cause death or serious bodily injury to the peace officer or another person. An imminent harm is not merely a fear of future harm, no matter how great the fear and no matter how great the likelihood of the harm, but is one that, from appearances, must be instantly confronted and addressed.”
Necessary. In addition to California Penal Code 835(a), the Department shall evaluate whether deadly force was necessary by looking at: a) the totality of the circumstances from the perspective of a reasonable Los Angeles Police Officer with similar training and experience; b) the factors used to evaluate whether force is objectively reasonable; c) an evaluation of whether the officer exhausted the available and feasible alternatives to deadly force; and d) whether a warning was feasible and/or given.
Objectively Reasonable. The legal standard used to determine the lawfulness of a use of force is based on the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. See Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989). Graham states, in part, “The reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight. The calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments − in circumstances that are tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving − about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation. The test of reasonableness is not capable of precise definition or mechanical application.”
The force must be reasonable under the circumstances known to or reasonably believed by the officer at the time the force was used. Therefore, the Department examines all uses of force from an objective standard rather than a subjective standard.
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Serious Bodily Injury. Pursuant to California Penal Code Section 243(f)(4) Serious Bodily Injury includes but is not limited to:
• Loss of consciousness;
• Bone Fracture;
• Protracted loss or impairment of function of any bodily member or organ;
• A wound requiring extensive suturing; and,
• Serious disfigurement.
Totality of the Circumstances. All facts known to or reasonably perceived by the officer at the time, including the conduct of the officer and the subject leading up to the use of force.
Warning Shots. The intentional discharge of a firearm off target not intended to hit a person, to warn others that deadly force is imminent.
AMENDMENT: This Order amends section 1/556.10 of the Department Manual.
AUDIT RESPONSIBILITY: The Commanding Officer, Audit Division, shall review this directive and determine whether an audit or inspection shall be conducted in accordance with Department Manual Section 0/080.30.
MICHEL R. MOORE
Chief of Police