Richard & Friend
How Does the Morro Bay Police Department
Deal with the Use of Force?
by Richard Hannibal
In our business, some of the people we deal with are under the influence of something—anger, alcohol, drugs, past criminal history, or mental issues. Rarely do people call the police department to tell us to "have a nice day."
From time to time, in dealing with these persons "under the influence," verbal communication and persuasion does not work. We must resort to other means, such as use of force options in order to control the situation. Sometimes, having to resort to other means to affect an arrest generates citizen complaints of excessive use of force. We hear about police abuse of force from time to time. It is rare, but when it happens it casts all police officers in a bad light. To combat excessive use of force, law enforcement agencies, like the Morro Bay Police Department, have numerous safeguards in place. It begins with the hiring process that includes an extensive screening procedure, a very intense background investigation, a polygraph examination, and psychological testing. We look for candidates that do not possess the traits of "bad" officers.
Once a man or woman becomes a police officer, there are additional safeguards and remedies involving excessive use of force. There is on-going training in ethics, communication, and the law, both criminal and civil. The law dictates that, "only that force necessary will be used to make an arrest." The officer is also exposed to the concepts of strict discipline and teamwork.
A police officer has the authority and responsibility to enforce the law and provide a safe environment for the public. The following statutes provide this authority.
Penal Code section 834 provides that a peace officer can make an arrest in the manner authorized by law.
Penal Code section 834(a) states that if a person knows he is being arrested by a peace officer, it is that person’s duty to refrain from using force to resist the arrest. The section goes on to say that a peace officer who makes or attempts to make an arrest need not retreat or desist from his efforts by reason of the resistance. And, the officer shall NOT be deemed an aggressor or lose their right to self-defense by the use of reasonable force.
Penal Code section 148(a)(1) makes it a misdemeanor for a person to resist, delay or obstruct a peace officer.
So, the law provides for police officers to use appropriate force if necessary in making an arrest and / or overcoming violence.
Both mental and physical conditioning is extremely important in our duties. In addition to physical fitness, a Morro Bay Police Officer is trained in the proper use of communication and verbal persuasion, including mere professional physical appearance. We call this "Verbal Judo" and "Command Presence." It begins with the badge and uniform that represents our authority and proceeds on to the officer using effective communication to verbally get compliance. This works most of the time.
There are occasions when our presence and communication does not work and we have to use other options that may include less lethal tools or even deadly force. Some of the tools available to us include OC (Oleoresin Capsicum spray—commonly known as pepper spray), Taser, baton, and bean bag shot gun. We conduct extensive training on an on-going basis with all these options. A common example where communication does not work is when we have to arrest someone under the influence of a controlled substance or someone who is mentally unstable.
Deadly force is something we never want to use, but we train for it constantly. Good tactics and confidence in our weapons, ability to use them and the ability to make ethical decisions minimizes potential miss-use. Per Morro Bay Police Policy, use of force is documented and reviewed by a Critical Incident Review Board (CIRB). We also have de-briefings in hopes we will learn from what transpired and evolve in our tactical responses to violence.
Finally, there is constant scrutiny by supervisors, administrators, the District Attorney’s Office, the courts, both criminal and civil, and yes, the citizens of Morro Bay. We welcome this scrutiny knowing that law enforcement must be held accountable in order to have the confidence of those we serve. We are ever vigilant as individual officers and as a professional organization to make sure miss-use of force is not tolerated.