Use of Force Policy

In accordance with the New York State Executive Law section 840(4), The University at Buffalo Police Use of Force policy is available for public examination. This policy is a public document. Free printed copies may be requested at the University Police Station at Bissell Hall on the UB North Campus.

On this page:

About the Policy

Subject: Use of Force

DCJS Standards: 20.1, 20.6, 21.1, 21.2

CALEA Standards: 1.3.1, 1.3.2, 1.3.3, 1.3.4, 1.3.6, 1.3.7, 1.3.8
Approval: Chris J. Bartolomei, Chief of Police

General Order Number: 130.10

Effective Date: February, 19, 2007

Revision Date: June 10, 2019

Review Date: June 10, 2019

Policy Statement

It is the policy of the University at Buffalo Police Department, that officers hold the highest regard for the sanctity of human life, dignity, and liberty of all persons without prejudice to anyone. Force is sometimes necessary to enforce the law and protect the public welfare, however, officers shall use only that level of force that is proportional to the threat being faced and which is objectively reasonable to control an incident, to affect an arrest, or to protect themselves or others from personal harm or death. The application of deadly force is a measure to be employed only in the most extreme circumstances. The degree of force used by the officer shall be within the limits established by Article 35 of the New York State Penal Law in conjunction with applicable case law, and consistent with training provided by this department and the guidelines established by this policy.

Definitions

  1. Objectively Reasonable: An objective standard used to judge an officer’s actions. Under this standard, a particular application of force must be judged through the perspective of a reasonable officer facing the same set of circumstances, without the benefit of hindsight, and be based on the totality of the facts that are known to that officer at the time that the force was used.
  2. Deadly physical force: Physical force which, under the circumstances in which it is used, is readily capable of causing death or other serious physical injury.
  3. Non-deadly force:  The use of force, including force considered to be “less-lethal”, which is applied to affect an arrest or protect the officer or others from attack, physical resistance, harm, or death, but is not intended or expected to cause death.
  4. Physical Injury: Impairment of physical condition or substantial pain.
  5. Serious physical injury: Physical injury which creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes death or serious and protracted disfigurement, protracted impairment of health or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.

Determining the Objective Reasonableness of Force

When used, force should be only that which is objectively reasonable given the circumstances perceived by the officer at the time of the event.

  1. Factors that may be used in determining the reasonableness of force include, but are not limited to:
        a. The severity of the crime or circumstance.
        b. The level and immediacy of threat or resistance posed by the suspect.
        c. The potential for injury to citizens, officers, and suspects.
        d. The risk or attempt of the suspect to escape.
        e. The knowledge, training, and experience of the officer.
        f. Officer/subject considerations such as age, size, relative strength, skill level, injury or exhaustion, and the number of officers or subjects.
        g. Other environmental conditions or exigent circumstances.

Use of Force

  1. Officers may use only that level of force which is reasonably necessary to control an incident, to affect a lawful arrest or detention, prevent the escape of a person from custody, or in defense of one’s self or another.
  2. By law, an officer need not retreat in performance of their lawful duties, but a tactical retreat in some situations may be a wise choice. This is true even when use of force may be legally justified.  De-escalation techniques shall be employed prior to use of force whenever possible. Time permitting, and when available and applicable, a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Officer shall be dispatched to assist. Guidance on de-escalation techniques is provided in General Order 130.20 – De-Escalation Strategies.
  3. Only issued or approved equipment will be carried on duty and used when applying physical force; except in emergency situations when an officer must use any resources at his or her disposal.
  4. If circumstances dictate, the officer may bypass lower levels of force and immediately respond with a higher level when reasonably necessary.
  5. Officers shall use authorized less-than-lethal substances and devices such as self defense spray, pursuant to departmental policy and training. The use of an active countermeasure, the baton, or self defense spray shall be considered a use of force.
  6. Specialized less-lethal equipment utilized by trained officers in accordance with General Order 304.62 Specialized Units – Emergency Services Unit, shall only be deployed by specific order of the Chief of Police or his designee. Although the use of this equipment on individuals is intended to be non-deadly force, potential for death and serious physical injury does exist, and due care must be exercised.
  7. Use of restraining devices is mandatory on all prisoners, unless in the officer’s judgment, unusual circumstances exist which make the use of restraining devices impossible or unnecessary (e.g. prisoner is very elderly or handicapped, etc.) The mere placing of handcuffs on a cooperative prisoner will not be construed to be a use of physical force. When the handcuffs become an appliance to exert force necessary to further subdue a prisoner or where the suspect physically resists the application of handcuffs, a use of physical force has occurred.

Use of Deadly Physical Force

  1. University at Buffalo Police Officers shall respond to any complaints involving armed individuals and other dangerous incidents that occur during their tours of duty.
  2. Deadly physical force may be used by an officer to protect themselves or another person from what the officer reasonably believes is an imminent threat of serious physical injury or death.
  3. Deadly physical force may be used to stop a fleeing suspect where:
        a. The officer has probable cause to believe the suspect has committed a felony involving the infliction or threat of serious physical injury or death and
        b. The officer reasonably believes that the suspect poses an imminent threat of serious physical injury to the officer or to others.
        c. Where feasible, some warning should be given prior to the use of deadly physical force.
  4. Police officers are not required to retreat in lieu of the justifiable use of deadly physical force. Nevertheless, deadly physical force must be avoided if a less drastic means can be used without unreasonably endangering the officer or another person.

Use of Force against Animals

Firearms may be used against animals:

  1. When they are attacking or presenting an imminent and serious danger to any person.
  2. When authorized by a supervisor for the destruction of critically sick or injured wild animals for humanitarian purposes.

Prohibited Use of Force

  1. Force shall not be used by an officer for the following purposes:
        a. Against persons who are handcuffed or restrained unless it is used to prevent injury, escape, or otherwise overcome active or passive resistance posed by the subject.
        b. To coerce a confession from a subject in custody.
        c. To extract an item from a body cavity without a warrant, except where exigent circumstances are present.
        d. To obtain bodily fluid or cells from an individual for scientific testing in lieu of a court order where required.
  2. Deadly force is not authorized against persons who only pose a danger to themselves.
  3. No officer shall draw or exhibit any firearm unless the circumstances establish a reasonable cause to believe that it may be necessary to use the firearm in conformance with this policy.
  4. Firearms should not be discharged when it appears that a third party may be injured as a result.
  5. Shooting warning shots is prohibited.
  6. Shooting from a moving vehicle or shooting at a moving vehicle is prohibited except in extreme circumstances when it is necessary to defend against deadly physical force, and the force being directed at the officer is something other than the vehicle itself.

Duty to Render Aid

  1. An officer shall evaluate the need for medical attention or treatment for any person upon whom physical force was used and, whenever possible, shall do so immediately after the subject is under control.
  2. Medical treatment shall be provided in a timely manner whenever:
        a. The individual has a visible injury.
        b. The individual complains of injury or significant pain
        c. The individual requests medical attention.
        d. The officer or supervisor believes a medical evaluation is advisable.
  3. A supervisor shall be immediately advised of all injuries observed or reported.
  4. If medical aid is refused or otherwise not provided, heightened observation to detect obvious changes in physical condition should take place.
  5. If chemical spray was utilized, the eyes and other affected areas should be flushed with water, and an evaluation by medical professionals should be considered.

Duty to Intervene and Report

  1. Any officer present and observing another officer using force that he/she reasonably believes to be clearly beyond that which is objectively reasonable under the circumstances shall intercede to prevent the use of unreasonable force, if and when the officer has a realistic opportunity to prevent harm.
        a. Any officer who observes another officer use excessive force in such manner shall promptly report these observations to a supervisor regardless of whether the observing officer intervened or not.

Use of Force Reporting Process

  1. All officers are required to notify their immediate supervisor as soon as practicable any use of force by any officer, and subsequently, to submit a completed Use of Force Report form in a timely manner.
        a. When practicable, supervisor should respond to the scene to investigate the circumstances and ensure policy and procedures are being followed.
        b. Supervisors shall document the officers involved and/or present at the scene and ensure that Use of Force Reports are properly completed.
        c. Photographs should be taken to sufficiently document any injuries or lack thereof to officers and suspects.
  2. Use of Force Report is to be completed by an off duty officer whenever force has been used by that officer in situations that could be considered under color of employment as a police officer.
  3. Other circumstances requiring completion of a Use of Force Report:
        a. Whenever an officer draws his or her sidearm or less lethal equipment in the line of duty (other than for routine maintenance or training).
        b. Whenever long guns have been deployed at a scene or incident.
        c. Any circumstance where a subject has been placed in handcuffs, but not subsequently charged with an offense requiring custodial transportation and arrest processing.
        d. Whenever a firearm is used to destroy an animal.
  4. Submission and review process for the Use of Force Report:
        a. Use of Force Reports can document uses of force by up to three police officers or against up to three subjects.  Involvement of more officers or subjects requires additional forms.
        b. Each officer who is required to complete a Use of Force Report will forward the completed report to their immediate supervisor prior to the end of their shift.  
        c. The shift lieutenant who was on duty at the time of the incident will review the report for accuracy and completeness and record comments and recommendations prior to the end of their shift, and forward same to the appropriate member of the command staff through the chain of command.
        d. The appropriate member of the command staff and the Chief of Police will, in turn, review the incident, document their findings on the Use of Force Report, and determine whether any further follow-up actions are recommended or required.
  5. Any officer, whose actions or use of force in an official capacity results in death or serious physical injury, shall be immediately assigned to administrative duties and shall not return to field assignments until an investigation has been satisfactorily completed and the officer has been determined to be fit for duty.
        a. Due consideration shall be given to provide post-incident debriefing, counseling, or other necessary support for the officer involved.
        b. Specific response procedures for officer involved shootings can be found in General Order 140.20
  6. Unauthorized and unlawful use of force may be cause for disciplinary action up to and including termination. The reckless or criminally negligent conduct by a University at Buffalo Police Officer amounting to an offense against or with respect to innocent persons whom he is not seeking to arrest or retain in custody, will result in that individual officer being personally responsible for justifying his or her action, both criminally and civilly.

Other Situations Requiring a Report

Officers shall submit a signed deposition to the Chief of Police describing the details of the following types of incidents:

  1. Discharge of a Firearm - All officers are required to immediately report any voluntary or involuntary discharge of a firearm unrelated to a use of force, whether occurring on or off duty, to the Chief of Police through the chain of command.
        a. Exception - This requirement excludes recreational shooting, practice or training.
        b. The officer, and all witnessing officers, shall submit statements that include the full circumstances of the weapon’s discharge and all relevant information related to the incident.
  2. Injury or Death to an Individual - Any officer who takes any action which results in, or is alleged to have resulted in, the injury or death of another person, which did not result from the use of force or other action normally requiring a Use of Force Report.
        a. The Chief will consult with the District Attorney regarding the appropriate agency to conduct any follow-up investigation that may be required.

Training Requirements

  1. In accordance with General Order 210.10 – In-Service Training, all sworn personnel are required to successfully complete annual training which must include:
        a. Firearms training and practical qualification sessions
        b. Training on issued less-lethal weapons
        c. Review of policies and statutes related to the appropriate and lawful use of force and deadly physical force.

Use of Force Policy as a Public Document

In accordance New York State Executive Law 840(4), this policy is considered a public document and shall be:
    a. Made available to members of the public promptly upon request without charge.
    b. Conspicuously posted on the department’s website.
        (1)Revised versions of this policy will be posted to the website within 72 hours of approval.
Annual statistics on use of force incidents shall be compiled with internal affairs complaints and also made available to the public.

Contact for Questions

Joshua B. Sticht.

Joshua Sticht

Deputy Chief of Police, Administration

University Police

Bissell Hall

Phone: 716-645-8926

Email: jbsticht@buffalo.edu