Use of Force Policy and Statistics

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, 43.8

IACLEA Standards: 7.1.1, 7.1.2, 7.1.3, 7.1.4, 7.1.5, 7.1.6, 7.1.7, 7.1.8, 7.1.9

CALEA Standards: 1.3.1, 1.3.2, 1.3.3, 1.3.4, 1.3.6, 1.3.7, 1.3.8

General Order Number: 130.10

Effective Date: February, 19, 2007

Revision Date: April 23, 2021

Review Date: April 23, 2021

Approval: Chris J. Bartolomei, Chief of Police

Policy Statement

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It is the policy of the University at Buffalo Police Department that officers hold the highest regard for the sanctity of human life, and the liberty and dignity of all persons without prejudice to anyone. Force is sometimes necessary to protect the public welfare and to enforce laws. However, officers shall only use force which is objectively reasonable under the circumstances, and reasonably believed to be necessary to achieve a lawful purpose. The degree and manner of force used by officers shall be in compliance with all applicable federal and New York State laws in conjunction with current 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. Physical Injury: Impairment of physical condition or substantial pain.
  4. 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. In accordance with the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, a police officer may use only such force as is objectively reasonable under the circumstances. The reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene.
  2. Officers shall only use force which is reasonably believed to be necessary to affect a lawful arrest or detention, prevent the escape of a person from custody, or in defense of one’s self or another.
  3. 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. Whenever feasible, effective de-escalation techniques should be employed in potential use of force situations. Guidance on de-escalation techniques is provided in General Order 130.20 – De-Escalation Strategies.

Use of Deadly Physical Force

  1. University at Buffalo Police Officers shall respond to any situations involving armed individuals and other dangerous incidents that occur during their tours of duty.
  2. Deadly physical force may only 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.

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. No officer shall use chokeholds or similar restraint in violation of NYS Penal Law 121.13(a)
  3. Deadly force is not authorized against persons who only pose a danger to themselves.
  4. 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.
  5. Firearms should not be discharged when it appears that a third party may be injured as a result.
  6. Shooting warning shots is prohibited.
  7. 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.
  2. Any officer present and observing another officer using force that they reasonably believe 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.

Authorized Devices

  1. 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 their disposal.
  2. 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.)
        a. The mere placing of handcuffs on a cooperative prisoner will not be construed to be a use of physical force.
        b. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 their 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.

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.

Use of Force Reporting

  1. All officers are required to notify their immediate supervisor as soon as practicable of any use of force by any officer, and subsequently, to submit a completed Use of Force Report in a timely manner.
        a. When possible, supervisors 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 all required reports are properly completed.
        c. Photographic documentation should be considered in circumstances where it may be important to document injuries, or lack thereof, to officers and/or suspects.

Other Situations Requiring a Report

  1. Drawing or Brandishing – A Use of Force Report is required whenever an officer draws or brandishes their sidearm or less-than-lethal equipment in the line of duty (other than for routine maintenance or training).
  2. Long Guns - A Use of Force Report is required whenever long guns have been deployed at a scene or incident.
  3. Off-Duty Officers - A Use of Force Report must also 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Handcuffing without Arrest – Officers will submit the designated report after any circumstance where a subject had been placed in handcuffs, but not subsequently charged with a criminal offense, and any other situation where handcuffing was not specifically required by department transportation and detention polices (General Orders 350.10 and 350.20).
  6. Destruction of an Animal - Officers will submit the designated report whenever a firearm is used to destroy an animal as outlined in this directive.

Administrative Review

  1. Each officer who is required to complete a report in conformance with this policy will do so in an accurate, forthright, and timely manner. In most circumstances, the completed report shall be submitted to the immediate supervisor prior to the end of the officer’s shift.
  2. The immediate supervisor, who was on duty at the time of the incident, will review the report for accuracy and completeness, record their own comments and recommendations prior to the end of their shift, and forward the report to the appropriate member of the command staff through the chain of command.
  3. 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 fatal incidents can be found in General Order 140.20.

Use of Force Policy as a Public Document

  1. 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
    .
  2. Annual statistics on use of force incidents shall be compiled and also made available to the public.

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. Review department policies related to the use of force and proper application.
        b. Firearms training and proficiency qualification sessions.
        c. Less-lethal weapons training on issued equipment.
        d. Legal updates.
  2. Periodic in-service training shall also be provided on the following topics:
        a. De-escalation techniques.
        b. Conflict prevention, resolution and negotiation.
        c. Responding to incidents involving mental illness.
        d. Preventing bias in policing and improving police services to diverse populations.

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