Guiding Priciples for Use of Non-Lethal Force

Guiding Principles

Enhance Supportability of Operations - The goal of creating new capabilities is a net improvement in readiness or performance. As with any capability based upon new practices and advanced technology, the potential exists for minimal force options to generate costs (measured in terms of a police commander's ability to employ resources) that outweigh their benefits. Minimal force options must not create undue burdens. Rather, they should enhance law enforcement's ability to accomplish assigned missions. This theme "enhance operations" is central to every decision involving the development, evaluation, and employment of MFOs. It is at the core of our entire set of guiding principles.

Leverage Simple, Economical Technology - Technologies with a potential for generating non-lethal policing capabilities cover a very broad spectrum. At the "low" end of this spectrum are capabilities which have been in use for many years with varying degrees of success. These may include riot batons, pepper spray, and rubber bullets or baton rounds. Their advantage is simplicity. Their disadvantages are their lack of "standoff" capability and their applicability only to limited scenarios.

Augment Justifiable Force - The commitment of international law enforcement organizations to resolve public crises has sometimes involved either the use of deadly force or the implicit or explicit threat of the use of deadly force. Police units are primarily trained, organized, and equipped for these purposes.

A police force armed only with traditional weapons and equipment normally has only two options for effecting compliance: maintaining a presence (essentially a threat) or actually employing deadly force.These two options are extremes with no middle ground. Our reluctance to impose our will through the use of deadly force creates a critical vulnerability which can be quickly discerned. Minimal force options provide a more extensive continuum of force applications. The wider range of choices which fall between the extremes of presence and deadly force gives police the flexibility to act appropriately when circumstances may limit the use of lethal means. Through this capability, minimal force options will support the ideal of proportionality as it applies to public order by providing means for flexible and selective employment of force.

Ensure Predictable Results - For minimal force options to realize their fullest potential, they must be capable of delivering varying levels of predictable effects. This characteristic will allow police to increase or decrease the degree of influence used to effect compliance. A "rheostatic" capability provides the range of effects necessary to achieve a complete continuum of force application, from non-lethal to lethal. It is not necessary that individual minimal force options possess such characteristics (though this may be useful), only that the family of minimal force options as a whole provide this capability.

Focus on discriminate Applications - While minimal force options have widespread applicability, this Concept will focus efforts on those tactics and weapons designed primarily for employment at the individual level. This distinction does not preclude the use of minimal force options to achieve riot control objectives when circumstances warrant. Its purpose is to establish direction by focusing developmental efforts on the pursuit of individual control capabilities.

Maintain public acceptability - Minimal force options, many of which employ relatively new technologies, may not have been fully tested under field conditions. Consequently, such weapons have not been subjected to the same level of scrutiny as have most other families of weapons in our inventory. Some proposed minimal force options may be forbidden by law or national policy. Accordingly, it is essential that all developments of minimal force options be evaluated by appropriate authorities to ensure that they comply with the all local and national laws.

Some of the most commonly employed minimal force options in the latter half of the 20th century have been chemical riot control agents designed to temporarily incapacitate personnel. These technologies, such as OC Spray, have not received complete international acceptance and their use varies from country to country. New chemical agents may also appear which possess characteristics which due to public acceptability issues, will potentially experience a limiting of their use. Many new capabilities are often without clear legal precedent and will require careful study and evaluation, from technical, legal, social and public acceptability perspectives.

Provide reversibility of effects - Minimal force options should be designed to act in such a way that their effects on personnel will be reversible. For example, weapons which cause temporary disorientation, passivity, pain, or loss of consciousness could be suitable for consideration under minimal force options technology development programs.

Apply across the range of police operations - Police operations vary widely in their purpose, character, and intensity, depending on the nature of the disorder. Minimal force options may prove useful across the range of operations, which includes numerous scenarios from one-on-one confrontations to large scale, organized protest. We must therefore consider how these capabilities might be employed in a wide variety of scenarios.

Related Links
These guiding principles, which are derived from similarily stated principles from the DoD Joint Non-Letahl Weapons Program, are intended to ensure broadly accepted international standards, a more focused effort, and more efficient use of very limited resources in the development of minimal force capabilities. These principles apply to many aspects of MFOs, including desired technology characteristics and related policies for their employment. As guidelines, they are neither exclusive, nor absolute. They are not designed to create restrictions on the rights and responsibilities of police forces regarding either public safety or self-defense. Rather, they are key considerations in the future development of operational requirements and capabilities in the areas of equipment, tactics, organization, training, leader development, and support.