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BALTIMORE POLICE DEPARTMENT
Jan. 29, 1998 Volume __, No. __ Thomas C. Frazier
USE OF DEADLY FORCE
The purpose of these guidelines is to present the topic of the police use of deadly force in a way which prepares officers to make quick, sound decision under extremely stressful conditions. The information contained herein is consistent with an in support of General Order 2-88, (C-2), Rules and Regulations, Rule 3, Firearms. Officers will be held accountable for adhering to the specific requirements of this Guideline.
The authority to use deadly force is granted to police officers by the community in which they work. Community beliefs, concerns, and values often determine the specific contents of departmental regulations and local ordinances governing the use of deadly force. Those ordinances or departmental regulations may be more restrictive than State Law (they cannot be less restrictive). Laws, ordinances, and regulations must conform to interpretations be state and federal courts.
Since long and careful deliberation is seldom a component in officers' decisions to use deadly force, the potential for mistake is great. It is obvious that mistakes in the use of deadly force can cause extreme emotional pain and suffering to members of the community. Less obvious is the toll exacted on officers. They conduct the daily affairs of their professional lives facing the possibility of being severely penalized for making a mistake which can cost someone their life and them their freedom. A more subtle, and perhaps more disturbing effect on their lives are an awareness of the fact that they alone possess the legal authority to make an immediate decision regarding whether and individual lives or dies.
Laws, regulations, fears of the officers, and an innate reluctance to hurt someone combine to form a necessary restraint on police use of deadly force. Restraint, however, must be balanced against officers' legitimate need to defend them or others. Their defense needs should not be unnecessarily encumbered by the community's right to be secure from injudicious use of deadly force. These guidelines balance the officers' defense needs and the community's rights in a manner which ensures adequate protection to both.
II. General Rules for Using Deadly Force
A. Officers must use deadly force only as a last resort.
1. Officers should try to avoid putting themselves in
a situation where they have no option but to use
2. Try to use other less deadly means:
a. Use cover whenever possible so that there is
less chance of having to use deadly force for
b. Try to use other less deadly means:
1) Strong, verbal challenge (may be
accompanied with a drawn weapon).
2) Chemical agents.
3) Take down and control techniques
c. Wait for sufficient number of officers to
handle the situation without undue force.
d. Talk to suspects in a manner that is consistent
with training which will convince them to
comply with orders.
e. If off duty, call police.
3. SOME SITUATIONS ARE SO IMMEDIATELY DANGEROUS THAT
OFFICERS may NOT HAVE TIME TO USE ALTERNATIVES.
Some possible examples are:
a. An aggressive, threatening, armed suspect
within striking distance of officer or others.
b. Suspect is armed with a firearm and is pointing
it at officers or others.
c. An aggressive, unarmed suspect who:
1) Is aggressively trying to overcome officer; and
2) The officer is unable to control with any
other readily available means; and
3) Is capable of or has inflicted potentially
life threatening injury on the officer or
4) The officer cannot withdraw without
unreasonably exposing himself or someone
else to danger.
B. Use of force must cease when the attacker is incapacitated.
1. Incapacitation is defined as that point when an
attacker is no longer capable of injuring the
officer or others.
2. Examples of Incapacitation:
a. Suspect has dropped his weapons and
demonstrates no willingness for attempting
b. Suspect is restrained to the point that he is
incapable of inflicting injury.
c. Suspect is wounded and incapable of inflicting
3. As long as a suspect attempts to inflict serious
injury or is capable of inflicting serious injury
and indicates a willingness to do so, officers may
continue to use deadly force against them.
C. If there is substantial risk of injury to innocent
people from an officer's use of deadly force, the officer
may not use deadly force.
D. Warning shots are prohibited.
E. Pointing Weapon at Suspect:
1. Is NOT considered use of deadly force.
2. Is permitted when officer reasonably believes that
a person poses a significant, potential threat.
3. If you point a weapon at someone they should be
frisked and a report written.
F. Officers, with Weapon in Hand, Chasing Suspect:
1. Is permitted if an officer reasonably believes that
a person poses a significant, potential threat.
2. Weapon must be pointed in safe direction.
3. Finger must be off trigger, and below the trigger
4. Officers should not close with or tackle a running
suspect but should direct other units to contain
G. Shooting at Vehicles:
1. Do not take a position in the path of oncoming
vehicles and move out of the way if they change
direction towards you.
2. Take cover which is substantial enough to offer
protection from a vehicle.
3. Standard police weapons will not stop a vehicle.
4. Shooting the driver will only result in the vehicle
being uncontrolled and, perhaps, increase the danger
to the officer or others.
5. If the driver is shot and the vehicle goes out of
control, the officer may be liable for any resulting
injuries or deaths of bystanders.
6. Officers may not shoot at vehicles moving away from
them unless the vehicle turns around and attempts to
injure them or someone else and adequate cover is
H. Under no circumstances can officers shoot FROM a moving
III. Confronting a Suspect
A. If officers have a reasonable belief that there is a
threat of death or serious injury to themselves or
others, they may draw their weapons.
B. Officers should keep their fingers off the trigger and
below the trigger guard until they are prepared to shoot
and the threat to their lives of the lives of someone
else is IMMEDIATE and the potential for serious injury or
death is IMMINENT.
C. If possible, officers should not close with suspects to
frisk or hand cuff until backup officers arrive to
1. Maintain a safe reactionary distance (ten feet or
more when the pistol is drawn).
2. The Officer should have the suspect assume a
kneeling or prone position, consistent with
training, prior to conducting a frisk.
3. Use pepper mace in accordance with training
D. If suspect advances on you:
1. If the suspect is armed, and circumstances warrant,
take cover and use deadly force in accordance
with regulations and training.
2. If the suspect is unarmed and the circumstances
conform with section II. A. 3. c. of these
guidelines or he is armed with a chemical irritant:
The officer should wait for additional back up units
a. Back away if it's safe to do so.
b. Distance (more than fifteen feet) is the
primary defense against a chemical irritant.
c. Don't physically engage the suspect.
d. Use pepper mace if possible.
e. Take cover if available.
f. Strongly warn the suspect that you will use
deadly force if he/she continues to advance.
g. Use deadly force if you have a resonable
belief that the suspect is attempting to take
your weapon of that he/she is capable of
seriously injuring you or others.
E. If suspect runs:
1. Pursue the suspects, but do not close with or
2. Keep other units advised of your location.
3. Let the suspects go if you can no longer run and
rules for deadly force do not apply.
4. Keep your finger off the trigger and below the
trigger guard if you have your weapon out when you
IV. When involved in a police shooting incident:
A. The officer involved should render First Aid and call for
medical assistance for all injured persons.
B. The involved officer should remain on the scene and
notify Communications that he/she has been involved in a
police shooting. This will enable the dispatcher to make
the proper notifications.
C. The officer should call for additional units for
assistance and preservation of the crime scene.
D. The involved officers, unless in need of immediate medical
attention, should not leave the scene until directed to
do so by the on scene supervisor.
E. The involved officer should be accompanied to CIB by
another officer who has been designated by the on scene
supervisor. The transporting officer should be on rank
above the involved Officer if feasible. This is
necessary to preserve the chain of evidence.
V. General Order 2=88, (C-2), rules and Regulations, Rule 3,
Firearms (All material in bold print below is quoted directly
from General Order. Material without quotation marks and not
in bold print Explains the section of the Order immediately
A. "Member of the department who are authorized by law to
carry firearms shall exercise the utmost care and
precaution in the preservation and use of such weapons.
B. All sworn members of the department shall be suitably
armed at all times when on-duty. Sworn members, off-
duty, within the City of Baltimore shall be suitably
armed, except at such times, or under such circumstances,
or when engaged in such activities as a prudent man would
reasonably conclude the wearing of a firearm to be inappropriate."
1. Wearing a weapon when playing some sports might be
2. Wearing a weapon while swimming would be
3. Drinking Alcohol:
a. Regulations allow, in some limited
circumstances, police officers to drink on-
duty; therefore, drinking alcohol is not, by
itself, a reason not to carry a weapon.
b. Drinking to the point that judgement is
impaired and then using deadly force could be
considered deliberate disregard for public
safety and therefore, place the officer at risk
from criminal, civil, or administrative
c. Sworn members, prior to reaching the point that
your judgement is affected be alcohol, your
weapon should be taken home and secured.
C. "Sworn members when off-duty, outside the jurisdiction of
the City of Baltimore, within the State of Maryland are
authorized to carry an issued or approved handgun. Ther
is, however, no requirement to be armed when off-duty
outside the City Limits. While sworn members are
authorized to wear, carry or transport a handgun off-
duty, they are reminded that their manner of doing so
must be in conformance with existing State law and
departmental General Orders.
D. Members of this department shall not use firearms in the
discharge of their duty, except in the following cases:
1. In self-defense, or to defend another person
(unlawfully attacked) from death or serious injury":
a. The attacked officer is the person who has to
evaluate the potential seriousness of the
attack and determine an appropriate level of
b. The evaluation and response must be reasonable
from the perspective of a reasonable police
officer similarly situated.
c. There is no requirement that an actual,
specific injury be inflicted. It is however,
required that the potential for such injury be
present and the threat must be immediate.
2. "To effect the arrest or to prevent the escape, when
other means are insufficient, of a person whom the
officer has probable cause to believe:
Has committed a felony involving the use of threat of
deadly force or serious physical injury; and
Who poses and imminent threat of death or serious physical
injury to the officer or others".
a. When other means are insufficient can include but is
not limited to:
(1) Using radio to direct other units to
prevent suspect's escape;
(2) Knowing the suspect's identity and that
he/she poses no imminent threat to
anyone in the immediate vicinity of the
area of escape;
(3) Challenging the suspect to halt.
b. The probably cause standard allows officers to act
in situations without having absolute knowledge that
a violent felony has occurred but, requires that
their actions be based on more than mere suspicion.
c. Both the element of the officer's probable cause to
believe a dangerous felony has been committed and
the element that the offender poses an imminent
threat to the officer or others in the immediate
vicinity of the crime must be present before an
officer can use deadly force to arrest the offender
or prevent his escape.
(1) Using deadly force to stop an escaping suspect
must be based on a specific threat of imminent
danger and not on a general threat to the
community because of the viciousness of the
(2) Both of these elements should appear in
subsequent reports and should specifically
detail who was endangered (names if possible)
and how they were threatened.
"Note: Where feasible, the officer should give verbal
warning prior to shooting ant the felon. there
are, however, situations when the issuance of
a warning would be detrimental to the safety of
the officers or others. In such a case, the
officer need not give warning if to do so would
increase the risk to himself or others.
3. To kill a dangerous animal, or a animal so badly injured
that humanity requires its relief from further
suffering." Permission from the Shift Commander is
necessary before dispatching an injured animal.
a. Shooting a dangerous animal can only be done if the
animal is unconfined and presenting an imminent,
b. Shooting an injured animal should be a last resort.
c. In ALL cases officers must be aware of the potential
(1) Angle of fire should be away from bystanders.
(2) A soft backstop should be selected which will
minimize the potential for ricochets.
d. If at all possible the weapon of choice should be
the shotgun loaded with 00 buck.
(1) It is more accurate.
(2) It will not penetrate through the animal as
readily as will a handgun round.
(3) There is less potential for ricochets.
e. Officers should not shoot at animals at distances
greater than ten yards with either the service
handgun or the shotgun.
4. "When used in practice and/or qualification on the range.
5. Firearms training conducted by this agency stresses
double action shooting skills consistent with the types
of close range combat situations police most often face.
Under no circumstances shall an officer cock his revolver
or take the slack out of the trigger of the Glock pistol.
While frisking a suspect, effecting an arrest, or at any
other time while in close proximity to other persons, the
weapon should be holstered and snapped in. The trigger
finger should be off the trigger and below the trigger
guard until ready to justifiable fire the weapon.
6. Under no circumstances shall a member of the department
shoot at a person who is running away to avoid arrest on
a misdemeanor charge, as the law recognizes that it is
better to allow a misdemeanant to escape than to take
that person's life. Members must always bear in mind,
When in doubt, Don't Fire."