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Jan. 29, 1998                                    Volume __, No. __                                Thomas C. Frazier

                                                                                                                       Police Commissioner






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.


I.     Introduction


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

deadly force.

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

4)    Batons


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.




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

others; and

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

further attack.

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

not available.


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

to arrive.


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

tackle them.

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

are running.


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

preceding it).


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,

immediate threat.

b.    Shooting an injured animal should be a last resort.

c.    In ALL cases officers must be aware of the potential

for ricochets.


(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."