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Navigating police use of force: Complexities of decision-making in law enforcement encounters

Jamie Borden discusses the nuances and complexities officers face when engaging with an unarmed but potentially assaultive individual

In the sixth of a seven-part Policing Matters Roll Call series on use of force, host Jim Dudley engages with Jamie Borden from Critical Incident Review.

Borden tackles the intricate topic of an officer’s decision-making process when confronted with an unarmed but potentially assaultive individual. He emphasizes the reactionary nature of law enforcement actions, particularly in scenarios involving unarmed subjects, where the absence of weapons is often determined only in hindsight. This retrospective understanding plays a significant role in the scrutiny and analysis of an officer’s actions, underscoring the critical importance of continuous assessment and situational awareness in the heat of the moment.

Key learning points

The reactive nature of law enforcement: The importance of recognizing that actions taken by law enforcement are largely reactive, especially in situations where the armed status of an individual is unknown until after an encounter.

The necessity of continuous assessment: The critical role of continuous assessment and situational awareness, which helps officers make informed decisions in the face of unpredictable human behavior.

Psychological effects on decision-making: Understanding the psychological effects of critical incidents on officers, such as focus of attention and auditory exclusion, and how these factors influence decision-making and subsequent evaluations.

Questions for discussion

  1. How can training programs for law enforcement officers be designed to better prepare them for the psychological and physiological responses experienced during critical incidents?
  2. In what ways can post-incident analysis be improved to account for the natural human reactions officers experience in high-stress encounters?
  3. What steps can be taken to ensure that the public’s expectations of police actions are aligned with the realities of human behavior and the unpredictable nature of critical incidents?

The entire series is available for viewing below.

In this seven-part series, Policing Matters podcast host Jim Dudley speaks with Jamie Borden about the complexities and nuances of police use of force
Jamie Borden explores the limitations of academy training and advocates for self-investment to bridge the gap between knowledge and proficiency in policing
Jamie Borden delves into the adequacy of current fitness standards for law enforcement officers
Jamie Borden urges officers to seek continuous training in self-defense and defensive tactics to ensure their safety and effectiveness
Jamie Borden discusses how de-escalation is not just a tactic but a goal, achieved through a range of tactical endeavors based on the dynamic circumstances officers face
Jamie Borden on the importance of officers being alert, prepared and constantly running through “what if” scenarios
Jamie Borden discusses the nuances and complexities officers face when engaging with an unarmed but potentially assaultive individual
Jamie Borden shares critical insights on preparing for a post-incident interview, highlighting the nuances between an officer’s perceived truth and the established facts

Policing Matters law enforcement podcast with host Jim Dudley features law enforcement and criminal justice experts discussing critical issues in policing