The chart below explains the escalating use of force to subdue a suspect, as used by the LAPD in 1991 and in the Rodney King case. To see scanned images of the Use of Force Report prepared in the King case, click here: USE OF FORCE REPORTS IN KING CASE.
Level 1: Physical Presence
Normally, just the physical presence of police officers is enough to convince suspects to cooperate. The likelihood of cooperation generally goes up when the physical presence becomes overwhelming. In the King case, however, the presence of four squad cars ( with lights on and sirens blaring), a police helicopter overhead, and several officers with guns drawn and pointing at King failed to produce the desired level of cooperation.
Level 2: Verbalization
When physical presence is not enough to ensure cooperation, LAPD officers were taught to issue verbal commands to suspects. The Holliday videotape indicates that King received at least fourteen commands to "get down." Officers wanted King to lie in a prone position on his belly with his head down and hands behind his back. King did not comply with the commands.
Level 3: Swarming
Confrontations usually can be ended with a group of officers swarming the suspect and bringing him to the ground. In the King case, Sergeant Koon ordered his officers to swarm the suspect. King succeeded, however, in repelling the attack.
Level 4: TASER (Tom A Swift Electric Rifle) Use
Tasing a suspect will usually knock a suspect to the ground, enabling him to be subdued and arrested. In the King case, Sgt. Koon zapped King with two Tasers (each zap carrying 50,000 volts). The TASER knocked King to his knees, but he was able to rise again and charge at one of the LAPD officers (Powell).
Level 5: Use of PR 24 Metal Batons
The Holliday videotape shows LAPD officers repeatedly striking (by one count 56 swings, resulting in 31 hits) King with PR 24 metal batons. Officers are instructed to use the batons against the body mass of the suspect, then step back to evaluate whether the suspect has been sufficiently incapacitated to be arrested.
Level 6: Use of Deadly Force
When none of the above options succeed in subduing a suspect (or for some reason are not available as options), LAPD policy authorized the use of deadly force--usually a gun--in felony cases where some imminent safety risk was presented by the suspect.
Note: Other law enforcement tools, not employed by LAPD, were in use by police in other jurisdictions. These tools include a net that could be thrown around a suspect, a velcro blanket that could be wrapped around a suspect, and a "leg-grabber" that could be used to pull a suspect to the ground. (Source: Koon, Presumed Guilty)
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