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Reasonable Force

3071_fdv17271bbotaxz1 One of the side benefits of volunteering for the SWAT team as a photographer is being able to learn some great lessons about how they do their jobs.  It seems each training session has a main theme, and there are some amazing field training officers on the force who really drive home the points with crystal clarity.  During some training a couple of weeks ago, the main emphasis was "reasonable force."  In other words, just because you have the weaponry and ability to thoroughly kick somebody's tail (or as one officer puts it, "give 'em a slug to the CPU"), doesn't mean it's always appropriate or warranted.  They listed case after case of instances where the police department was found at fault for using unreasonable force in resolving a stand-off.

Two of the criteria for reasonable force that were discussed included a history of a violent act (i.e., has the perpetrator already committed a violent crime) or whether there was imminent danger (e.g., the perpetrator is brandishing a weapon in a threatening manner).  In those cases, it is justifiable to use appropriate force to subdue the perpetrator either by bringing them into custody (preferred) or ... um ... less desirable means.

Office politicians can learn a lot from the principles of reasonable force.  I just blogged about situations where we need to let things slide and not get so hyper about various offenses; however, in some instances that is just not feasible.  So what is considered "reasonable force" in reacting to somebody else?  Well, like the SWAT team, a mix of reactive (history of violence) and proactive (imminent danger) need to be considered.  When you have to take action, does the offending party have a history of stupidity making bad choices, or does it appear as though they are about to do something boneheaded less than beneficial?  In either case, having written documentation through emails or talking to witnesses of the behavior is helpful.

Applying too much force to a situation can backfire and get everybody mad.  This includes calling an all-team meeting to address an infraction made by only one person.  Everybody already knows who is doing the offense being discussed and they are wondering why they're being dragged into it.  The person doing the offense rationalizes that others must be doing it, too, so they can keep doing it.  Not taking enough force is also bad since it causes low morale and makes employees think the boss doesn't care about bad behavior.  The other issue to address is whether the punishment fits the crime.  Sometimes it's simply a case of an adult discussion to say, "Hey, maybe you didn't realize you were doing this, but it's really becoming an issue with how we do business. How can I help you change your behavior?"  Other times, it may be more severe such as an official HR repirmand, docking pay, or dismissal.  The newspapers and blogs are littered with pending cases of individuals who were the victims of over-reaction.

So the next time you HAVE TO react to somebody else, think about how you can apply the principles of "reasonable force" to the situation to get the best outcome.  In the meantime, enjoy these employee handbook jokes demonstrating unreasonable force.


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Robert Hruzek

Only slightly disappointed to say... I completely agree with ya, Tim! :-D

You pointed out one of the cardinal rules of engagement, too - always involve ONLY those who ARE involved! Disciplining an individual in front of a group can only lead to bigger problems.

Another useful thing to remember is from a tip from counseling experts: avoid "you" statements wherever possible. At first that sounds ridiculous, not to mention impossible. But it can be done, and it truly helps defuse otherwise potentially explosive situations.

Great follow-up from yesterday's topic, Tim!

Janet Green

Tim, I think I did this yesterday - LOL - I read your post about being too easily offended, and agreed whole-heartedly... tried a couple times to formulate a comment but couldn't stay focused in what I wanted to say, so abandoned that. BUT, still agreed - many people are wayyy too sensitive. Then later in the p.m., I read something on Twitter that REALLY struck me wrong - it sounded condescending, holier-than-thou, and very much made me want to tell the Tweeter to MYOB. But I couldn't find a diplomatic way to do THAT, either, so I decided maybe *I* was being too sensitive - it was probably meant to be funny - and let it go. Made for good conversation fodder at dinner, whole family laughed and b*tched about it - but, overall, it's gone and I feel better having avoided any kind of confrontation! Long story short - GREAT CONNECTION between this post and the one about being too easily offended.

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