There are actually two parts to the police
oral board. The first part examines your
personality and why you would make a
good police officer. The second part of
the oral board involves scenario type
questions that test your judgment and
problem solving capabilities. Here is an
typical example question that might be
asked on an oral board: A fellow officer
calls for assistance on a family dispute
that is getting out of control. Upon your
arrival to the house you see the
requesting officer struggling with a male
subject on the floor. The male subject is
on top of the officer attempting to punch
him in the face. What are you going to
do, and why?

Knowing the force continuum is
imperative if you are going to answer this
question correctly. Every situational
question of this type will involve your
knowledge of the force continuum. Your
chances of leaving an oral board with a
passing score depends on it. Oral board
members want to know what course of
action you will take in a given situation -
how your mind works - that you won't
over react. Or, that you won't under
react and get someone killed. Because of
this one of the most important tools you
can bring to any oral board is a
comprehensive knowledge of the force
continuum. It can open or shut the door
to your career in law enforcement.

With that said let's review the force

Always remember the level of force in
your response is dictated by the
situation. Police officers use the force
continuum, a scale of force alternatives,
to mediate the level of response used in
a given situation.
The force continuum is broken down into
six broad levels. Each level is designed to
be flexible as the need for force changes
as the situation develops. It is common
for the level of force to go from level two,
to level three, and back again in a matter
of seconds.

Level One

Officer Presence. The mere presence of a
police officer in uniform or in a marked
police unit is often enough to stop a
crime in progress or prevent most
situations from escalating. Without
saying a word, the mere presence of a
police officer can deter crime by the
simple use of body language and
gestures. At this level gestures should be
non-threatening and professional. This
"zero" level of force is always the best
way to resolve any situation if possible.

Level Two

Verbal Commands. Used in combination
with a visible presence, the use of the
voice can usually achieve the desired
results. Whether you instruct a person
to, "Stop.", "Don't Move.", "Be quiet.",
"Listen to me.", "Let me see your ID.",
or, "You're under arrest." Voice
commands in conjunction with your mere
presence will almost always resolve the
situation. The content of the message is
as important as your demeanor. It is
always best to start out calm but firm
and non-threatening. Your choice of
words and intensity can be increased as
necessary, or used in short commands in
more serious situations. The right
combination of words in combination with
officer presence can de-escalate a tense
situation and prevent the need for a
physical altercation. Training and
experience improves the ability of a police
officer to communicate effectively with
everyone he/she comes in contact with.

Level Three

Empty Hand Control. Certain situations
will arise where words alone will not
reduce the aggression. This is the time
police officers will need to get involved
physically. This is a level of control
employed by police officers minus the aid
of equipment or weapons. There are two
subcategories called, soft empty hand
techniques and hard empty hand
techniques. Soft Empty Hand
Techniques: At this level minimal force
involve the use of bare hands to guide,
hold, and restrain -- applying pressure
points, and take down techniques that
have a minimal chance of injury. Hard
Empty Hand Techniques: At this level the
use of force includes kicks, punches or
other striking techniques such as the
brachial stun or other strikes to key
motor points that have a moderate
chance of injury.
Level Four

Pepper Spray, Baton, Taser. When the
suspect is violent or threatening, more
extreme, but non-deadly measures must
be used to bring the suspect under
control, or affect an arrest. Before
moving to this level of force, it is
assumed that less physical measures
have been tried and deemed
inappropriate. Pepper spray results in
considerable tearing of the eyes, as well
as temporary paralysis of the larynx,
which causes subjects to lose their
breath. Contact with the face causes a
strong burning sensation. Pepper spray,
once thought an effective street tool for
police officers has lost popularity over the
years because of its ineffectiveness,
especially on intoxicated persons. The
typical baton is a round stick of various
lengths, and is made of hardwood,
aluminum or plastic composite materials.
A blow with a baton can immobilize a
combative person, allowing officers to
affect an arrest. Common impact weapon
used by police today include the PR-24
and collapsible baton. Of all the options
available at this level the Taser, in my
opinion, is the most effective. The Taser
discharges a high voltage spark (50,000
volts) at very low amperage. The Taser
fires two small darts, connected to wires,
which drops a suspect at non-contact
distance. These devices are easily carried.
They are lightweight and affordable.
Extensive training is not required, and
they may be more effective on persons
under the influence of PCP and other
drugs who do not respond to chemical
irritants. They can be especially useful for
controlling non-criminal violent behavior,
such as persons who are mentally
impaired, or under the influence of
mind-altering substances.

Level Five

Less Lethal. This is a newer, acceptable
and effective level of force that numerous
police agencies have added to their use
of force continuum policy and procedure.
Less-lethal weapons were developed to
provide law enforcement, military and
corrections personnel with an alternative
to lethal force. They were designed to
temporarily incapacitate, confuse, delay,
or restrain an adversary in a variety of
situations. They have been used in riots,
prison disturbances, and hostage
rescues. Less-lethal weapons are valuable
when: Lethal force is not appropriate.
Lethal force is justified and available for
backup but lesser force may subdue the
aggressor. Lethal force is justified but its
use could cause collateral effects, such as
injury to bystanders or life-threatening
damage to property and environment.

Level Six

Deadly Force. If a police peace officer has
probable cause to believe that a suspect
poses a significant threat of death or
serious physical injury to the officer or
others then the use of deadly force is
justified. (see Tennessee v. Garner) By
the very nature of the profession, peace
officers may at times be confronted with
a potentially lethal threat. In most of
these instances, peace officers will have
no other option but to discharge their
firearm in order to protect their life or,
the life of others.

The use of force is an integral part of a
law enforcement officer's job, particularly
when arresting criminal suspects. No one
disputes that police should be permitted
to protect themselves and others from
threats to safety, but what is often
disputed is an officer's assessment of a
threat and the level of force selected to
counter it. As a general principle, the level
of force used should be tailored to the
nature of the threat that prompted its
by George M. Godoy
Police Oral Boards
and the
Use of Force Continuum
Sergeant George Godoy (Ret.) is a 22
year police veteran.  During his police
career, Sergeant Godoy served for 5
years as a police recruitment specialist
where he personally tested over 1,000
potential police recruits.

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Police Exam
Becoming a Police Officer
An Insider's Guide to a Career
in Law Enforcement
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