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

With that said let's review the force continuum.

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
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

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 would
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 use.
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.
Police Exam

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