Use of Force Guidelines

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This section contains general guidelines for use of force in and out of uniform, on and off duty. Other guidelines will describe use of force considerations for specific missions and scenarios. Detailed Standard Operation Procedures (SOP) for specific cases shall also be provided in the appropriate section of this Handbook.

As a matter of conscience, the Sheriff's Auxiliary may not state categorically that a volunteer may not intervene to save the life of another or to defend their own life in the face of an actual threat, particularly when the volunteer is not on duty, not in uniform, and where the law protects the rights of a private individual to so intervene or so defend. What the Sheriff's Auxiliary and the Sheriff's Office can and does state is that certain uses of force, in and out of uniform, on or off duty, are not authorized, not consistent with policy, not consistent with training, or are inconsistent with law. Such use of force may result in disciplinary proceedings, including dismissal from service or civil and criminal action. It must also be kept in mind that when a volunteer, even when off duty and out of uniform, engages in any use of force, whether or not authorized, condoned, or consistent with training, it will reflect on the reputation of the Auxiliary, of the Sheriff's Office, of our instructors, of the very concept of armed, non-law enforcement volunteers and armed citizenry.

Law and Policy Regarding Use of Force

As a matter of law and policy, Auxiliary volunteers are not licensed Peace Officers and :

  1. are not empowered to defend property, only life
  2. do not possess powers of arrest
  3. do not pursue

Volunteers must conform to applicable Missouri and US law regarding self-defense and use of force. Such laws are covered in the required CCW training, in the Constitution, Law, and the Auxiliary (CLA I&II) training, in the Law Enforcement Academy (POST) 303 Justification Use of Force class. In Missouri, Weapons Offenses are generally defined in RsMO 571, and the Defense of Justification for use of force in RsMO 563. Volunteers are required to read and periodically review these chapters of Missouri law.

Use of force incidents, whether on or of duty, in or out of uniform, will result in a Use of Force Review as defined in policy of the Lawrence County Sheriff's Office. Use of deadly force is held to a higher standard of review than less-than-deadly physical force. Auxiliary officers may be required to participate in a Use of Force Review for an incident involving another volunteer (as witnesses, or as members of a jury or panel) if such participation is requested and required by the LCSO. Volunteers, in accordance with LCSO policy and the Sheriff's authority, may be suspended from duty or potentially taken into custody until a review is completed.

Authority Conferred By a Licensed Peace Officer

Missouri law allows law enforcement to confer certain authorities on ordinary citizens who are requested or required to assist them. As Missouri law permits this for all citizens, no specific statutory authority is necessary for law enforcement to enlist Auxiliary volunteers.

Under RsMO 571.020, any citizen, including an Auxiliary Volunteer, is exempt from certain weapon offenses (for instance, carrying weapons into a school or government building) while under orders of a Licensed Peace Officer and actively assisting such officer in the performance of their duty. Similarly, RsMO 563.051 allows a law enforcement officer to confer temporary powers of arrest on an individual and to use force "when and to the extent that he reasonably believes such to be necessary to carry out such officer's direction unless he knows or believes that the arrest or prospective arrest is not or was not authorized" (RsMO 63.051.1). Given that a volunteer does not normally possess arrest powers, does not enjoy the protection from prosecution extended to law enforcement officers, and will be subjected to a Use of Force Review, it is critical that the volunteer understand and be able to identify:

  1. Who is giving the order and what their authority is
  2. What, precisely, the volunteer is being ordered to do
  3. What level of force is being authorized (i.e. none, physical force short of deadly force, deadly force)
  4. What the limits of the conferred authority are

For example, the volunteer should be able to later state, "Officer Smith of the AnyTown PD ordered me to detain Mr. Decker, to use deadly force if necessary, and to turn him over to law enforcement officers when they arrived" or "Deputy Smith of LCSO ordered me to guard this entrance, to restrict all entry other than those authorized by him, to use physical force to do so, to use deadly force only in self-defense, and to call for backup as required". Another possibility is "The Auxiliary officer in charge of my team conveyed an order by the Sheriff to guard this location and specified the Rules of Engagement in our team briefing at the start of the shift," or "Officer Smith of AnyTown PD ordered me to pursue the suspect, keep them in sight, report movement, but not to confront the suspect."

In specific deployments, orders and briefings should specify the default Rules of Engagement (ROE), and what authority, if any is being conferred. We will generally have a labelled section of the Operations Order containing that information. The SOGs/SOPs may specify default ROE and authority for defined circumstances such as livestock patrols, Search and Rescue (SAR) force protection, or public events. If none of these things have provided guidance, it is the responsibility of the volunteer to ensure that orders by law enforcement on the scene are clear and seek clarification if necessary. In a case of immediate life safety, for instance, where a law enforcement officer is under attack and their life is threatened, in short, where the issue becomes defense of person under the law, we do not require delegated authority to protect that officer and, unless we have orders not to intervene, we do not need to wait for orders to act, consistent with scene safety, friendly fire concerns, and other applicable policies.

Citizens' Arrest

A citizen's arrest is an arrest or detention made by an individual who is not a sworn law enforcement officer. United States common law and Missouri statute (RsMO 563.051.2) states that a "private person acting on their own account may..." use physical force to effect arrest or prevent an escape according to the limitations given in that section. This means, in theory, that an Auxiliary volunteer, acting on their own authority, without orders from a licensed peace officer, may arrest someone, for instance, who has committed or is attempting to commit "a class A felony or murder". However, Auxiliary policy strongly discourages this practice in all cases except where a continued threat to life exists if the suspect were not immediately and forcibly contained. Even where force may be justified to effect an arrest in this manner, the volunteer should expect that their actions shall be held to the highest standards of review, that even if the volunteer's actions do not result in conviction, they may result is substantial legal mess for all concerned, and if found to be not justified, the actions may result in discipline, in civil and criminal penalties. It cannot be emphasized enough, therefore, not to do this unless circumstances are so dire that there is simply no other alternative possible.

Auxiliary volunteers do not have training or equipment to detain suspects. We do not, for instance, carry handcuffs, tazers, or other tools which may be used to detain someone short using deadly force. If we attempted a "citizen's arrest" therefore, and the suspect decided not to comply, we might be forced to employ deadly force either to cause compliance or to defend ourselves in a situation where we have legally become (or may be considered in an unfavorable light to have become) the aggressor. This is especially true if we intervene in a situation where we may be mistaken about what is actually going on. If, for example, a volunteer holds a suspect for a felony offense and it is discovered that only a misdemeanor has occurred or that who we believed to be the aggressor was actually the victim, we may be prosecuted for false arrest (or aggravated assault, etc) without enjoying the same mistake of fact protections normally afforded to law enforcement. It should be noted here, and as emphasized in the Justification Use of Force POST class, that "holding someone for the police" is legally a form of arrest. Under the USSC case Tennessee v. Garner, even law enforcement using force against a fleeing felon may find their actions not justified upon court review. We must be much more cautious when acting without explicit authority.

The correct approach is therefore to act to halt any immediate threat to life and let the suspect flee if they choose to do so, particularly if they drop a weapon or release a hostage in order to flee. If someone beating a helpless victim stops beating the victim and runs, we are not authorized to hold them under our policy, even where Missouri law appears to authorize such action.

Related Guidelines

  • Use Of Force Guidelines/ROE For Livestock Patrol
  • Guidelines For Carry At Public Events or In Crowds
  • Guidelines For Active Shooter Response

Applicable Standard Operating Procedures

  • Procedures For Use of Force Incident
  • Procedures For Volunteers Entering the Lawrence County Justice Center, EOC, and Sheriff's Office