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This project is aimed at establishing a standard for Police Officers to observe in the
understanding of use of reasonable force in the conduct of police operations. Hence, it includes
Philippine Jurisprudence and related literature from other countries covering subjects on use of
reasonable force by law enforcement officers.
Law enforcers thrust their lives in unimaginable zones of peril. Yet resort to wanton
violence is never justified when their duty could be performed otherwise. A shoot first, think
later disposition occupies no decent place in a civilized society. Never has homicide or murder
been a function of law enforcement. The public peace is never predicated on the cost of human
life (Cunanan vs. Bersamin, G.R. No. 122776).
The rules of engagement, of which every law enforcer must be thoroughly
knowledgeable and for which he must always exercise the highest caution, do not require that he
should immediately draw or fire his weapon if the person to be accosted does not heed his call.
Pursuit without danger should be his next move, and not vengeance for personal feelings or a
damaged pride. Police work requires nothing more than the lawful apprehension of suspects,
since the completion of the process pertains to other government officers or agencies
(CabanligvsSandiganbayan, G.R. No. 148431).The Rules of Engagement which Police Officers
are bound to understand and observe in the use of force is outlined under the Police Operational
Procedures Manual, issued on 2014, thus:


7.1 Use of Excessive Force Prohibited The excessive use of force during
police operation is prohibited. However, in the lawful performance of duty,
a police officer may use necessary force to accomplish his mandated tasks
of enforcing the law and maintaining peace and order.
7.2 Issuance of Verbal Warning The police officer must first issue a verbal
warning before he could use force against an offender. As far as practicable,
the verbal warning shall be in the dialect that is known to the offender or in
the national language. Basically the verbal warning shall consist of the
following: the police officer identifying himself; his intention; and what he
wants the offender to do. If the offender is a foreigner, the verbal warning
shall be done in the English language followed by a demonstrative act of the
police officers intent. The verbal warning shall be done in a loud and clear


7.3 Non-Issuance of Verbal Warning When Excusable The failure to issue a

verbal warning is excusable in cases where threat to life or property is
PROCEDURES Chapter 2 and there is no other option but to use force to
subdue the offender.
7.4 Use of Non-Lethal Weapon When suspect is violent or threatening, and
that less physical measures have been tried and deemed inappropriate, a
more extreme, but non-deadly measure can be used such as
baton/truncheon, pepper spray, stun gun and other nonlethal weapon to
bring the suspect under control, or effect an arrest.
7.5 Application of Necessary and Reasonable Force During confrontation
with an armed offender, only such necessary and reasonable force should be
applied as would be sufficient to overcome the resistance put up by the
offender; subdue the clear and imminent danger posed by him; or to justify
the force/act under the principles of self-defense, defense of relative, or
defense of stranger.
7.6 Factors to Consider in the Reasonableness of the Force Employed. A
police officer, however, is not required to afford offender/s attacking him
the opportunity for a fair or equal struggle. The reasonableness of the force
employed will depend upon the number of aggressors, nature and
characteristic of the weapon used, physical condition, size and other
circumstances to include the place and occasion of the assault. The police
officer is given the sound discretion to consider these factors in employing
reasonable force.
8.1 Use of Firearm When Justified The use of firearm is justified if the
offender poses imminent danger of causing death or injury to the police
officer or other persons. The use of firearm is also justified under the
doctrines of self-defense, defense of a relative, and defense PNPM-DO-DS3-2-13 Chapter 2 OPERATIONAL PROCEDURES 7 of a stranger.
However, one who resorts to self-defense must face a real threat on his life,
and the peril sought to be avoided must be actual, imminent and real.
Unlawful aggression should be present for self-defense to be considered as
a justifying circumstance.
8.2 Firing at Moving Vehicles Prohibited But with Exceptions A moving
vehicle shall not be fired upon except when its occupants pose imminent
danger of causing death or injury to the police officer or any other person,


and that the use of fi rearm does not create a danger to the public and
outweighs the likely benefits of its non-use.
8.3 Parameters to be Considered in Firing at Moving Vehicles In firing at a
moving vehicle, the following parameters should be considered: a. The
intent of the suspect/s to harm the police officer or other persons; b. The
capability of the suspect/s to harm with certainty the police officer or other
persons; and c. Accessibility or the proximity of the suspect/s from the
police officer and other persons.
This operational procedure is not enough to regulate the way PNP personnel conduct their
operations. The use of force, even when unnecessary, is left to the discretion of the Police officer
and made to justify thereafter. Recent trend, in Philippine settings, has caught local and
international attention on the rise of extra-judicial killings committed during Police Operations.
Heeding to the Presidents call on the bloody war against crimes and illegal drugs, all law
enforcement officers carried out the task with killings almost every corner of the country, which
some have claimed to be excessive and unreasonable. Doubts have always accompanied every
supposedly legitimate operations claimed by the Philippine National Police. Questions on
violations of the suspects fundamental rights often follow every police operation. Ordinary
citizens begin to fear that our country is now breeding the normalcy of the culture of killing.
Lest, anybody can get killed by the Police Officers by making him a suspect of any crime and
make it appear the killing is a legitimate operation. A standard must be set, hence.
Police use of force is characterized in a variety of ways. Sometimes, these
characterizations are functionally interchangeable so that one can be substituted for another
without doing injustice to the factual interpretation of a statement. At other times, however,
differences in terminology can be very consequential to a statements meaning. For example,
deadly force refers to situations in which force is likely to have lethal consequences for the
victim. This type of force is clearly defined and should not be confused with other types of force
that police use. In contrast, police brutality is a phrase used to describe instances of serious
physical or psychological harm to civilians, with an emphasis on cruelty or savageness. The term
does not have a standardized meaning; some commentators prefer to use a less emotionally
charged term. In this report, the term excessive force is used to describe situations in which
more force is used than is allowable when judged in terms of administrative or professional
guidelines or legal standards. Criteria for judging excessive force are fairly well established. The
term may also include within its meaning the concept of illegal force. Another purpose for
emphasizing the infrequent nature of police use of force is to highlight the methodological
challenges of trying to count or study infrequent events. In this regard, methodological
approaches can vary considerably in terms of cost efficiency, reliability, and precision of
information obtained. In BJSs 1996 pilot household survey of 6,421 persons, 14 respondents, or


roughly 1 in 450, said that they were subjected to use of force or threat of force by police over a
years time. The household survey approach has the benefit of providing national-level estimates
based on data that are free of police agency reporting biases. However, as noted by BJS, the
preliminary estimates derived from such a small number of respondents are subject to a wide
margin of error. This issue is particularly important if one is interested in tracking changes over
time, because a very small change in reporting can have a very large impact on estimates. In the
surveys continuing development, the next pilot test will use a sample about 10 times the size of
the 1996 pilot test as well as involve a redesigned questionnaire. Police use of force typically
occurs at the lower end of the force spectrum, involving grabbing, pushing, or shoving.
Relatively minor types of force dominate statistics on police use of force. Garner and Reference
also is made to excessive use of force, a similar, but distinctly different, term. Excessive use of
force refers to high rates of force, which suggest that police are using force too freely when
viewed in the aggregate. The term deals with relative comparisons among police agencies, and
there are no established criteria for judgment. Illegal use of force refers to situations in which
use of force by police violated a law or statute, generally as determined by a judge or magistrate.
The criteria for judging illegal use of force are fairly well established. Improper, abusive,
illegitimate, and unnecessary use of force are terms that describe situations in which an
officers authority to use force has been mishandled in some general way, the suggestion being
that administrative procedure, societal expectations, ordinary concepts of lawfulness, and the
principle of last resort have been violated, respectively. Criteria for judging these violations are
not well established (Use of Force by Police, 1999).
In this study, following the above concepts, the criteria for judging the use of reasonable
force shall have to be established in order to guide the members of the Philippine National Police
in the conduct of Police Operations. The only present standard the Philippine National Police are
following is only its manual on Police Operational Procedure which does not clearly define and
which takes the concept of reasonable force in its broadest sense, giving the Police Officers the
freedom to decide on their own when to use force and what amount of force to be used.
Nonetheless, the concept of judging must be based on the standard set by societal expectations
since the ordinary citizens are the ones from whom the Police Officers owe their duty to serve
and protect, as enshrined under the 1987 Philippine Constitution. It shall be based on the most
ordinary concept of lawfulness as an ordinary citizen would conceive it.
Broadly speaking, the use of force by law enforcement officers becomes necessary and is
permitted under specific circumstances, such as in self-defense or in defense of another
individual or group.There is no single, universally agreed-upon definition of use of force. The
International Association of Chiefs of Police has described use of force as the "amount of effort
required by police to compel compliance by an unwilling subject".Officers receive guidance


from their individual agencies, but no universal set of rules governs when officers should use
force and how much (Institute of Justice Police Use of Force).
A law enforcer in the performance of duty is justified in using such force as is reasonably
necessary to secure and detain the offender, overcome his resistance, prevent his escape,
recapture him if he escapes, and protect himself from bodily harm. [109] United States v.
Campo[110] has laid down the rule that in the performance of his duty, an agent of the authorities
is not authorized to use force, except in an extreme case when he is attacked or is the subject of
resistance, and finds no other means to comply with his duty or cause himself to be respected and
obeyed by the offender. In case injury or death results from the exercise of such force, the same
could be justified in inflicting the injury or causing the death of the offender if the officer had
used necessary force.He is, however, never justified in using unnecessary force or in treating the
offender with wanton violence, or in resorting to dangerous means when the arrest could be
effected otherwise. People v. Ulep teaches that
The right to kill an offender is not absolute, and may be used only as a last resort,
and under circumstances indicating that the offender cannot otherwise be taken
without bloodshed. The law does not clothe police officers with authority to
arbitrarily judge the necessity to kill. It may be true that police officers sometimes
find themselves in a dilemma when pressured by a situation where an immediate
and decisive, but legal, action is needed. However, it must be stressed that the
judgment and discretion of police officers in the performance of their duties must
be exercised neither capriciously nor oppressively, but within reasonable limits. In
the absence of a clear and legal provision to the contrary, they must act in
conformity with the dictates of a sound discretion, and within the spirit and
purpose of the law. We cannot countenance trigger-happy law enforcement
officers who indiscriminately employ force and violence upon the persons they
are apprehending. They must always bear in mind that although they are dealing
with criminal elements against whom society must be protected, these criminals
are also human beings with human rights.

Thus, in People v. Tabag, where members of the Davao CHDF had killed four members
of a family in their home because of suspicions that they were NPA members, and the accused
sought exoneration by invoking among others the justifying circumstance in Article 11 (5) of the
Revised Penal Code, the Court in dismissing the claim and holding them liable for murder said,


In no way can Sarenas claim the privileges under paragraphs 5 and 6,

Article 11 of the Revised Penal Code, for the massacre of the Magdasals can by
no means be considered as done in the fulfillment of a duty or in the lawful
exercise of an office or in obedience to an order issued by a superior for some
lawful purpose. Other than suspicion, there is no evidence that WelbinoMagdasal,
Sr., his wife Wendelyn, and their children were members of the NPA. And even if
they were members of the NPA, they were entitled to due process of law. On that
fateful night, they were peacefully resting in their humble home expecting for the
dawn of another uncertain day. Clearly, therefore, nothing justified the sudden and
unprovoked attack, at nighttime, on the Magdasals. The massacre was nothing but
a merciless vigilante-style execution.[

Self-defense and fulfillment of duty operate on different principles. Self-defense is based

on the principle of self-preservation from mortal harm, while fulfillment of duty is premised on
the due performance of duty. The difference between the two justifying circumstances is clear, as
the requisites of self-defense and fulfillment of duty are different.
The elements of self-defense are as follows:

Unlawful Aggression;


Reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel it;


Lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person defending himself.

On the other hand, the requisites of fulfillment of duty are:


The accused acted in the performance of a duty or in the lawful exercise of a

right or office;


The injury caused or the offense committed be the necessary consequence of

the due performance of duty or the lawful exercise of such right or office.[

A policeman in the performance of duty is justified in using such force as is reasonably

necessary to secure and detain the offender, overcome his resistance, prevent his escape,
recapture him if he escapes, and protect himself from bodily harm. In case injury or death results
from the policemans exercise of such force, the policeman could be justified in inflicting the
injury or causing the death of the offender if the policeman had used necessary force. Since a
policemans duty requires him to overcome the offender, the force exerted by the policeman may
therefore differ from that which ordinarily may be offered in self-defense. However, a policeman


is never justified in using unnecessary force or in treating the offender with wanton violence, or
in resorting to dangerous means when the arrest could be affected otherwise.
Unlike in self-defense where unlawful aggression is an element, in performance of duty,
unlawful aggression from the victim is not a requisite. In People v. Delima,[16] a policeman was
looking for a fugitive who had several days earlier escaped from prison. When the policeman
found the fugitive, the fugitive was armed with a pointed piece of bamboo in the shape of a
lance. The policeman demanded the surrender of the fugitive. The fugitive lunged at the
policeman with his bamboo lance. The policeman dodged the lance and fired his revolver at the
fugitive. The policeman missed. The fugitive ran away still holding the bamboo lance. The
policeman pursued the fugitive and again fired his revolver, hitting and killing the fugitive. The
Court acquitted the policeman on the ground that the killing was done in the fulfillment of duty.
The fugitives unlawful aggression in People v. Delima had already ceased when the
policeman killed him. The fugitive was running away from the policeman when he was shot. If
the policeman were a private person, not in the performance of duty, there would be no selfdefense because there would be no unlawful aggression on the part of the deceased. [17] It may
even appear that the public officer acting in the fulfillment of duty is the aggressor, but his
aggression is not unlawful, it being necessary to fulfill his duty.[18]
While self-defense and performance of duty are two distinct justifying circumstances,
self-defense or defense of a stranger may still be relevant even if the proper justifying
circumstance in a given case is fulfillment of duty. For example, a policemans use of what
appears to be excessive force could be justified if there was imminent danger to the policemans
life or to that of a stranger. If the policeman used force to protect his life or that of a stranger,
then the defense of fulfillment of duty would be complete, the second requisite being present.
In People v. Lagata,[19] a jail guard shot to death a prisoner whom he thought was
attempting to escape. The Court convicted the jail guard of homicide because the facts showed
that the prisoner was not at all trying to escape. The Court declared that the jail guard could only
fire at the prisoner in self-defense or if absolutely necessary to avoid the prisoners escape.

In exercising their duties, police may be expected to occasionally use force, for example
in arresting a person who is resisting arrest, or in dispersing a crowd at a riot. However, this does
not mean that police are free to use any amount of force in such situations. If not guided with
certain standards, the right of the Police Officers to use force will be absolute. Nobody can
question when Police Officers indiscriminately kill people during operations even whether or not
those killed are subjects or part of the operation. They can always validly raise the defense that


operation was legitimate and legal. These standards shall clearly define the and clearly draw the
line between excessive force and reasonable force. The same shall also clearly set the conditions
or circumstances upon which law enforcers would be allowed to use force. As such, the above
lines of jurisprudence shall be the yardstick in outlining the said standards.
Cases on this issue have generally arisen, regarding the right to life. For example, in
Colombia, Surez de Guerrero v. Colombia (45/79), Colombian police shot and killed seven
persons suspected of kidnapping a former Ambassador. The evidence indicated that the victims,
including one Mara Fanny Surez de Guerrero, were shot in cold blood, rather than, as had
initially been claimed by police, whilst resisting arrest.
The case is a very clear example of a disproportionate use of force.. In finding such a
violation, the court stated: There is no evidence that the action of the police was necessary in
their own defence or that of others, or that it was necessary to effect the arrest or prevent the
escape of the persons concerned. Therefore, the death of Ms Surez de Guerrero was found to
be disproportionate to the requirements of law enforcement in the circumstances of the case.
Therefore, the case confirms that the principle of proportionality applies in the context of the use
of force for the purpose of arrest.
Among the things that are to be considered in setting the standard for the use of force
during Police Operations is the principle of proportionality. This principle is not undertaken in
the Operational Procedure of the Philippine National Police. Again, as earlier discussed, law
enforcers in the country are given the absolute freedom to decide on their own in using force
during operations. Whether proportionate or not, only the officers concerned can make the
gauge. It is that kind of danger that this study is going to address.
Clearly, the police should not kill someone in disproportionate circumstances, nor should
they utilize a disproportionate and therefore excessive amount of force in effecting an arrest.
Such a latter use of force would breach Article 9 ICCPR, which includes the right to security of
the person. If the relevant use of force was extreme enough, it would amount to a breach of
Article 7. The Committee expresses concern at the consistent information that law enforcement
personnel make excessive use of force in student demonstrations and various gatherings
organized by the opposition. The Committee regrets that the State party has made no mention
of any inquiry having been opened following these allegations. Regarding Belgium, the HRC
expressed concern over allegations of the use of excessive force in effecting the deportation of
aliens.403 Other examples of inappropriate uses of force that might inflict harm contrary to
Article 7, or even death contrary to Article 6, would include the inappropriate use of dogs,404
chemical irritants, or plastic bullets.405 The HRC delivered one of its most detailed statements in
this regard to the U.S. in 2006: The Committee reiterates its concern about reports of police
brutality and excessive use of force by law enforcement officials. The Committee is concerned in


particular by the use of so called less lethal restraint devices, such as electro-muscular disruption
devices (EMDs), in situations where lethal or other serious force would not otherwise have been
used. It is concerned about information according to which police have used tasers against unruly
schoolchildren; mentally disabled or intoxicated individuals involved in disturbed but nonlifethreateningbehaviour; elderly people; pregnant women; unarmed suspects fleeing minor
crime scenes and people who argue with officers or simply fail to comply with police commands,
without in most cases the responsible officers being found to have violated their departments
policies. The State party should increase significantly its efforts towards the elimination of police
brutality and excessive use of force by law enforcement officials. The State party should ensure
that EMDs and other restraint devices are only used in situations where greater or lethal force
would otherwise have been justified, and in particular that they are never used against vulnerable
persons. The State party should bring its policies into line with the United Nations Basic
Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (Jurisprudence Police
Use of Force by the Human Rights Committee).
In the US, the Supreme Court laid down the doctrine of the freedom of the citizens from
unreasonable use of force by Police Officers. After the Ferguson incident, the Court reiterates
doctrine and principle, in the long line of cases it has decided, involving Rules of Engagement by
Police Officers. Since this study aims to find means for the establishment of standards in the
Philippines for all law enforcement units in the use of force in all their operations, a review of
some US jurisprudence on the subject will be undertaken to find out whether the same can have a
place for applicability in the country.
Terry v. Ohio was the first in a string of cases that placed meaningful limits on the
polices power to use force. The Terry Court recognized that any police restraint on movement,
including a mere stop that does not eventuate in a trip to the stationhouse and prosecution for a
crime implicates the Fourth Amendment. A stop even without an arrest is a seizure that
constitutes a serious intrusion upon the sanctity of the person, which may inflict great indignity
and arouse strong resentment, and it is not to be undertaken lightly. The Terry decision was
issued in 1968, against the backdrop of urban social unrest, which had a clear influence on the
Court. The Courts opinion expressly noted that unrestrained police power to stop and restrain
individuals can only serve to exacerbate police-community tensions in the crowded centers of
our Nations cities. In July 1967, the inner cities of Detroit and Newark experienced unrest,
rebellion, and rioting that spread to other cities with similarly high concentrations of AfricanAmerican poverty. In seeking recommendations to address the underlying conditions that led to
this unrest, President Johnson appointed the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders,
led by Illinois Governor Otto Kerner, later known as the Kerner Commission (Closing the Gap
Between What is Lawful and What is Right in Police Use of Force).


The Kerner Commission issued its now iconic report one year later. The report examined
the effects of police practices and housing and employment discrimination, as well as the
persistent effects of racial segregation.31 Police and criminal justice practices were especially
scrutinized in the report. The Commission concluded that, to many, police had come to
symbolize white power, white racism and white repression. The Commission famously warned:
Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one whiteseparate and unequal. The
two decades following the Terry decision were a period of social transformation. The Court
continued to recognize that liberty interests were significantly impacted by police conduct and
that the Fourth Amendment protections against the seizure of a person without cause must be
preserved. The Court held that even the most limited restraint was subject to protection and that a
seizure occurs at the moment a person is not free to leave. Nevertheless, police officers are not
restrained from approaching or posing questions to a person on the street; [a]s long as the
person to whom questions are put remains free to disregard the questions and walk away, there
has been no intrusion upon that persons liberty or privacy as would under the Constitution
require some particularized and objective justification. The Court also recognized that even
when authorized to detain or arrest a person, the amount of force officers were permitted to use is
subject to Fourth Amendment review. The Court first meaningfully addressed the appropriate
amount of force when it examined the circumstances inwhich an officer could use deadly force in
Tennessee v. Garner. 36 Garner, an unarmed teenager, was shot while running away from a
Memphis, Tennessee, police officer who was called to the scene of a suspected burglary. The
officer relied on a State statute that permitted police to use all necessary means to effect the
arrest of a fleeing suspect and the common law notion that deadly force was always justified to
secure the arrest of a fleeing felon. The Court struck down the use of the Tennessee statute to the
extent that it was being used to justify deadly force against nonviolent suspects. Deadly force,
the Court held, is authorized only when: the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect
poses a threat of serious physical harm, either to the officer or to others . . . . Thus, if the suspect
threatens the officer with a weapon or there is probable cause to believe that he has committed a
crime involving the infliction or threatened infliction of serious physical harm, deadly force may
be used if necessary to prevent escape, and if, where feasible, some warning has been given. In
reaching this conclusion, the Court relied on a line of cases mandating that the constitutional
analysis balance the nature and quality of the intrusion on the individuals Fourth Amendment
interests against the importance of the governmental interests alleged to justify the intrusion.
The Garner Court concluded that the question of how much force is permitted is one of
proportionality and requires a balancing of the harm to the individual against the interests of the
state. In the more recent cases discussed below, the scales have tilted so far away from the
individuals interest such that it barely plays a role in the analysis. Graham v. Connor extends the
analysis developed in Garner to all uses of force, not just to circumstances involving deadly force
and fleeing felons. The Court clarified that the Fourth Amendment limits the circumstances that


justify a police officers use of force and the amount of force that is reasonable in a particular
circumstance. Referencing its decision in Garner, the Court explained that the reasonableness
of a particular seizure depends not only on when it is made, but on how it is carried out. The
Court concluded that the balancing of the individual and governmental interests was not subject
to a mechanical application, but rather must take into account all of the relevant facts and
circumstances and be viewed from the perspective of a reasonable officer. In articulating what
have become known as the Graham factors, the Court created a nonexclusive list of
considerations: the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat
to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to
evade arrest by flight. Terry, Garner, Graham, and other Supreme Court decisions regarding the
Fourth Amendment in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s placed substantial weight on balancing police
powers against the intrusion on the individuals Fourth Amendment interests. The standards in
these cases require a set of value-laden judgments that do not lend themselves to rigid
application. In the cases decided before the radical transformation of the criminal justice system
that resulted in mass incarceration and the criminalization of communities of color, the Court
emphasized the interests of those being apprehended when balancing the individual rights
protected by the Fourth Amendment against the governmental interest in apprehending a suspect.
In the cases decided in more recent terms of the Court, very little consideration is given to the
interests of the individual. As a result, there have been no significant cases in the last decade in
which the Supreme Court has held that the individuals rights trumped the governmental interest.
It is difficult to square the Supreme Courts finding in Garner that the shooting in the back of a
seventeen-year-old suspect was unjustified, with its ready acceptance of the shooting of fleeing
suspects in the cases discussed below. Given this shift, it is unclear whether the current Court
would maintain that shooting an unarmed, fleeing suspect is unjustified (Ibid.).
The holdings in Graham and Garner that require a detailed analysis of the facts and
circumstances of each case to determine whether the force used was reasonable did not clearly
establish the law sufficient for officer misconduct to be judged unconstitutional. The current
Court has set a nearly impossible bar, demanding that the statutory or constitutional question be
beyond debate . . . with a robust consensus of cases of persuasive authority. The Court found
that use of Garners general test for excessive force is insufficient. The Court has expressly
designed qualified immunity to protect officers from the sometimes hazy border between
excessive and acceptable force, even where the officers conduct is constitutionally deficient.
To avoid the application of qualified immunity, the plaintiff must show that it was clearly
established that the Fourth Amendment prohibited the officers conduct in the situation [she]
confronted. Given that no two circumstances are exactly alike, meeting this threshold is often
daunting. Among the most stunning decisions on the use of force by police is the Courts 2015
opinion in San Francisco v. Sheehan. Sheehan had schizoaffective disorder and was living in a
group home for persons with mental illness. She had a private room on the second floor, and the


facility had a social worker on its staff. Sheehan stopped eating, taking medication, and speaking
with her psychiatrist. When the social worker checked on her, she told him that she had a knife,
that she did not want his help, and that she would kill him if he returned. The social worker then
cleared the building and called the police to take her into custody on a temporary commitment.
Two officers responded to the call and knocked on Sheehans door. When she did not answer,
they entered her room. Sheehan grabbed a knife and threated to kill them. They retreated behind
the door momentarily. The officers then reentered the room without announcing themselves. Ms.
Sheehan came forward with the knife, and they sprayed her with pepper spray. When she did not
stop, they shot her repeatedly. Two of the three Graham factorsthe severity of the crime at
issue and whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or
othersweighed heavily in favor of Sheehan but were largely ignored the Court. She had not
committed a crime; the police were called to protect her welfare. Moreover, the officers found
safety behind the door and were in no danger until they reentered the room knowing that using
force would be unavoidable. The only factor that the Court meaningfully took into account was
her resistance to being taken into custody. The Courts heavy reliance on Sheehans resistance, to
the exclusion of all other factors, distorted the multi-factor inquiry required by Graham. The
Court had no trouble finding that the use of force during the second entry was constitutional.
Unlike the cases discussed above, the Court in Sheehan never considered the magnitude of the
liberty interest of a severely mentally ill woman who was alone in a second-floor room. Not even
the testimony that the officers conduct violated the San Fran cisco Police Departments policy
and training persuaded the Court. The Departments policy was not to enter a barricaded room
but instead to wait for back up and a trained negotiator. The Court nominally decided the case on
the grounds of qualified immunity, finding that a reasonable officer might not know that it was
unlawful to engage in the conduct that led to shooting Sheehan. This was a marked departure
from the language in Terry that simple good faith on the part of the arresting officer is not
enough . . . . If subjective good faith alone were the test, the protections of the Fourth
Amendment would evaporate. The driving principle in the Sheehan decision originated from a
single line in Graham: The calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that
police officers are often forced to make split-second judgmentsin circumstances that are tense,
uncertain, and rapidly evolvingabout the amount of force that is necessary in a particular
situation. In an effort to avoid the balancing of interests required by the Fourth Amendment, the
Court resolved the case on qualified immunity grounds.86 Thus, the overwhelming concern of
the Sheehan Court was considering whether the officers could have had a subjective belief that
their conduct was lawful. But in Graham, any deference to the officers decision-making was
placed in the context of careful attention to the facts and circumstances of each particular case.
Graham also warns that the standard must be objective and that [a]n officers evil intentions will
not make a Fourth Amendment violation out of an objectively reasonable use of force; nor will
an officers good intentions make an objectively unreasonable use of force constitutional.


Cloaking the analysis in qualified immunity may give the Sheehan Court doctrinal cover, but it
still has a corrosive impact on the ability of individuals and communities to hold police
accountable by creating a very high bar to secure relief from the courts. Similar interpretations of
Graham and Garner were applied in Plumhoff v. Rickard, a recent case challenging the use of
deadly force to stop a driver who is evading arrest. Rickard was pulled over for a broken
headlight and windshield. When asked for his license, he sped away and led thepolice on a highspeed chase involving multiple officers on a crowded highway where Rickard and officers
weaved in and out of traffic. The chase ended in a parking lot. When Rickard again attempted to
drive away from the police, the officers fired twelve shots, killing him and his passenger. The
Court found this use of force objectively reasonable, relying on its previous decision in Scott v.
Harris, in which it found that an officers ramming of a suspects car objectively reasonable
because the driver posed a threat to pedestrians. In Plumhoff, the Court failed to consider that
Rickard was being apprehended for an equipment violation and disregarded that Rickard was
driving away from officers at the time they shot at him and that there were no civilians around.
Instead, the Court relied heavily on his attempt to escape and involvement in a high-speed chase.
The emphasis on Rickards flight dominates the opinion. In one passage, the Court noted: Under
the circumstances at the moment when the shots were fired, all that a reasonable police officer
could have concluded was that Rickard was intent on resuming his flight and that, if he was
allowed to do so, he would once again pose a deadly threat for others on the road. Rickards
conduct even after the shots were firedas noted, he managed to drive away despite the efforts
of the police to block his pathunderscores the point. The centrality of flight to the finding of
reasonableness in Plumhoff stands in sharp contrast to the language in the Garner opinion: The
use of deadly force to prevent the escape of all felony suspects, whatever the circumstances, is
constitutionally unreasonable. It is not better that all felony suspects die than that they escape.
Where the suspect poses no immediate threat to the officer and no threat to others, the harm
resulting from failing to apprehend him does not justify the use of deadly force to do so. It is no
doubt unfortunate when a suspect who is in sight escapes, but the fact that the police arrive a
little late or are a little slower afoot does not always justify killing the suspectWhile the Plumhoff
Court emphasized the dangerousness of a highspeed chase,101 it ignored the fact that the chase
would cease as soon as the police stopped chasing the suspect. For this reason, many police
departments have implemented a policy limiting high-speed chases and the circumstances in
which an officer can shoot at a moving car.102 High-speed pursuits are extremely dangerous,
killing and injuring hundreds of bystanders and passengers each year.103 Ninety-one percent of
chases are for nonviolent offenses and forty-two percent are for traffic violations.104 The danger,
especially for pursuits based on minor offenses, has led the Department of Justice to recommend
restrictive chased policies.105 For example, the National Institute of Justice issued
recommendations in 1990 to limit the use of high-speed chases and to pursue alternatives,
including ceasing the pursuit and tracking down the car at a later time through its license plate


number.106 The Courts excessive deference to the judgments of police officers is demonstrated
in other Fourth Amendment contexts as well. In Whren v. United States, 107 the Supreme Court
authorized police to use any traffic law violation as justification for a pretext stop.108 The use of
pretext stops has been widely credited as the cause for racial disparities in stops andfor the
phenomenon of driving while Black or Brown.109 Racial bias in stops has been corrosive to the
legitimacy of law enforcement.110 Even where a litigant can clear the high hurdle of qualified
immunity and the Court could otherwise recognize a constitutional violation, standing rules can
make it difficult for an individual to bring a challenge in court. In Los Angeles v. Lyons, 111 an
African-American man who was placed in a chokehold during a traffic stop sought to challenge
the Citys chokehold policy.112 Since he could not show that the policy would ever be used
against him again, the Court found that he could not seek an injunction to stop the practice,
regardless of whether it was unconstitutional (Ibid.).
Law enforcement officers are authorized to use force in specified circumstances, are
trained in the use of force, and typically face numerous circumstances during their careers when
use of force is appropriatefor example, in making some arrests, restraining unruly combatants,
or controlling a disruptive demonstration. When the level of force exceeds the level considered
justifiable under the circumstances, however, the activities of the police come under public
scrutiny. Incidents involving the use of excessive force by the police frequently receive attention
from the media, legislators, and, in some instances, civil and even criminal courts. Whether the
excessive force is aberrant behavior of individual officers or is a pattern and practice of an entire
law enforcement agency, both the law and public opinion condemn such incidents.

The incidence of wrongful use of force by police is unknown. Research is critically

needed to determine reliably, validly, and precisely how often transgressions of use-of-force
powers occur. We do not know how often police use force in ways that can be adjudged as
wrongful. For example, we do not know the incidence of excessive force, even though this is a
very serious violation of public trust. We could pull together data on excessive force using police
disciplinary records and court documents, for example, but the picture would be sketchy,
piecemeal, and potentially deceiving. When it comes to less grave or less precise transgressions,
such as improper, abusive, illegitimate, and unnecessary use of force, the state of
knowledge is even more precarious. In discussing this issue, we will concentrate on excessive
force, because these transgressions are of utmost concern to the public and because wellestablished professional and legal criteria are available to help us evaluate police behavior.
Notwithstanding a generally agreed-upon terminology, we should recognize that developing a
count of excessive force that is beyond all dispute is an unworkable task. This is so because
difficult judgments are involved in deciding whether use of force fits the criteria for these


categories in a given situation, and reasonable people will disagree in such judgments. We clearly
need more accurate, reliable, and valid measures of excessive force if we are to advance our
understanding of these problems. Academics and practitioners both tend to presuppose that the
incidence of excessive force by police is very low. They argue that, despite their shortcomings,
agency statistics provide a useful picture of the use-of-force problem. These statistics show that
most officers do not engage in force on a regular basis, that few people are injured by police use
of force, that only a small number of people complain about police misconduct involving use of
force, and that only a handful of these complaints are sustained. The argument has appeal. We
believe that the vast majority of police officers are professionals who respect the law and the
public. If use of force is uncommon, civilian complaints are infrequent, and civilian injuries are
few, then excessive force by police must be rare. That conclusion may indeed be correct, but to
the extent that it hinges on official police statistics, it is open to serious challenge. Current
indicators of excessive force are all critically flawed. The most widely available indicators are
civilian complaints of excessive force and civil lawsuits alleging illegal use of force. Civilian
complaints of excessive force are infrequent, and the number of substantiated complaints is very
low. These figures are consistent with the argument that excessive force is sporadic. However,
complaint mechanisms are subject to selection and reporting biases, and the operation of
complaint systems, which typically is managed by police, wields considerable influence on
whether people will come forward to complain. Civil lawsuits against police are exceedingly rare
relative to the number of times that police use force. Because the legal process is highly selective
in terms of which claims get litigated, lawsuits are a very unreliable measure of illegal use of
force. With both civilian complaints and lawsuits, small changes in administrative practices can
have a large impact on the magnitude of the problem measured in these ways. The difficulties in
measuring excessive and illegal force with complaint and lawsuit records have led academics
and practitioners to redirect their attention to all use-of-force incidents. The focus then becomes
one of minimizing all instances of police use of force, without undue concern as to whether force
was excessive. From this perspective, other records, such as use-of-force reports, arrest records,
injury reports, and medical records, become relevant to measuring the incidence of the
problem(Use of Force, What We Do Not Know About Police Use of Force).
In Kingsley v. Hendrickson, the justices articulated a standard for judging the conduct of
police officers accused of using excessive force on suspects being held in pretrial
detention.Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the majority in a 5-4 ruling, found that whether the
police intended to use excessive force was irrelevant. The standard, Breyer argued, should be
whether a reasonable observer would view the use of police force as excessive.


Ultimately, the Police were not just placed there by our laws only to protect the people,
but also to serve them. They should be held to the standard of the people they serve. The laws
often live up to the opinion of the public (The Atlantic, 17 July 2015). The standard therefore that
has to be set in the Philippines in the use of reasonable force during operations by all law
enforcement agencies shall find some applicability of the standards used in the US, incorporating
with it internationally accepted principles in the subject and with the application of Philippine
jurisprudence setting concepts of reasonableness of the force used by law enforcers.