8.050 - Use of Force Definitions

Effective Date: 01/19/2019

Deadly Force: The application of force through the use of firearms or any other means reasonably likely to cause death, Great Bodily Harm, or serious physical injury.

When reasonably likely to cause death or serious physical injury, Deadly Force includes:

- Shooting a firearm at a person

- A hard strike to a person’s head, neck, or throat with an impact weapon

- Striking a person’s head into a hard, fixed object (examples include but are not limited to concrete objects or surfaces, or solid metal structures such as bars or guardrails).

- Using stop-sticks on a moving motorcycle

Neck and carotid restraints may only be used when deadly force is authorized. See 8.300-POL 9.

See 8.200 (4) and (5) for guidance on when deadly force is authorized.

De-escalation: Taking action to stabilize the situation and reduce the immediacy of the threat so that more time, options, and resources are available to resolve the situation. The goal of de-escalation is to gain the voluntary compliance of subjects, when feasible, and thereby reduce or eliminate the necessity to use physical force. See 8.100 for further guidance.

De-escalation Techniques: Actions used by officers, when safe and without compromising law-enforcement priorities, that seek to minimize the likelihood of the need to use force during an incident, and increase the likelihood of gaining voluntary compliance from a subject. See 8.100 for examples of de-escalation tactics and techniques.

Force: Force means any physical coercion by an officer in performance of official duties, including the following types of force:

- De Minimis Force: Physical interaction meant to separate guide, and/or control without the use of control techniques that are intended to or are reasonably likely to cause any pain or injury. Includes:

- Use of control holds or joint manipulation techniques in a manner that does not cause any pain, and are not reasonably likely to cause any pain.

- Using hands or equipment to stop, push back, separate, or escort a person without causing any pain, or in a manner that would reasonably cause any pain.

- Type I – Force that causes transitory pain, the complaint of transitory pain, disorientation, use of a hobble restraint, deployment of a blast ball away from people (bang-out), or intentionally pointing a firearm at a person (un-holstering or displaying a firearm without intentionally pointing it at a person – including the sul and low-ready positions – or simply displaying any weapon, is not a reportable use of force).

- Type II – Force that causes or is reasonably expected to cause physical injury greater than transitory pain but less than great or substantial bodily harm, and/or the use of any of the following weapons or instruments: CEW, OC spray, impact weapon, deployment of K-9 or vehicle, deployment of stop sticks against a vehicle other than a motorcycle.

- Type III – Force that causes or is reasonably expected to cause, great bodily harm, substantial bodily harm, loss of consciousness, or death, and/or the use of neck and carotid holds, stop sticks for motorcycles, impact weapon strikes to the head.

Additional guidance on reporting force may be found in Section 8.400.

FIT (Force Investigation Team): The Department personnel tasked with conducting Type III use-of-force investigations, to include investigations of officer-involved shootings.

Handcuff Discomfort: discomfort or minor pain caused solely by wearing handcuffs properly applied.


Injury Classifications:

- Physical or Bodily Injury (also “Injury”): Physical pain or injury, illness, or an impairment of physical condition greater than transitory pain but less than great or substantial bodily harm. (SMC 12A.02.150, RCW 9A.04.110)

- Serious Physical Injury: Physical injury which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious disfigurement, serious impairment of health or serious loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ or structure or involves serious concussive impact to the head.

- Substantial Bodily Harm (RCW 9A.04.110): Bodily injury which involves:

- Temporary but substantial disfigurement

- Temporary but substantial loss or impairment of the function of any bodily part or organ

- Fracture of any bodily part

- Great Bodily Harm (RCW 9A.04.110): Bodily injury which either:

- Creates a probability of death

- Causes significant serious permanent disfigurement

- Causes a significant permanent loss or impairment of the function of any bodily part or organ

Less-Lethal Devices: Devices designed and intended to apply force not intended nor likely to cause the death of the subject or Great Bodily Harm. For the intended purpose of Less Lethal Tools see 8.300 (1)(2). Examples include: TASER, impact weapons, OC spray, blast balls.

Medical Procedure:  Medical interventions and life-saving techniques. Such efforts are not considered force.

Necessary Force: “Necessary” means that no reasonably effective alternative to the use of force appeared to exist and that the amount of force used was reasonable to effect the lawful purpose intended. See RCW 9A.16.010 – Definitions.

Neck & Carotid Restraints:

- Neck Restraint: Any technique involving the use of an arm or other firm object to attempt to control or disable a subject by applying pressure against the trachea, windpipe, or the frontal area of the neck with the purpose or intent of controlling a subject’s movement or rendering a subject unconscious by blocking the passage of air through the windpipe. A neck restraint is an intentional force application.

- Carotid Restraint: Any technique which is applied in an effort to control or disable a subject by applying pressure to the carotid artery, the jugular vein, or the sides of the neck with the purpose or intent or effect of controlling a subject’s movement or rendering a subject unconscious by constricting the flow of blood to and from the brain. A carotid restraint is an intentional force application.

Objectively Reasonable Force: Objectively reasonable force is based on the totality of circumstances known by the officer at the time of the use of force and weighs the actions of the officer against the rights of the subject, in light of the circumstances surrounding the event. It must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer at the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight. See Sections 8.000 and 8.200 for further guidance on objectively reasonable force See 8.200(1)

PIT (Pursuit Intervention Technique): A controlled and trained forced rotational stop of a non-compliant suspect vehicle used to reduce the risks in bringing a pursuit to a conclusion. 

Ramming: The intentional use of a vehicle to strike another vehicle for the purpose of interrupting or incapacitating that vehicle.

Reportable Force: All uses of force other than de minimis are reportable. Reportable force includes the intentional pointing of a firearm at a subject, Type I, Type II, Type III, and Section 14.090.

Use of Force: See “Force.”

Vehicle-to-Vehicle Contact: Contact between vehicles designed to guide or prevent movement of a vehicle, but without significant impact (ramming) and reasonably unlikely to cause injury.


- Approved Weapon: A tool used to apply force that is both specified and authorized by the Department

- Approved Use of a Weapon: Use of an approved weapon by an officer who has been properly trained and certified in the use of that weapon

- Impact Weapon: Any object, whether a tool or fixed object, that is used to interrupt or incapacitate a subject and is capable of causing serious physical injury

- Improvised Weapon: Any untrained object used in a force application