Use of Force

The Riley County Police Department has been nationally accredited through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) since 1991. That means RCPD is required to meet or exceed national standards put into place to ensure our agency is doing what it should while serving you.

Accreditation is voluntary and is regarded as best practice because it holds departments to a higher standard. The lawful use of force is a significant part of the CALEA standards. 

Police use of force is regulated by state and federal law. Police Officers and law enforcement organizations who break these laws can face criminal and civil penalties. Lawful force must be “objectively reasonable.”

Police officers must also follow court rulings when using lethal force against fleeing felons.

To create and maintain the best policing behaviors to appropriately serve our community, we consider 3 main topics:

  • Policy/procedures
  • Training
  • Direct Supervision

Policy/procedures: Violations of policies and procedures are enforced internally through an investigative and disciplinary process. Each year, the RPCD files more complaints internally about employee conduct in general than what we receive from the public.

Training: RCPD officers are given extensive training in the use of force and are expected to follow training guidelines. We reinforce training through role-playing in different scenarios. These scenarios give officers the experiences they need to appropriately respond in the field. Our training staff receives instruction in advanced teaching techniques including some that effectively prepare officers for use-of-force encounters.

Direct Supervision: We require a supervisor to be on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Supervisors receive special training and are required to be in the field during critical incidents. Supervisors review every use of force report. Force found to be unreasonable is referred to Internal Affairs for investigation. If the use of force is lawful, but not consistent with training, that officer receives remedial training.

The RCPD is an evidence-based organization. We use the latest research to determine what is and what is not effective and appropriate. When considering use of force, we annually review our internal data on a large scale to determine a number of things including:

  • What trained tactics are used in the field
  • Are the tactics effective
  • What injuries, if any, were caused to the citizen and the officer

The resulting data is used to create future training.

Below you will find the RCPDs policy tied in with training in reference to common questions regarding the use of force. Our agency hopes to continue dialogue with the public on these topics.


Chokeholds and Strangleholds: 

RCPD officers are never trained on any technique which inhibits blood flow to the brain. A choke or stranglehold is prohibited, except where lethal force is authorized. 

Officers are trained to use tactics (such as allowing for distance between themselves and a potential threat) which reduces the likelihood that lethal force may be necessary.

RCPD Policy 4.1.2 [3B3]: "Officers are authorized to use any technique or any item as a weapon when faced with what the officer reasonably believes to be a threat of death or serious bodily harm."



De-escalation techniques are trained extensively in exercises. Several training scenarios require officers to use de-escalation techniques in order to successfully resolve the exercise. De-escalation is incorporated into almost every topic we cover during training.

RCPD officers are also trained in Crisis Intervention Training. This training focuses on addressing mental health crises and is used in many situations officers are called to assist in. We participate in a local Crisis Intervention Training council. RCPD operates a Mental Health Co-responder Program comprised of mental health professionals who respond with officers in the field to help people who find themselves in a mental health crisis.

Officers are trained to use tactics (such as allowing for distance between themselves and a potential threat) which reduces the likelihood that lethal force may be necessary.

Our officers have been trained to rely on the elements of procedural justice when making traffic enforcement decisions. This means officers deliver talking points to educate drivers on what they traffic law they broke and discuss locally conducted studies which surveyed local citizens asking them for the top traffic offenses they cared about along with what they believed the RCPD should be enforcing. When RCPD looked at our internal crash data, it was found that the top 5 causes of preventable accidents in Riley County are the same violations that this community expects us to enforce. 

Warning Before Shooting

RCPD officers are required to warn before shooting at a fleeing felon when practical. Officers are prohibited from firing “warning shots”.  Officers are not required to warn in other circumstances because it is not always practical to do so.

RCPD Policy 4.1.2 [3A2]: "To prevent the escape of a fleeing violent felon who the officer has probable cause to believe will pose a significant threat of death or serious bodily harm to the officer or others unless arrested without delay. Where practicable prior to the discharge of a firearm, officers shall identify themselves as law enforcement officers and state their intent to shoot."

RCPD Policy 4.1.3 [1]:  "Warning Shots: Officers are prohibited from firing warning shots."

Officers are also equipped and trained to deploy and use devices that are less likely to be lethal when compared to bullets. 


Duty to Intervene

Officers are required to take appropriate actions at all times and to report violations of policy. RCPD officers have been trained through scenarios to intervene when they perceive that another officer is using excessive force. The RCPD is currently considering adding language to the use of force policy which would explicitly require officers to intercede when they perceive inappropriate force is being used.  This emphasizes the importance of community conversations about policing and the need for RCPD policy to be a living document.  As indicated earlier by the number of internal complaints compared to external complaints, the RCPD has a culture of self-reporting violations.

26.1.4 [6K]:

“K. Failure to Take Appropriate Action:

1) Department members will take action when appropriate and/or necessary in accordance

with policies and procedures.

26.1.4 [7EE]:

“EE. Reporting Violations of Policies and Procedures: Department members will report any violations of policies or procedures, whether committed by themselves or another member, to their supervisor on the workday during which the member becomes aware of the violation, or on the member’s next scheduled workday – whichever is first.


Shooting at a moving vehicle

RCPD Officers have been trained to get out of the way of vehicles coming toward them rather than shooting at them. Policy allows officers to shoot at moving vehicles when reasonable. 

RCPD Policy 4.1.2 [3B2b}: "Firearms may be discharged to disable a moving vehicle only if exigent circumstances exist."


Force Model 

The Riley County Police Department uses a force model to help guide officers when deciding what level of force is reasonable in response to a subject's resistance and perceived threat level. 

The force model is simple, easy to apply/remember, and comports in principle to constitutional law.

RCPD Policy 4.1.2 [2]:

"Force Model: The following force model will be used to guide officers when deciding what level of force is reasonable in response to a subject’s perceived threat level.
A. When an officer reasonably believes that a subject presents no threat to himself or others, the officer will respond with force likely to cause no injury.
B. When an officer reasonably believes that a subject presents a threat to himself or others likely to cause minor physical injury, the officer may respond with force likely to cause minor physical injury.
C. When an officer reasonably believes that a subject presents an imminent threat to himself or
others likely to cause death or serious bodily harm, the officer may respond with force likely to cause death or serious bodily harm."


Comprehensive Reporting

Our reporting process is extensive and elaborate. Each use of force undergoes six levels of review, and includes the Director. RCPD goes the extra mile by producing an annual report which examines the effectiveness of our force techniques in the filed and acts as a feedback loop to our training programs. 

Since this is an extensive policy, a short excerpt is provided below.  The introduction states:

“Reporting Use of Force – General: Written use of force reports will be submitted detailing the

circumstances of any incident where Department members respond to resistive and/or aggressive behavior with any technique or method outlined in this policy.”

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1. How many officers wear body cameras?
2. What are Riley County’s guidelines for using lethal force?
3. Use of Force