Officers do not use force in a vacuum. It has long been recognized that a use of force is not the result of a single decision, but rather of “a contingent sequence of decisions and resulting behaviors—each increasing or decreasing the probability of an eventual use of … force.” How officers approach a situation, then, can affect whether and how they use force. Tactics are the techniques and procedures that officers use to protect themselves and community members. This chapter provides a framework for assessing police tactics, then offers an in-depth discussion of core tactical concepts. It explains why time is the single most important tactical consideration, details the effects of stress on human decision making, and illustrates how officers use tactical choices to “create time” and how they can use that time to minimize their need to use force. The chapter concludes by exploring the role of police tactics in three very different situations: arrests, crisis interventions, and active-shooter situations.
Keywords: active-shooter situations, arrests, crisis intervention, decision making, police tactics, police uses of force