Continuum of Force

The continuum of force is becoming a greatly debated issue with police tactics.  It might be best to illustrate the continuum as a ladder that requires a person to start at the lowest rung to reach a desired goal.  Although police officers and animal control officers have different job duties, they both use the continuum to complete their job.  The greatest difference between the two professions is that animal control officers can back away, if the job places them at immediate risk; they can always call a police officer to protect them.  Although this post is not to discuss the pros and cons of animal control officers carrying guns, it demonstrates that as long as police officers carry guns, it is not so necessary for animal control officers to do so.

It all starts with the uniform.  When I first started in the animal control profession, my boss, the Police Chief, wanted me to wear a uniform.  He had boxes of left over uniforms when the department updated their uniforms.  I convinced him to allow me to wear an off-the-shelf work outfit from JC Penney’s.  I wanted a uniform that I could easily wash and made me look more like a UPS driver than a cop.

The Police Chief insisted that I wear a badge.  He didn’t see the humor when I showed up with a tie-tack as a badge.  I explained that I  crawled through bushes and might lose “a real badge.”  We agreed on something that was larger than the tie-tack and smaller than the police officer’s badge.

I bring up this war story to show that the uniform is the first rung of the continuum.  In most circumstances, the uniform is sufficient for most reasonable people to accept the authority of the police officer and in recognizing that, no further force is necessary.  Unfortunately, we have stopped being reasonable people.  People now go out of their way to escalate their engagements with police officers.    As such, the officer needs as many  nonlethal tools as possible.

Given recent protests, people are complaining about the nonlethal tools that the police officers are using on looters.  The looters are complaining that they don’t like to be hit with rubber bullets or sprayed with pepper spray.  So, City Councils are banning the use of many nonlethal tools.  The fewer the tools, the more that can go wrong.  In the military, we used firehoses to breakup riots, unfortunately, those firehoses are needed to put out the fires that are started by the looters.

You might be saying that many peaceful nonlooters were harmed by rubber bullets and pepper spray.  I would think that if you are standing in a crowd that is looting and burning buildings, you are pretty stupid standing around to watch.  When people get out of control, it is a good time to pack up your protest and go home.

People go out of their way to confront police officers.  It is all the more reason that animal control officers should not dress up like a police officer.  We are not trained to verbally deal with those altercations.  Given how people are trying to push police officers up the steps of the continuum of force, animal control officers are ill prepared.  Given that City Councils are taking away the tools that are necessary for police officers; police officers are finding that as they are be pushed up that continuum, many  rungs or missing and the jump to lethal force is becoming shorter.

I have encountered many animal control officer who want to become police officers.  Our profession is a good stepping stone to that honorable profession; but, now is not the time to make ourselves look like police officers.  We are witnessing a major increase in the number of crazy people wanting to harm them.

The  best thing that we can learn from the recent interactions that the  police are facing is to know when it becomes necessary to back away.  Unfortunately, police officers are not in a profession in which they can take our lead.

In our profession, we have the following steps:

  1. Verbal – coaxing an animal to come to us.
  2. Snare – using a snappy snare to catch a shy animal.
  3. Ketch Pole – using a ketch-pole to handle a potentially dangerous animal.
  4. Live Trap – to catch an animal that we cannot get close to.
  5. Tranquiller dart – to catch the animals that cannot be caught by any other means.

In looking over our list, maybe we could loan a few of our tools to the police.  Kidding!  (Or am I?).  I know, I know, in this day of people carry around a chip on their shoulders, some would say that I am suggesting that we treat people like animals.  I just might be suggesting that we need to treat people in a way that keeps them and the police from getting hurt.  Like the way things were done when the police officers could use pepper spray.  Which, by the way, is an excellent tool for animal control officers for self defense.