The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Law enforcement expert: Use of force guidelines set by police departments


July 7, 2009

Freedom New Mexico

Each law enforcement department in the state has the discretion to determine its own guidelines for when using a Taser is appropriate.

The New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy, along with most agencies in the state, follows the Reactive Control Model as a guide for use of force.

Under the RCM, subjects are classified as either cooperative, non-cooperative, an unarmed assailant, or an armed assailant.

Brian Coss, a senior instructor at the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy, said Taser use is appropriate when dealing with a non-cooperative subject.

However he said the guideline is situational and must be evaluated based on the nature of the call — whether the subject presents a threat to the officer or the general public and other circumstances.

According to New Mexico statute, an officer is immune from civil liability in an arrest connected to a family violence situation if the officer has probable cause to believe abuse was committed.

However the issue of use of force and where a Taser may or may not be appropriate is not “black and white,” Coss said.

When reviewing use of force cases, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld totality of the circumstances must be weighed, and, “these cases must be viewed without the benefit of hindsight,” based on the knowledge the officer had at the time.

They also must be judged, “from a reasonable officer’s perspective at the scene” Coss said.

“(Use of force is) all grounded in the Constitution, case law and statutes,” Coss said.


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