Force Decisions: A Citizen’s Guide to Understanding How Police Determine Appropriate Use of Force; Book Review

At this time in history, every time you open any media, you find internet experts on police use-of-force. Especially after George Floyd’s murder. 

What if you could learn about how the cops are trained to use force? 

Well, you can. Rory Miller is a retired sheriff’s deputy. One job he had was working at the jail. He wrote a book aimed at civilians in 2012. I read it in 2014 and after Minnesota. 

Force Decisions: A Citizen’s Guide to Understanding How Police Determine Appropriate Use of Force

“Police use-of-force decisions, explained for the average Joe.

In a free and peaceful society where so many have been taught that all violence is wrong, citizens are often confused and dismayed when officers use force, even when the force is perfectly lawful and justified.

This book allows you to ‘take’ a basic Use of Force class just as if you were a rookie at the police academy.

Any civilian, law enforcement officer, or martial artist interested in self-defense, or anyone wanting to understand the duties and responsibilities of civilians and police needs to read this book.”

By the time you read section one, you’re on the same level as a classroom trained rookie cop. 

I read this as a paperback and highlighted most of it. It starts with three golden rules.

  1. You and your partners go home safely at the end of each and every shift.
  2. The criminal goes to jail.
  3. Liability free.

Then it ends with what Rory calls The Hard Truths. I italicized the ones that stuck out to me.

  • The only defense against evil, violent people is good people who are more skilled at violence. 

    • In a truly totalitarian environment where authorities can not only kill, but have control over who finds out about it and control over the means to respond, the population is helpless. 
    • In the extreme moment, only force can stop force. 
    • Sometimes an officer will be forced to make a decision in a fraction of a second that will leave a corpse, a widow, two orphans, and someone who needs therapy. (Have I mentioned how matter-of-fact Rory can be. This one hits you between the eyes.)
    • You can’t achieve a dream by dreaming.
  • There will never be a simple formula to give clear answers to how much force is enough. Force incidents are chaos, and you can’t write a cookie-cutter answer to chaos. 
    • If you become injured or exhausted while at a certain level of force, it is a sure sign you were using too low a level. You are losing! If you keep using something that is already not working, you will fail utterly. This is not a game. 
    • Experience will change you.
    • Knowing what to do is not the same as doing it. 
    • Surrendering is a learned skill. (Some of these you have to read in the book to understand the context.)
    • It’s not about the officers versus the bad guys. It never has been. It’s about the bad guys versus the victims. (That can be read a couple of different ways. Again, context matters.)
  • Communities get the kind of crime that they tolerate. 

Throughout the book, Rory has stories from his time as an officer. It’s information-dense, so that makes it easier to read. Who doesn’t like war stories?

One key point he made repeatedly is that cops have a duty to act. They can’t just arbitrarily decide not to. 

Scaling Force: Dynamic Decision Making Under Threat of Violence is his book that he co-wrote with Lawrence Kane that is geared towards the rest of us. 

I’m going to rant for a second. I don’t mind hearing or reading people’s opinions, so long as they’re informed opinions. This book will give you an informed idea of police use of force. 

You can come to the same conclusion or a different one; however, now you have a foundation behind it rather than raw emotion. 

I gave it 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. I wrote this in my review, “Very good, very detailed. It helps put you inside the mind of a cop and understand the decisions made.

Rory covers the training and experiences along with the different types of officers, even the bad ones.”

Yes, he even talks about the corrupt cops. 

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