Ask yourself daily “where can I do better?”

Keep your character and your professionalism under constant evaluation. Everytime you let the little things slip, your character is compromised, and when character is compromised your integrity is jeprodized. We all know that in the glass house profession in which we work in our integrity is the one thing we have total control over, and the one thing we can never compromise.

Pay attention to the little things and fix them, don’t sweat them; and don’t fall victim to anything, especially yourself. Keep your influences positive and your decisions wise, doing the right thing for the right reason, all of the time. Your success will be built upon the sum of all of the unconditional service and unrecognized professionalism you live out each day.

18 Lessons in Leadership By Colin Powell

Lesson 1

“Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off.”

Good leadership involves responsibility to the welfare of the group, which means that some people will get angry at your actions and decisions. It’s inevitable – if you’re honorable. Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity. You’ll avoid the tough decisions, you’ll avoid confronting the people who need to be confronted, and you’ll avoid offering differential rewards based on differential performance because some people might get upset. Ironically, by procrastinating on the difficult choices, by trying not to get anyone mad, and by treating everyone equally “nicely” regardless of their contributions, you’ll simply ensure that the only people you’ll wind up angering are the most creative and productive people in the organization.

Lesson 2 

“The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”

If this were a litmus test, the majority of CEOs would fail. One, they build so many barriers to upward communication that the very idea of someone lower in the hierarchy looking up to the leader for help is ludicrous. Two, the corporate culture they foster often defines asking for help as weakness or failure, so people cover up their gaps, and the organization suffers accordingly. Real leaders make themselves accessible and available. They show concern for the efforts and challenges faced by underlings-even, as they demand high standards. Accordingly, they are more likely to create an environment where problem analysis replaces blame.

Lesson 3

Don’t be buffaloed by experts. Experts often possess more data than judgment. The Elite can become so inbred that they produce hemophiliacs who bleed to death as soon as they are nicked by the real world.”

Small companies and startups don’t have the time for analytically detached experts. They don’t have the money to subsidize lofty elites, either. The president answers the phone and drives the truck when necessary; everyone on the payroll visibly produces and contributes to bottom-line results or they’re history. But as companies get bigger, they often forget who “brought them to the dance” things like all-hands involvement, egalitarianism, informality, market intimacy, daring, risk, speed, agility. Policies that emanate from ivory towers often have an adverse impact on the people out in the field who are fighting the wars or bringing in the revenues. Real leaders are vigilant – and combative – in the face of these trends.

Lesson 4

“Don’t be afraid to challenge the pros, even in their own backyard.”

Learn from the pros, observe them, seek them out as mentors and partners. But remember that even the pros may have leveled out in terms of their learning and skills. Sometimes even the pros can become complacent and lazy. Leadership does not emerge from blind obedience to anyone. Xerox’s Barry Rand was right on target when he warned his people that if you have a yes-man working for you, one of you is redundant. Good leadership encourages everyone’s evolution.

Lesson 5

“Never neglect details. When everyone’s mind is dulled or distracted the leader must be doubly vigilant.”

Strategy equals execution. All the great ideas and visions in the world are worthless if they can’t be implemented rapidly and efficiently. Good leaders delegate and empower others liberally, but they pay attention to details, every day. (Think about supreme athletic coaches like Jimmy Johnson, Pat Riley and Tony La Russa). Bad ones – even those who fancy themselves as progressive visionaries – think they’re somehow “above” operational details. Paradoxically, good leaders understand something alcyon(?) obsessive routine in carrying out the details begets conformity and complacency, which in turn dulls everyone’s mind. That is why even as they pay attention to details, they continually encourage people to challenge the process. They implicitly understand the sentiment of CEO-leaders like Quad Graphic’s Harry Quadracchi, Oticon’s Lars Kolind and the late Bill McGowan of MCI, who all independently asserted that the Job of a leader is not to be the chief organizer, but the chief disorganizer.

Lesson 6

“You don’t know what you can get away with until you try.”

You know the expression “it’s easier to get forgiveness than permission?” Well, it’s true. Good leaders don’t wait for official blessing to try things out. They’re prudent, not reckless. But they also realize a fact of life in most organizations you ask enough people for permission, you’ll inevitably come up against someone who believes his job is to say “no.” So the moral is, don’t ask. I’m serious. In my own research with colleague Linda Mukai, we found that less effective middle managers endorsed the sentiment, “If I haven’t explicitly been told ‘yes,’ I can’t do it,” whereas the good ones believed “If I haven’t explicitly been told ‘no,’ I can.” There’s a world of difference between these two points of view.

Lesson 7

“Keep looking below surface appearances. Don’t shrink from doing so (just) because you might not like what you find.”

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is the slogan of the complacent, the arrogant or the scared. It’s an excuse for inaction, a call to non-arms. It’s a mind-set that assumes (or hopes) that today’s realities will continue tomorrow in a tidy, linear and predictable fashion. Pure fantasy. In this sort of culture, you won’t find people who proactively take steps to solve problems as they emerge. Here’s a little tip. Don’t invest in these companies.

Lesson 8

“Organization doesn’t really accomplish anything. Plans don’t accomplish anything, either. Theories of management don’t much matter. Endeavors succeed or fail because of the people involved. Only by attracting the best people will you accomplish great deeds.”

In a brain-based economy, your best assets are people. We’ve heard this expression so often that it’s become trite. But how many leaders really “walk the talk” with this stuff? Too often, people are assumed to be empty chess pieces to be moved around by grand viziers, which may explain why so many top managers immerse their calendar time in deal making, restructuring and the latest management fad. How many immerse themselves in the goal of creating an environment where the best, the brightest, the most creative are attracted, retained and-most potentially-unleashed?

Lesson 9

“Organization charts and fancy titles count for next to nothing.”

Organization charts are frozen, anachronistic photos in a workplace that ought to be as dynamic as the external environment around you. If people really followed organization charts, companies would collapse. In well-run organizations, titles are also pretty meaningless. At best, they advertise some authority-an official status conferring the ability to give orders and induce obedience. But titles mean little in terms of real power, which is the capacity to influence and inspire. Have you ever noticed that people will personally commit to certain individuals who on paper (or on the org chart) possess little authority-but instead possess pizzazz, drive, expertise and genuine caring for teammates and products?  On the flip side, non-leaders in management may be formally anointed with all the perks and frills associated with high positions, but they have little influence on others, apart from their ability to extract minimal compliance to minimal standards.

Lesson 10

“Never let your ego get so close to your position that when your position goes, your ego goes with it.”

Too often, change is stifled by people who cling to familiar turfs and job descriptions. One reason that even large organizations wither is that managers won’t challenge old, comfortable ways of doing things. But real leaders understand that, nowadays, every one of our jobs is becoming obsolete. The proper response is to obsolete our activities before someone else does. Effective leaders create a climate where peoples worth is determined by their willingness to learn new skills and grab new responsibilities, thus perpetually reinventing their jobs. The most important question in performance evaluation becomes not, “How well did you perform your job since the last time we met?” but, “How much did you change it?”

Lesson 11

“Fit no stereotypes. Don’t chase the latest fads. The situation dictates which approach best accomplishes the team’s mission.”

Flitting from fad to fad creates team confusion, reduces the leader’s credibility and drains organizational coffers. Blindly following a particular fad generates rigidity in thought and action. Sometimes speed to market is more important than total quality. Sometimes an unapologetic directive is more appropriate than participatory discussion. To quote Powell, some situations require the leader to hover closely; others require long, loose leashes. Leaders honor their core values, but they are flexible in how they execute them. They understand that management techniques are not magic mantras but simply tools to be reached for at the right times.

Lesson 12

“Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.”

The ripple effect of a leader’s enthusiasm and optimism is awesome. So is the impact of cynicism and pessimism. Leaders who whine and blame engender those same behaviors among their colleagues. I am not talking about stoically accepting organizational stupidity and performance incompetence with a “what, me worry?” smile. I am talking about a gung ho attitude that says “we can change things here, we can achieve awesome goals, we can be the best.” Spare me the grim litany of the “realist;” give me the unrealistic aspirations of the optimist any day.

Lesson 13

“Powell’s Rules for Picking People” Look for intelligence and judgment and, most critically, a capacity to anticipate, to see around corners. Also look for loyalty, integrity, a high energy drive, a balanced ego and the drive to get things done.”

How often do our recruitment and hiring processes tap into these attributes? More often than not, we ignore them in favor of length of resume, degrees and prior titles. A string of job descriptions a recruit held yesterday seem to be more important than who one is today, what she can contribute tomorrow or how well his values mesh with those of the organization. You can train a bright, willing novice in the fundamentals of your business fairly readily, but it’s a lot harder to train someone to have integrity, judgment, energy, balance and the drive to get things done. Good leaders stack the deck in their favor right in the recruitment phase.

Lesson 14

(Borrowed by Powell from Michael Korda) “Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt, to offer a solution everybody can understand.”

Effective leaders understand the KISS principle, or Keep It Simple, Stupid. They articulate vivid, overarching goals and values, which they use to drive daily behaviors and choices among competing alternatives. Their visions and priorities are lean and compelling, not cluttered and buzzword-laden. Their decisions are crisp and clear, not tentative and ambiguous. They convey an unwavering firmness and consistency in their actions, aligned with the picture of the future they paint. The result? Clarity of purpose, credibility of leadership, and integrity in organization.

Lesson 15

Part I: “Use the formula P 40 to 70, in which P stands for the probability of success and the numbers indicate the percentage of information acquired.”

Part II: “Once the information is in the 40 to 70 range, go with your gut.”

Powell’s advice is, don’t take action if you have only enough information to give you less than a 40 percent chance of being right, but don’t wait until you have enough facts to be 100 percent sure, because by then it is almost always too late. His instinct is right. Today, excessive delays in the name of information-gathering breeds “analysis paralysis.” Procrastination in the name of reducing risk actually increases risk.

Lesson 16

“The commander in the field is always right and the rear echelon is wrong, unless proved otherwise.”

Too often, the reverse defines corporate culture. This is one of the main reasons why leaders like Ken Iverson of Nucor Steel, Percy Barnevik of Asea Brown Boveri, and Richard Branson of Virgin have kept their corporate staffs to a bare-bones minimum. (And I do mean minimum-how about fewer than 100 central corporate staffers for global $30 billion-plus ABB? Or around 25 and 3 for multi-billion Nucor and Virgin, respectively?) Shift the power and the financial accountability to the folks who are bringing in the beans, not the ones who are counting or analyzing them.

Lesson 17
“Have fun in your command. Don’t always run at a breakneck pace. Take leave when you’ve earned it. Spend time with your families.” Corollary: “Surround yourself with people who take their work seriously, but not themselves, those who work hard and play hard.”

Herb Kelleher of Southwest Air and Anita Roddick of The Body Shop would agree. Seek people who have some balance in their lives, who are fun to hang out with, who like to laugh (at themselves, too) and who have some non-job priorities which they approach with the same passion that they do their work. Spare me the grim workaholic or the pompous pretentious “professional;” I’ll help them find jobs with my competitor.

Lesson 18

“Command is lonely.”

Harry Truman was right. Whether you’re a CEO or the temporary head of a project team, the buck stops here. You can encourage participative management and bottom-up employee involvement but ultimately, the essence of leadership is the willingness to make the tough, unambiguous choices that will have an impact on the fate of the organization. I’ve seen too many non-leaders flinch from this responsibility. Even as you create an informal, open, collaborative corporate culture, prepare to be lonely.

Gratitude Shapes Attitude, And Here’s Why…

Gratitude is one of the most powerful and healthiest emotions we have. It is incredibly contagious, and the more gratitude we identify and express, the more we find we have to be grateful for. It is like a snowball effect. A heart of gratitude is not only contagious within, but infectious externally, influencing those who are around us.

On the flip side of gratitude, pessimism is also an incredibly powerful yet cancerous emotion. We live in a world where it is easy to focus on the negative, and for the most part only broadcasts the negative. Use caution. The mind is a powerful thing, and when you consider the 60,000 thoughts a person has each a day, for most, those thoughts are probably filtered through a negative lens. 40 something thoughts a minute, each day, racing through your mind. Unfortunately, is those very thoughts that shape our subconscious mind, and our subconscious mind that ultimately shapes our reality. As James Allen stated, a man is literally what he thinks, his character being the sum of his thoughts. Those thoughts become words, those words become actions, those actions become habits, those habits shape character, and that character becomes destiny. This means it is critical to be mindful of what we are allowing to influence our thought process (people, music, media, culture).

Therefore, if we think negative, we see negative; if we think positive we see positive. This isn’t saying it’s all unicorns and rainbows; but it is saying don’t spend your energy living in the negative, as it will cripple and suck the life right out of you.

The most effective way to establish a positive mindset is simply having a heart of gratitude. That gratitude will then shape your attitude, and your attitude is what will drive your day. We all know that a bad attitude is like a flat tire; unless we change it we can’t go anywhere. We have to take control to move forward.

Studies show that only 10% of external circumstances define our happiness or positive emotion. 50% of our positive emotion is driven by genetics. That gives approximately 40% in our hands to choose to be happy. We can’t be compromised by the other 60% which is out of our control. Positive emotion or happiness is only one element to flourishing, but a critical and foundational element.

The easiest way to live with a glass half full mentality, is to have a heart rich in gratitude. Start the day with gratitude, and end the day with attitude; and don’t just think it, but write it down. For example, start your morning in prayer and express gratitude for the day, as it is a gift. Find something small yet important that is often taken for granted, meditate on it with gratitude, and write it down in a journal. This will have a huge impact on your day, as you will begin to have an easier time:

finding purpose, meaning and abundance in your life;

appreciating the small pleasures in your life,

seeing the good in others rather than the bad,

and begin to appreciate the small contributions that others do that often get overlooked.

Selfishly, there are also personal benefits to reap as well:

more positive emotions,

better relationships,

better sleep,

a stronger immune system,

better work performance (31% more effective according to studies),

and ultimately a better life!

Your spiritual, mental and emotional domains of wellness are just as important as your physical wellbeing, as all 4 domains are all encompassing.

Let this life giving emotion of gratitude allow you to thrive in what you have been called to do.

So, here is a challenge I pose to you…

For 21 days, identify ONE to THREE things you are grateful for each day, and capture it by writing it down. DO NOT MISS A DAY! Make it a habit, a ritual and a way of being. I guarantee it will then begin to clean or even change the lens in which you look at reality.

Gratitude will keep you rooted in purpose and literally change your life.

You’ve Heard It Before, Leave Your Ego At The Door

There are 3 things ego will do as a public servant: First, it will compromise safety. Second, it will damage relationships. And third, it will prevent spiritual growth; a domain that often goes overlooked, but is key to flourishing in success. 

Pride is a virtue and also a vice, so we have to stay humble. We should keep our mind like a sponge, staying open to criticism and absorbing as much knowledge and wisdom as we can. We should make it daily goal to learn something new by the end of each day. Other than our own personal safety, we should shift our focus less on ourselves and more on best interest of others, because there is an intrinsic value of accomplishment and joy when you serve another person, and it’s rooted in purpose.

Unfortunately when you look at history and even recent examples, ego has cost officers their careers and sometimes even their lives. Whether it was arrogance or ignorance that led to negligence, or just an simple act of disrespect that led to an attack, ego is what takes the virtue of pride and turns it in to a vice. There is always someone faster, stronger and tougher than you, and if your ego is bigger than your head, it’s only a matter of time before an offender pulls your card. On the flip side, humility and respect has led to good tactics and personal effectiveness, to lives being changed and differences being made.

Below are 4 verses from the word of God that speak on behalf of ego and pride, not to be confused with the noble and virtuous pride we carry each day, in who we are and why we do what we do as professionals of public service.


That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.

  • While it is not always instant, pride and success not rooted in purpose always leads to loss or destruction. It’s not karma, because sometimes good things happen to very bad people, and sometimes bad things happen to very good people. However, God’s will is always for the good, and his grace and favor will always cover those who love him. As guardians and warriors of a good cause, our humble service to protect will always be blessed by God.


Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else,

  • Don’t build success on being better than someone else, build it on being better than you used to be. This is true nobility.


Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.

  • Pride is a friend of conflict an enemy of growth. Even the greatest have fallen such as King Solomon himself, requiring a humble new beginning.


Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

  • As public servants in authority and high position, we have to remember we deal with individuals at the lowest points of their lives, not to forget some of the most violent and wicked. However, we must never idolize or demonize anyone, treating ALL with dignity and respect; a respect for ourselves, the situation and the cause in which we serve. 


Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.

  • Our mind is a fire to constantly be fueled. If we stay both humble and mindful, we will consistently grow as professionals. However, if we listen to only our ego, our great successes are only in vein.

How well do you know Correctional Law? Assess your knowledge and schedule a class now to stay out of the fire of litigation!

As far as the law goes in Washington, the state law is fairly strict in terms of the standards of correctional operations and practice; WAC governing prisons, RCW governing jails and the constitution overseeing all. However, much of “why” things are the way they are has been a direct influence of many landmark cases that were established after the hands off era came to an end, and the courts became totally involved.

It is important to stay informed with case law as legal issues constantly evolve. Below is a way you can both learn and test your knowledge with some of the most significant cases that effect why we do business the way we do. You will also be able to assess you knowledge with the use of force, and how it is analyzed and evaluated by the courts.

Information is great, but doesn’t always equal understanding. Content has to be put into context. Schedule a 5 hour Correctional Legal Issues & Use of Force class now to help you and your agency stay out of the fire of litigation.

To access the study set with the link below, enter password: readytotest

Studying on Quizlet: Correctional Law & Use of Force Knowledge Assessment

Professionalism: it’s a lifestyle not a paycheck

Integrity is the root of professionalism, and the one thing there is no room for compromise. It is fragile and easily broken; and even if it is repaired, it’s original structure is never the same. It is shaped by our purpose in understanding why we do what we do each day. We are all here because we are people of integrity, but it doesn’t mean that our integrity cannot be compromised. We have to stay mindfully aware, remembering that every time a standard is compromised a new standard is set.

In law enforcement, the scar tissue of the daily grind is inevitable. This is why taking care of our health and well-being is critical, in keeping our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual batteries charged. Staying resilient is the heartbeat of our professional character. Each beat of energy either depletes or renews it’s source, so we have to be mindful in where we spend that energy. We have take care of ourselves and stay fit for duty, so that we can best serve those we have been entrusted to protect.

Similar to integrity, discipline and consistency is what holds us firm in virtue and principle, keeping us the same professional each day despite the physical, mental and emotional wounds we experience. And being spiritually grounded and rooted in integrity allows us to stay fair and reasonable, giving us the ability to make wise decisions that are legal , professional and safe. A foundation that’s unwavering, yet a virtue that filters through the black and white, and speaks to the gray of each individual situation.

We are professionals, and we must keep our influences positive and our decisions wise, doing the right thing for the right reason, all of the time. Our success will be built upon the sum of all of the unconditional service and unrecognized professionalism we live out each day, ultimately retiring when and how we want to. While the surface of our professionalism will be scared, the foundation of our professionalism is what we have 100% control over. So, like a boot, keep the surface shined, making each step one closer to success. We are writing a legacy each day, as our professionalism is who we are and a way of being.



The “use of force” is part of the business we are in. However, with that being said, all force that is used needs to be objectively reasonable and necessary. Excessive force can lead to serious litigation, as there are legal guidelines to consider from the federal level, state level, to your agencies policies and procedures. Excessive force falls under the 4th, 14th and 8th Amendment; from seizure, to due process, to cruel and unusual punishment. 

The 4th Amendment will deal with the circumstances surrounding the initial encounter from the police officer. (See Graham v Connor)

The 14th Amendment will deal with the gray area of the pre trial detainee, from the time of their seizure, to their due process while incarcerated. (See Kingsley v Hendrickson)

Finally, the 8th Amendment will deal will those who have been convicted, as excessive force constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. (See Hudson v McMillian)

If you are a corrections professional in Washington State, below is some great information to know:

RCW 9A.16.010 – USE OF FORCE – The general rule is that only the amount of force which is reasonable and necessary under the circumstances is permitted.


Necessary: means that there are no reasonably effective alternatives that appear to exist and the force that is being used is reasonable to affect its lawful purpose intended.

Deadly force: means the intentional application of force through the use of firearms or any other means reasonably likely to cause death or serious physical injury.


While there are 6 justifications for “lawful” use of force, the primary one to remember is the first one:

(1) Whenever necessarily used by a public officer in the performance of a legal duty, or a person assisting the officer and acting under the officer’s direction

For the other justifications, below is an easy way to remember them:


  1. D – Destruction of Property
  2. E – (Escape) To prevent escape
  3. A – Affect arrest
  4. T – Trespass
  5. H – Harm to self or others / Self defense


Justifiable homicide or use of deadly force by public officer, peace officer, person aiding.

(1) Homicide or the use of deadly force is justifiable in the following cases:

(a) When a public officer is acting in obedience to the judgment of a competent court; or

(b) When necessarily used by a peace officer to overcome actual resistance to the execution of the legal process, mandate, or order of a court or officer, or in the discharge of a legal duty.

(c) When necessarily used by a peace officer or person acting under the officer’s command and in the officer’s aid:

(i) To arrest or apprehend a person who the officer reasonably believes has committed, has attempted to commit, is committing, or is attempting to commit a felony;

(ii) To prevent the escape of a person from a federal or state correctional facility or in retaking a person who escapes from such a facility; or

(iii) To prevent the escape of a person from a county or city jail or holding facility if the person has been arrested for, charged with, or convicted of a felony; or

(iv) To lawfully suppress a riot if the actor or another participant is armed with a deadly weapon.

(2) In considering whether to use deadly force under subsection (1)(c) of this section, to arrest or apprehend any person for the commission of any crime, the peace officer must have probable cause to believe that the suspect, if not apprehended, poses a threat of serious physical harm to the officer or a threat of serious physical harm to others. Among the circumstances which may be considered by peace officers as a “threat of serious physical harm” are the following:

(a) The suspect threatens a peace officer with a weapon or displays a weapon in a manner that could reasonably be construed as threatening; or

(b) There is probable cause to believe that the suspect has committed any crime involving the infliction or threatened infliction of serious physical harm.

Under these circumstances deadly force may also be used if necessary to prevent escape from the officer, where, if feasible, some warning is given.

(3) A public officer or peace officer shall not be held criminally liable for using deadly force without malice and with a good faith belief that such act is justifiable pursuant to this section.

(4) This section shall not be construed as:

(a) Affecting the permissible use of force by a person acting under the authority of RCW 9A.16.020 or 9A.16.050; or

(b) Preventing a law enforcement agency from adopting standards pertaining to its use of deadly force that are more restrictive than this section.

  • Deadly force is only allowed as necessary to prevent immediate serious harm to the officer or another, or to prevent the escape of a violent and imminently dangerous felon.
  • “If the suspect threatens the officer with a weapon or there is probable cause to believe that he has committed a crime involving the infliction or threatened infliction of serious physical harm, deadly force may be used if necessary to prevent escape, and if, where feasible, some warning has been given.”





  • STATIC RESISTANCE – tension and isometric muscle actively generated by the violator.
  • EGRESSIVE RESISTANCE – violator is attempting to escape control using evasive and reactive movements. There is now more than static resistance, but the violator is not attacking.
  • AGGRESSIVE RESISTANCE – violator is now attacking or assaulting you. They are trying to injure you in the process of resisting.
  • AGGRAVATED AGGRESSION – violator has pre-planned the attack or is implementing weapons that are potentially lethal.


  • PRESENCE – being there, badge, uniform, lights
  • VERBAL COMMANDS –talking, directing, trying to de-escalate
  • PHYSICAL TOUCHING – guiding or directing the person for minor passive resistance
  • CONTROL TACTICS – using control tactics in trying to gain compliance
  • DEFENSIVE TACTICS – designed to impede the violator as they are attacking you
  • TERMINATION TACTICS – designed to STOP the violator as fast as possible


The quantum of force is reasonably foreseeable effects and injuries of a chosen option under the totality of circumstances of the force option use.

This comes down to understanding both the risks and effects of the force you are anticipating to use or are using. Force should never be excessive, and should always be objective.



Hudson v McMillian (1992) – The United States Supreme Court decided based on a 7-2 vote that the use of excessive force against a prisoner may constitute “cruel and unusual punishment” even though the inmate does not suffer any serious Injury.

In this case, the Petitioner Hudson, a Louisiana prison inmate, testified that he had suffered minor bruises, facial swelling, loosened teeth, and a cracked dental plate from a beating by prison guards McMillian and Woods, while he was handcuffed and “shackled” following an argument with McMillian. The respondent Mezo, a supervisor on duty, watched the beating, but merely told the officers “not to have too much fun” condoning the unnecessary use of force.

The“Hudson Test” (Hudson v. McMillian) is 5 question test the courts use to review use of force situation, and a great test corrections officers can use to evaluate and document use of force situations. (PANAM)

  • P – perceived threat by correctional officers?
  • A – any and all efforts to deescalate and reduce?
  • N – need for the application of force?
  • A – amount of force that was used?
  • M – medical issues and extent of any injuries?


Does targeting matter in the use of force (Strikes, OC, TASER® used to impede)

Active resistance + Immediate threat = Intermediate force used to overcome resistance and gain control of violator



OC spray is considered intermediate force (level 2) by the 9th circuit court. It has been this way since 2011 (Young v County of LA – 2011)

Los Angeles County Sheriff pepper sprayed plaintiff and struck him with a baton after plaintiff exited his vehicle and disobeyed the Sheriff’s order to reenter it.

The court held that the use of intermediate force was unreasonable and the suspect clearly posed no threat to the officer or the public safety.

The 9th circuit court considers OC spray as “designed to cause intense pain” and have stated that “a police officer’s use of baton blows, too, presents a significant use of force that is capable of causing pain and bodily injury, and therefore, baton blows, like pepper spray, are considered a form of “intermediate force.”



The courts see the use of a TASER® in drive stun mode as a lower level of force than the deployment of a TASER® in probe mode (Intermediate).

The reason is that a TASER® used in drive stun mode causes localized pain, but does not cause the uncontrolled fall, which occurs in the probe mode that causes neuromuscular incapacitation. The uncontrolled fall is seen by the courts as a “secondary impact” which could cause serious bodily injury or even death.

In Brooks v City of Seattle – 2010, during a traffic stop, Brooks refused to sign the violation and eventually refused to get out of the car and comply with Officer Jones. Officer Jones tased Brooks 3 times in drive stun mode. Brooks claimed excessive force, however, the courts found that the force was not excessive.

Probe mode = Intermediate force (Level 2)

Drive stun mode = Control Tactic / Pain Compliance (Level 1)

Along with knowing when the use of force is lawful according to RCW 9A.16.010 – 040, an easy way to keep in mind the legal aspects of a use of force, is asking yourself if it is:

  • NECESSARY – Where/are there reasonably effective alternatives?
  • REASONABLE – would a reasonable officer react in a similar manner given a similar set of circumstances?
  • JUSTIFIED – was/would it be justified, and can you articulate the reason for the use of force?


Kingsley v Hendrickson (2014) – The United States Supreme Court found that in order to prove an excessive force claim, a pre-trial detainee must show that the officers use of that force was objectively unreasonable. He or she does not need to show that the officers were subjectively aware that their use of force was unreasonable. This decision creates a crucial new protection against police abuse. Before Kingsley v. Hendrickson, there was not much clarity on which constitutional protections pre-trial detainees were afforded. As the 8th Amendment applies to convicted prisoners, and the 4th Amendment applies those mistreated by police outside of prisons, Kingsley v. Hendrickson filled in the gray area in dealing with pre-trial detainees. After the decision, any “objectively unreasonable” use of force against pre-trial detainees is seen as unconstitutional, as they cannot be punished at all.

Kingsley was being held in detention at a Monroe County jail in Sparta, Wisconsin in 2010, awaiting trial on drug charges. He was repeatedly ordered by officers to remove a piece of paper he had taped to the overhead light of his cell. In order to remove the paper, Kingsley was ordered to temporarily move to a receiving (holding) cell. Refusing to comply with officers’ commands to stand against the door of his cell to be handcuffed, Kingsley was forcibly removed from the cell by four officers, one of whom was the defendant, Sergeant Stan Hendrickson, and moved to a receiving cell. All parties agreed that in the receiving cell, Sergeant Hendrickson placed his knee in Kingsley’s back and Deputy Sheriff Fritz Degner eventually applied a Taser to his back. However, the officers testified that Kingsley resisted their attempted removal of his handcuffs. Kingsley testified that he had not resisted their attempt and alleged that after being placed in the receiving cell, the officers had slammed his head into a concrete bunk, which the officers denied. After being tased, Kingsley was left handcuffed in the cell for around 15 minutes, after which the officers removed his handcuffs.

Kingsley brought a civil action lawsuit, Kingsley v. Josvai, against Hendrickson and Degner in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, alleging a use of excessive force by the officers in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.[2] Judge Barbara Brandriff Crabb denied the officers’ motion for a summary judgment and the case moved to trial. Judge Crabb instructed the jury before deliberation that:

“In deciding whether one or more defendants used ‘unreasonable’ force against plaintiff, you must consider whether it was unreasonable from the perspective of a reasonable officer facing the same circumstances that defendants faced. You must make this decision based on what defendants knew at the time of the incident, not based on what you know now.” The jury found in favor of the officers.

Graham v. Connor (1989) – This was a United States Supreme Court case that determined all excessive force claims by law enforcement officials – deadly or not – in the course of an arrest, investigatory stop, or other “seizure” of a free citizen are properly analyzed under the Fourth Amendment’s “objective reasonableness” standard, rather than under a substantive due process standard.

Petitioner Graham, a diabetic, asked his friend to drive him to a convenience store to purchase orange juice to counteract the onset of an insulin reaction. Upon entering the store and seeing the number of people ahead of him, Graham hurried out and asked Berry to drive him to a friend’s house instead. Respondent Connor, a city police officer, became suspicious after seeing Graham hastily enter and leave the store, followed the car Graham was in and made an investigative stop, ordering both of them to wait while he found out what had happened in the store. Backup police officers arrived on the scene, handcuffed Graham, and ignored or rebuffed attempts to explain and treat Graham’s condition. During the encounter, Graham sustained multiple injuries. He was released when Connor learned that nothing had happened in the store. Graham filed suit in the District Court under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the respondents, alleging that they had used excessive force in making the stop, in violation of “rights secured to him under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and 42 U.S.C. 1983.” The District Court granted respondents’ motion for a directed verdict at the close of Graham’s evidence, applying a four-factor test for determining when excessive use of force gives rise to a 1983 cause of action, which inquires, inter alia, whether the force was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain and restore discipline or maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm. Johnson v. Glick, 481 F.2d 1028. The Court of Appeals affirmed, endorsing this test as generally applicable to all claims of constitutionally excessive force brought against government officials, rejecting Graham’s argument that it was error to require him to prove that the allegedly excessive force was applied maliciously and sadistically to cause harm, and holding that a reasonable jury applying the Johnson v. Glick test to his evidence could not find that the force applied was constitutionally excessive.

Tennessee v. Garner (1985) – The United States Supreme Court held that under the 4th Amendment, when a law enforcement officer is pursuing a fleeing suspect, he or she may not use deadly force to prevent escape unless “the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.” The courts finally decided that unless it is “necessary”, a law enforcement officer may not use deadly force to prevent the escape of a fleeing felon.

At about 10:45 p.m. on October 3, 1974, Memphis police officers Leslie Wright and Elton Hymon were dispatched to answer a burglary call next door. Officer Hymon went behind the house as his partner radioed back to the station. Hymon witnessed someone running across the yard. The fleeing suspect, Edward Garner, stopped at a 6-foot-high (1.8 m) chain-link fence. Using his flashlight, Hymon could see Garner’s face and hands, and was reasonably sure that Garner was unarmed. The police testified that they believed Garner was 17 or 18 years old; Garner was in fact 15 years old. After Hymon ordered Garner to halt, Garner began to climb the fence. Believing that Garner would certainly flee if he made it over the fence, Hymon shot him. The bullet struck Garner in the back of the head, and he died shortly after an ambulance took him to a nearby hospital. Ten dollars and a purse taken from the burglarized house were found on his person.

Hymon acted according to a Tennessee state statute and official Memphis Police Department policy authorizing deadly force against a fleeing suspect. The statute provided that “if, after notice of the intention to arrest the defendant, he either flee or forcibly resist, the officer may use all the necessary means to effect the arrest.”

Garner’s father then brought suit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, naming the City of Memphis, its mayor, the Memphis Police Department, its director, and Officer Hymon as defendants. The District Court found the statute, and Hymon’s actions, to be constitutional. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed. The Court of Appeals held that the killing of a fleeing suspect is a “seizure” for the purposes of the Fourth Amendment, and is therefore constitutional only when it is reasonable. The court then found that based on the facts in this case, the Tennessee statute failed to properly limit the use of deadly force by reference to the seriousness of the felony.

Madrid v. Gomez (1996) – This was a case in 1990 where prisoners at the Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, California filed a class action lawsuit against the California Department of Corrections in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The plaintiffs, represented by the Prison Law Office, alleged that the conditions of their confinement were unconstitutional, and they asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief. Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that the defendants unconstitutionally condoned a pattern and practice of using excessive force against inmates, failed to provide inmates with adequate medical and mental health care, imposed inhumane conditions in the Security Housing Unit, utilized cell-assignment procedures that exposed inmates to an unreasonable risk of assault from other inmates, failed to provide adequate procedural safeguards when segregating the prison gang affiliates in the Security Housing Unit, and failed to provide inmates with adequate access to the courts.

Hudson v McMillian (1992) – The United States Supreme Court decided based on a 7-2 vote that the use of excessive force against a prisoner may constitute “cruel and unusual punishment” even though the inmate does not suffer any serious Injury.

In this case, the Petitioner Hudson, a Louisiana prison inmate, testified that he had suffered minor bruises, facial swelling, loosened teeth, and a cracked dental plate from a beating by prison guards McMillian and Woods, while he was handcuffed and “shackled” following an argument with McMillian. The respondent Mezo, a supervisor on duty, watched the beating, but merely told the officers “not to have too much fun” condoning the unnecessary use of force.

“Training is cheaper than ignorance” Mildred O’linn


Good documentation may be the one thing that saves you in the event of a lawsuit. With the number of incidents and interactions you have each day, years down the road it may be virtually impossible to recall the details of a particular event.

Whether it is medical events, uses of force, unusual circumstances or simply just an effort made to reasonably accommodate, proper documentation is key.

As a mandatory reporter, documentation is also an essential part of your duty and responsibility. It not only represents who you are as a professional (your image), but also reflects your agency and the profession. It is critical to know your policy for documentation, and make quality documentation a priority. It provides a detailed account of the decisions and actions you made, and helps justify and articulate those decisions and actions.



PAINT THE PICTURE and tell the whole story (who, what, when, where, why and how)

As you paint the picture in your documentation, remember to KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE (Judges, Jurys, Attorneys, The Public)

STAY OBJECTIVE – Only document the facts, and don’t allow emotion to come out in your reports. Avoid opinions, and if you use them, label them as such.

Tell the whole story, but keep your report BRIEF AND TO THE POINT. Provide pertinent and relevant information only. This helps keep your report objective.

AVOID SLANG AND JARGON. This goes hand in hand with knowing your audience.

  • Instead of “cuffs” use “handcuffs

  • Instead of “wasted” use “intoxicated

  • Instead of “racked back” use “returned to their cell

  • Instead of “patted down” use “conducted a pat search

In the begging of your report, be sure to IDENTIFY THE DATE, THE APPROXIMATE TIME, THE LOCATION AND THE PERSON TALKING. The opening of the report should include a brief synopsis of who is talking, and what the report is about. Your timeframes should be in approximate time only, as your watch may have said something different than someone else’s.

Write your report in FIRST PERSON, using an ACTIVE VOICE, and keeping it PAST TENSE.

  • “I applied handcuffs on Inmate Anderson and he began to turn towards me.”

  • NOT: “Anderson then turns toward me as I’m applying cuffs.”


  • I applied handcuffs on Inmate Anderson and he began to turn towards me. I told Inmate Anderson to turn and face the wall in front of him until instructed to move, and he complied.”

  • “I conducted a pat search on Inmate Smith, and nothing was found.”

PROOF READ – After you finish writing your report, proof read it, then have someone else proof read it. Another set of eyes may find spelling or grammatical errors you didn’t, or give suggestions for how something may be re-worded. Your report is your report, an accurate record of your actions, however, how it reads may be interpreted differently by someone else.

Make documentation a habit, and document everything. DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT!

  • Uses of force

  • Medical events

  • Unusual behavior or circumstances

  • Threats toward yourself or others

  • Reasonable actions and efforts made to accommodate


When necessary, force is used to safely and effectively control situations, and how we document and articulate the lawful force we used is critical.

HUDSON v MCMILLIAN (1992) is an excessive force case that speaks to excessive force constituting cruel and unusual punishment under the 8th Amendment. However, the 5 pronged HUDSON TEST the courts use to evaluate these cases are still critical to include in any use of force, regardless if convicted or pre-trial.

This 5 pronged test helps the courts determine whether or not your actions were reasonable, necessary and out of good faith; or malicious, unreasonable and unnecessary.


1. P – perceived threat by correctional officers?

2. A – any and all efforts to deescalate?

3. N – need for the application of force?

4. A – amount of force that was used?

5. M – medical issues, and extent of any injuries?

The supervisor who reviews your report is responsible to ensure all 5 elements are clearly identified in your report.

1. Perceived threats – This is where you should identify many of the observable situational factors and Graham factors; primarily the level of resistance and the immediate threat.

2. Attempts to de-escalate – This is where you should articulate all efforts exhausted to try and control the situation without force (verbal commands), as well as identifying how there was no reasonably effective alternatives that appeared to exist.

3. Need for the use of force – This is where you should identify why you did, what you did, when you did it, for as long as you did it; your decision for the use of force based on the totality of circumstances. Your choice for the force option used.

4. Amount of force used – This is where you should articulate the force option you used and how you used it. It should be out of good faith, and consistent with the training you have received at your agency.

5. Medical – This is where you should identify the resolution of the incident in terms of any injuries that occurred to both staff and the inmate, and the medical aid that was provided. Regardless of any observable injuries following the use of force, medical staff should evaluate.

Bottom line is, in order for your force to be lawful, it must be objectively reasonable under the totality of circumstances.

Below is a formula to help you break down a LAWFUL USE OF FORCE and THE TOTALITY OF CIRCUMSTANCES. Credit given to Mildred K. O’Linn.

A lawful use of force (LUOF) must be objectively reasonable (OR) under the totality of the circumstances (TOC)

The more you capture in terms of the totality of circumstances, the less likely you are to be challenged in the court of law. Your report should convince practically any jury that your actions were objectively reasonable under the totality of circumstances. Again, if you didn’t document it, it did not happen.


Along with writing reports, remember proper documentation also speaks to how and what you send via email. Remember that email is public record and disclosable, so stay professional and always use tact.

  • Take extra care when discussing sensitive information.

  • Use proper etiquette

  • Greet the recipient

  • Avoid jargon

  • Use a signature

  • PROOF READ before sending.

Provided by Brandon Anderson