TRACED - use of force
Taken from Police One
In a previous article, I presented the acronym TRACED as a tool to assist in the articulation and documentation of any use of force. As a reminder, TRACED stands for Threat, Resistance, Active, Crime, Escape/Evasion, and Damage. Threat refers to the level of danger presented by the suspect and the environment. Resistance refers to whether the suspect is presenting passive, active, assaultive, or a deadly level of resistance.
Remember, deadly force is that force that presents a substantial risk of death or great bodily injury. The term active serves as a reminder to describe whether the situation is “tense and rapidly evolving,” or if it is more static in nature thus providing time to deliberate between force options. The crime, while self-explanatory, is important as courts consider whether a felony or misdemeanor has been committed, and if the crime is one of violence. Escape is one of the primary components of force evaluation as delineated by the landmark Graham v. Connor case. Finally, at least in the 9th circuit, before deploying a TASER in dart mode officers should, when possible, consider secondary injuries to the suspect.
In this article, we will discuss a means of describing the threat posed by an individual using an acronym borrowed and adapted from the health care community for evaluation of psychiatric patients. This acronym is MAPS For law enforcement purposes, MAPS defines a subject’s threat potential as Mental state, Appearance, Physical actions, and Speech.
Just a few of the mental states of those with whom we become involved in force encounters include anger, depression, fear, disorientation or confusion, subjects may be defensive, argumentative or evasive, paranoid, or delusional. As in all force documentation, it is important to go beyond a simple characterization of an individual’s demeanor. While most of us understand what it means when we describe an individual as agitated or about to lose control, remember that we are going to be grilled by an opposing attorney in court as to specifics.
If these specifics are not in the police report and we testify exclusively from memory, our credibility may be called into question. We will use the other sections of the MAPS model to assist in an accurate portrayal of the subject.
Appearance is a detailed suspect description that assists in depicting the threat and justifying the use of force. What is the suspect’s height and weight, and how does that compare to the officer? If the suspect is muscular be sure to document that fact. Does the subject have any prison or other tattoos associated with gang, supremacist, or separatist groups? Does he have the tell-tale “cauliflower” ears of an experienced grappler? What is the ratio of subjects to officers? Describe the suspect’s clothing and its potential to conceal weapons. Include weapons or items in his possession that could be used as weapons such as bags, books, pens, umbrellas, bottles, cans, newspapers, or magazines, and matches or cigarettes. Homeless individuals often wear multiple layers of clothing and carry makeshift weapons to protect themselves against street robberies.
Appearance includes sympathetic nervous system responses such as profuse sweating, or perhaps the suspect had a red and flushed face. Looking closely we may see the suspect’s veins bulging, and perhaps we can actually see a pulse in his forehead or neck. Describe the suspect’s eyes. Are they dilated or constricted? Is he looking around rapidly, or perhaps “target glancing” towards the tools on your belt? Does he have that “1000 yard” stare? Are his eyebrows up (fright) or down (anger)? Pay attention to his blink rate. Generally, the more anxious an individual is, the more he blinks. How about the jaw? Is he clenching his teeth? If his chin is raised above a normal position he may be challenging you. If it is lowered, he may be about to attack. Pay close attention to the muscles around the mouth. How about the throat? He may be swallowing excessively or stretching his neck. Finally, yawning can be a signal of anxiety and anticipation (see Apollo Ono before a speed skating event.)