If you tell them, they will know….”You’re Under Arrest!”
Over the past 20 years, defensive tactics have come a long way. Incorporating real world statistics and video footage of attacks on LEOs, instructors have changed the way LEOs respond to threats. Encouraging LEOs to close the gap to control a physical confrontation, recognizing that every confrontation is an armed confrontation due to the high number of LEOs who are disarmed and using an appropriate level of force immediately are all techniques that have kept LEOs safe and prevented many situations from escalating.
As part of this trend, instructors have taught LEOs to give verbal commands during physical confrontations. The goal is to make it clear to the suspect exactly what you want them to do. This also has the effect of helping to coordinate the efforts of several LEOs as they work together to secure a suspect without unnecessary injury. From high risk traffic stops to passively resisting suspects during misdemeanor arrests, communicating with the suspect has become a common occurrence in law enforcement.”Stop resisting,” “Give me your hand” and “Turn on your stomach” are commands that communicate exactly what is expected of a suspect.
As we all know, there is another benefit to giving loud verbal commands and instructions. If the encounter is observed by witnesses or recorded on video, observers will be able to relate that the LEOs were being professional and continuing to make it clear to the suspect exactly what was expected of him. I would like to suggest that LEOs add another phrase to their training, “You’re under arrest!”
In any situation, initial or continued resistance constitutes a criminal act. By communicating to the suspect that he is under arrest, he can no longer justify resisting on the grounds that he was not aware that the LEOs were in fact officers. Further, resistance after being advised he is under arrest will justifiably lead to further charges.
In my experience, the public, namely jurors, will support a LEO who is effecting an arrest. However, in many of the videos I see, LEOs do not tell the suspect he is under arrest. This is especially true when the LEO is attacked. This can lead to allegations that the suspect was confused about what was happening. So, make it clear and tell the suspect, “You’re under arrest!”
The last step is to properly document the events in your incident report. Document that you told the suspect he was under arrest as well as the probable cause for the charges such as simple battery, obstruction of a LEO, assault, etc. Make it clear to anyone reviewing your actions that the suspect was not only told to comply and what you wanted him to do, he was also told that he was under arrest early in the confrontation. This will also make for powerful testimony at trial.
I remember when our county jail installed a huge sign in the intake area. It simply said, “You are in jail.” While this should not have been a revelation to any suspect after being told he was under arrest and taking a ride in the back of a patrol car while wearing handcuffs, some folks were genuinely surprised to learn this was the intended destination all along. Go figure. Perhaps they thought we were heading to the ball game.