Friday, June 01, 2007

MCMAP Continuum of Force - Overview

This begins a series on the concept and application of something called the "Continuum of Force." This isn't related to, or applicable to Star Wars, so save your Yoda references! In particular, we're going to cover the US Marine Corps' MCMAP Continuum.

Before we begin, I think we need to define some terms:

MCMAP says that, "The continuum of force is the concept that there is a wide range of possible actions, ranging from verbal commands to application of deadly force, which may be used to gain and maintain control of a potentially dangerous situation."

"Deadly force is that force which a person uses with the purpose of causing death or serious bodily harm or which a reasonable and prudent person would consider likely to create a substantial risk of causing death or serious bodily harm. Deadly force is only employed as a last resort, and only after all lesser means of force have failed to produce the intended result, or when circumstances prevent the use of lesser means."

When do you employ lethal force? Should you strike, throw, or apply submission skills first? What about multiple opponents? What if you opponent has a weapon? That's where a principle commonly known as the "continuum of force" is employed. It's widely known that civilian police officers and other law enforcement have to only apply the amount, and appropriate type, of force needed for a particular scenario. In fact, most of the time when we hear about abuse at the hands of law enforcement is when an officer has somehow given the impression of exceeding the amount or type of force necessary. That's when the cameras come on and the law suits start to fly. All policies such as this attempt to answer the questions of what amount of force should be used, and when. Further, these concepts also define the escalation of threats to the soldier, officer, or security personnel.

The military is now often involved in lower-level hostilities among a civilian populace, or is forced to operate in an urban environment more than in the past, and are thus constantly in contact with subjects who may be civilians, or possible combatants. Thus the need for a military continuum.

Us "pure" civilians, not in law enforcement, corrections, security, or the military also need a continuum, but for different reasons - possible criminal or civil liability may arise if the use, or perception of improper use of force, is witnessed by bystanders, or we are accused of such by our attackers.

MCMAP's Approach to the Use of Force:
"Marines must always walk the high road. Challenges will ensue and threats can follow, but the Marine holds the moral high ground and uses force responsibly. In order to act responsibly, the Marine must understand and possess the knowledge and skills required to handle the situation appropriately, without escalating the violence unnecessarily."

The Continuum of Force is broken into five levels. Each level corresponds to the behavior of the person involved and the actions the Marine can take to handle the situation. Martial Arts techniques make up the actions the Marine can take in levels three, four, and five.


1. Compliant (Cooperative): Verbal Commands

2. Resistant (Passive): Contact Controls

3. Resistant (Active): Compliance Techniques*

4. Assaultive (Bodily Harm): Defensive Tactics*

5. Assaultive (Serious Bodily Harm/Death): Deadly Force*

* Martial Arts techniques

NEXT: Level One - Compliant subjects

Convocation Forum Thread here.

1 comment:

Bob Patterson said...

When I was with the Ne. Dept. of Corrections our continuum went like this:

1. Verbal commands

2. Soft empty hand
(guide, hold, pick up, restrain, some pressure points)

3. Hard empty hand
(strikes, kicks, punches, take-downs, holds, locks, pressure points)

4. Lethal force

However, that was over 10 years ago and now I'm in the book game.


So the rules could have changed.

Regardless, we were taught to only use the appropriate level of force needed to resolve the situation.

That usually meant meeting the resistance with the same level. In some instances you had to exceed the resistance by 1 on the scale. e.g., someone did not step back from a line after a verbal command, you could grab their arm and pull them back. If they resisted passively you could pick them up. If they resisted actively (punches, etc.) you could meet them with the same. If it got to the point where your life was threatened you could use lethal force.

If they had a shank or some sort of weapon, all bets were off!

For the martial artist the rules and standards are different. It also depends on which state you live in. Probably the best advice is to avoid conflict at all costs. (last option)

The reality is you will get sued.