It seems that most weeks we read stories covered in the media reporting on issues around the use or misuse of force for all manner of reasons. While it is not our place or intention to pass any kind of judgment on the rights or wrongs of application of force it is an issue that will usually generate some lively discussion in Mandt System classes as well as in classes led by instructors back at their centers of employment. Part of the reason for the lively discussion derives from the differing local, state or provincial, federal & international guidance that are considered in defense of individual actions. It seems that we are usually looking for the trump card to defend our actions in any given situation.

Determining legality of individual actions is a role for the legal and court system not the Mandt System. Determining the position of organizational behavior sits with employing organizations. Communication of such should be clear from defined policies and procedures. It is critical that the organization’s policies and procedures be consistent with applicable regulations, rules and standards and that the organization emphasize prevention prior to use of force. Our role in The Mandt System (see chapter six of RCT curriculum) simply covers information to increase awareness on legal and liability issues as they relate to individual actions, organizational actions and the use of restraint.

So when the debate gets lively around the use of force what are some of the key messages that are worth us focusing on?

• First an understanding of our relationship basis with the individuals we serve. In most cases this is based upon a ‘Duty of Care’ concept derived from the notion of “nonmaleficence” which in turn derives from the ancient maxim primum non nocere, which, translated from the Latin, means “first, do no harm.” Setting forth this position as a starting point gives us a good foundation to reference back to as we look at the use of force continuum of responses.

The next thing to consider is the legal framework under which we operate. The rules about “use of force” (also known as “continuum of force) are different in different settings. The legal framework of a public school, for instance, is different from that of a school imbedded in a juvenile justice center. Knowing the legal framework for the use of force in your organization is very important.

• A secondary message worth considering is this, “Any application of force, from one person to another, without consent or lawful excuse may be an assault” The obvious question that falls from this statement is – to what extent do our organizational policies and procedures define the application of force without consent and what protections are in place to support staff and service users from abuse or malicious allegation therein?

• The final key consideration is this, a person will only be justified in the use of force if he or she has a genuine and honestly held belief that there is immediate danger which justifies the force being used and the force used is reasonable on the basis of that belief. Necessary, reasonable & proportionate are the critical components here.

So while the above may help to give shape and structure to those lively discussions in class it is no substitute for the provision of appropriate policy and individual user specific plans.

Mandt Director of Communications

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