Oakland Police Department

Use of Force


The Oakland Police Department policy defines force as any physical or mechanical intervention used by officers to defend against, control, overpower, restrain, or overcome the resistance of an individual.  The OPD recognizes the impact force can have on subjects of force and witnesses to force, which is why force incidents are reviewed at multiple levels to ensure the force was appropriate and complied with policy. 

Use of Force Levels

Force is categorized into four levels based on seriousness. 
  • Level 1 uses of force are the most serious and include any use of force resulting in death, a substantial risk of causing death, or bodily injury.  Level 1 uses of force are investigated at the highest level and ultimately reviewed by an Executive Force Review Board.
  • Level 2 uses of force include any use of force resulting in an injury that requires treatment in a hospital or medical facility beyond what is required by basic first aid; personal weapon strikes to the head of a restrained individual; police canine bites; and certain Level 3 uses of force on a restrained individual.  Level 2 uses of force are investigated and ultimately reviewed by a Force Review Board.
  • Level 3 uses of force include the use of pepper spray or another chemical agent; an Electronic Control Weapon (Taser); a baton or any impact weapon; and weaponless defense techniques (i.e. hand/palm/elbow strikes, kicks, leg sweeps, and takedowns).  Level 3 uses of force are investigated and reviewed by the chain of command, up to a Captain.
  • Level 4 uses of force include the intentional pointing of a firearm and weaponless defense techniques.  Level 4 uses of force are reported and reviewed by the  chain of command, up to a Lieutenant.
Each force level is broken down into specific force types (i.e., pointing of a firearm, pepper spray, police canine bite, etc.).  The OPD tracks use of force data by the incident, officer, subject of force, level of force, and type of force.  While OPD calculates force numbers in multiple ways depending on the purpose, the charts presented on this page and in the dashboard are focused on subjects of force.  Therefore, total force counts are calculated based on the number of subjects upon whom force was used.  It is important to note that some subjects may have more than one force type used on them by one or multiple officers; however, for this purpose, each subject will only be counted once per incident. 
Due to the way subjects are categorized and tracked in the main use of force system, subjects of force in the same incident whose identity is "unknown" are not able to be individually tracked.  This is most common in crowd control incidents where officers use force to protect themselves but, due to crowd size or temperament, are unable to arrest the person force was used against.  In these cases, there may be numerous unknown persons who have force used against them, but those persons are not counted as separate force subjects.
At the beginning of 2020, OPD updated its force policy to clarify and recategorize/add force types.  The policy changes resulted in a sharp increase in reported uses of force starting on February 15, 2020.  Due to the potential impact on public safety with the increased administrative burden of reporting and documenting such a significant increase in numbers of force, the policy was adjusted on February 27, 2020 to change reporting requirements for a new force type that was driving the spike in force numbers.  The new force type, which is any force used to overcome resistance not captured in any other force type (i.e., pushing an individual's leg into a police vehicle, carrying a non-compliant individual, holding down an individual who is trying to get off a medical gurney, etc.), is still required to be documented, but is not subject to the other Level 4 reporting requirements.

Where did it happen?

What's the trend?

The charts displaying race, gender, and age data calculate totals based on the number of individuals upon whom force was used in each incident, regardless of the number of officers using force or the number of Force Types used.

Use of Force and Race