Five Essentials to an Effective Arrest

Officers should follow the practices of S2P3: situational awareness, self-control, presence, positioning, and prevention.

The walk-over take-down technique from MARC training demonstrates the elements of S2P3.The walk-over take-down technique from MARC training demonstrates the elements of S2P3.Photo: Michael Kamorski

In today's time and resource-constrained environment, it's more important than ever to provide new part-time police officers with efficient and effective training in the mechanics of arrest, restraint, and control (MARC). Full-time law enforcement officers in Maine must also be proficient in these same techniques. In Maine, all full-time law enforcement professionals are required to attend the Maine Criminal Justice Academy for 18 weeks to be certified.

In addition, individuals interested in becoming reserve police officers must successfully complete the Maine Criminal Justice Academy's (MCJA) sponsored Law Enforcement Pre-Service (LEPS) training program. A critical portion of this training program is the 22-hour hands-on MARC training conducted by certified MCJA instructors. LEPS students, many of whom have no experience in confronting or controlling people, will often be on patrol with law enforcement agencies all over the state of Maine within days of completing this program.

Every minute of this MARC training is critical to these new part-time police officers' safety and effectiveness as they begin interacting with the public.

An effective arrest involves both tactical and strategic techniques and procedures. Learning how to execute effective holds, blocks, and strikes is a vital tactical element of MARC training. Beyond tactics, new and full-time law enforcement professionals must have a thorough understanding of how to approach public encounters from a strategic perspective.

Whenever working with the public, law enforcement professionals should first try to de-escalate the situation. An authoritative presence, clear command voice, and professional demeanor can oftentimes gain control of an escalating situation without the need to apply physical force. Unfortunately, there will be times when the use of physical force is necessary. Regardless of the scenario, law enforcement professionals should observe these five essential practices. We refer to these essentials as S2P3:

• Situational Awareness

• Self-control

• Presence

• Positioning

• Prevention

Situational Awareness

Situational Awareness involves the constant collection of information as it applies to the scenario at hand. From the initial call or observation, to the final act that terminates the scenario, being laser-focused on all that is going on and everyone around you is critical. In the military, this is referred to as the OODA loop – Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. The key to applying the OODA loop is to make your loop faster than that of those you are trying to control. Situational awareness is both strategic and tactical. It applies to pre-departure briefings as much as it does to the physical use of force. Additionally, proper situational awareness can assist officers in applying effective, situational self-control.


Self-control, much like situational awareness, is the constant application of discipline in all scenarios. Some strategic elements of self-control include maintaining a professional attitude regardless of the circumstance, and knowing when (and when not) to self-deploy in multi-agency response scenarios. Self-control includes a distinct command voice, controlled breathing, and radio discipline.

Ray Bessette, Husson University's director of security and retired Maine State Police lieutenant colonel, has seen the challenges self-deployment can create when there is a multi-agency response and clear lines of communication haven't been established. Self-deployment in these instances has the potential to disrupt the situation and/or de-escalation efforts already in process.

According to Bessette, "Advances in communications technology and speed have created an environment where law enforcement officers have real-time information available to them from a variety of sources. It's critical that agency leadership develop comprehensive policies or procedures to account for the challenges created when officers from external agencies self-deploy, with the best of intentions, and insert themselves into an ongoing situation. Having the self-control and discipline to first slow down, determine who is in command, and obtain additional information—prior to taking action—is a critical component of a successful outcome."

On a tactical level, self-control allows officers the ability to identify and use the minimum amount of physical force needed to effect an arrest or safely resolve each individual situation. Self-control also clearly demonstrates that the goal of an arrest is to control, and not punish, while allowing for a professional officer presence.


Presence, when applied properly, can sometimes help an officer contain a situation, or at the very least, help begin the de-escalation process. Presence begins immediately when the officer arrives on the scene and continues through situation resolution. Officer presence includes one's physical appearance, such as their uniform, physique, weapons, posture, movement, and more. In addition, presence also includes an officer's behavior. Officers who arrive on-scene and take immediate command of a situation display an obvious presence of authority and control. Likewise, officers who are able to remain professional—even with individuals who are disrespectful, non-compliant, and resistive—project an image that can have a calming effect on observers who might otherwise choose to escalate the situation. A professional presence places officers in a position to better control the situation at hand.


Positioning includes both physical and mental elements. It flows directly from proper situational awareness, self-control, and presence. Proper positioning establishes distance and separation as needed to situationally engage or disengage with individuals. It also allows officers to conduct a threat assessment should engagement become necessary. Sometimes individuals display body language indicators before they attack, including clenched fists, short breaths, and lowering the body. A properly trained and positioned officer should be able to detect these indicators. Positioning also means that students are aware of various subjective elements. These include being mentally prepared to respond to a variety of scenarios, and cultivating a "fight to win" attitude, always from the position of preventing unnecessary harm.

Prevention of Harm

Prevention of harm is another arrest element that law enforcement professionals should always keep in the back of their minds in all use-of-force scenarios. The use of force is unique in many ways. For example, use-of-force scenarios with members of the military include permanent incapacitation techniques, sometimes resulting in death. Conversely, law enforcement arrest and control techniques focus on using the least amount of force necessary to control an individual. The goal is to ensure that the outcome results in the least amount of harm to the public, the officer, and the suspect.

This concept of harm prevention has always been important in law enforcement, but has become increasingly more important in today's culture of instant, viral media coverage that frequently records and broadcasts selective segments of use-of-force scenarios that fail to show the totality of circumstances involved.

MARC training is designed to teach use-of-force concepts under a diverse set of circumstances. The S2P3 model is an effective tool for helping both new and experienced professionals remember the totality of circumstances involved with use of force.

Michael Kamorski, EdD, is an assistant professor in the criminal justice program at Husson University's School of Legal Studies. Kamorski is a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel who served in Afghanistan. To learn more about Husson University's criminal justice programs, visit

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