This module is a resource for lecturers   


Guidelines to develop a stand-alone course


This Module provides an outline for a three-hour class, but there is potential to develop the topic further into a stand-alone course. The scope of such a course will be determined by the specific needs of each context, but a possible structure is presented here as a suggestion.



Brief description

Week 1


Structure a lesson that encourages students to reflect on the aims of law enforcement and develop an understanding as to why use of force may be necessary in law enforcement.

An overview of the various contexts in which use of force is used (regional, national, and local factors that impact on the use of force).

Deliver Exercise One.

Week 2

The international legal framework governing the use of force for the purpose of law enforcement

Structure a lesson that explores the limits and stringent tests that apply to the use of force in the context of law enforcement, with a particular emphasis on the provisions of the 1979 Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the 1990 Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.

Deliver PowerPoint presentation on the General Principles on Police Use of Force.

Deliver Exercise Three.

Week 3

The use of firearms and less-lethal weapons

Structure a lesson that examines the specific rules governing the police use of firearms - and delve into the issues associated with less-lethal weapons (such as tasers).

Deliver PowerPoint presentation on the Rules Governing Police Use of Firearms.

Screen the following videos and engage students in an analysis of the extent to which the actions comply with the international standards and norms on the use of force in the context of law enforcement: 

Deliver Exercise Four.

Week 4

Human Rights and the use of force

Structure a lesson that reflects on the aims of law enforcement, and the human rights principles of right to life; the prohibition against torture; and equal human dignity.

Key conventions include:

Deliver Exercises Two and Five.

Week 5

Protection of especially vulnerable groups

Building on the materials presented in Topic Six, this session could draw on international human rights law that proscribes discrimination on any grounds. Key instruments include:

Key points include:

Week 6

Policing public assemblies

Drawing on topic seven, lecturers could use this lesson as an opportunity to explore the complexities of policing public assemblies.

Encourage advanced students to analyse the relevant case law from the ECtHR - class discussion can focus on the complexities that these cases engage.

Deliver Exercise Seven.

Week 7

Private security and the use of force and firearms

Some countries rely heavily on private security firms to undertake functions that would otherwise be handled by police. In the context of the growth of the private security sector, this lesson explores the need for regulation on a range of issues, including the use of force.

Drawing on pages 43-46 of the following UNODC Handbook, structure a class that examines the importance of regulating the use of force by private security actors: State Regulation Concerning Civilian Private Security Services and their Contribution to Crime Prevention and Community Safety

Week 8

Use of force in custodial settings

Specific rules govern the use of force in prisons and other custodial settings. These are set out, inter alia, in the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules). There are also specific duties to investigate when a death or injury occurs. Lecturers might consider engaging students in scenario-based exercises (such as role plays) about the use of force in prisons.

Deliver Exercise Six, which is on Accountability - an issue of direct relevance to the use of force in custodial settings.

Week 9

Course wrap-up

At an earlier point in the course, students (or small groups) could each be assigned a country and be tasked that they undertake research about the relevant law, and practice on use of force in the context of policing. The Law on Police Use of Force Worldwide website will be particularly helpful here. Selected students (or student groups) could be invited to present their findings to the class, in the final session, to demonstrate their ability to apply their knowledge to various national settings.


Back to top