Are police using excessive force against the public illegally and using to much force to get there point across.
There are 1,100 cases per year that have been related to policeman assaulting civilians. There have been cases that have had officers arrested and found guilty for assaulting US citizens. This has been going on for nearly two decades. Most of this started with the riots of Los Angeles in 1992.
There have been cases settled for up to $540,000. There have also been cops sent to prison because of these assaults.The justified use of force: when is force reasonable? The justification of the use of force is the most important determination an officer must make before deciding to use force on a suspect. The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure states “in making an arrest, all reasonable means are permitted to be used to affect it. No greater force however, shall be resorted to than is necessary to secure the arrest and detention of the accused” (“Texas Code of Criminal Procedure”). In general, the use of force is justified when it is necessary to make an arrest, detain a suspect, or to protect an officer or a third party.
In 1995 Attorney General Janet Reno approved a deadly force policy that applied to all law enforcement officers within the Department of Justice. The Department of the Treasury has since adopted the same policy (Hall). The policy states that a “law enforcement officer of the Department of Justice may use deadly force only when necessary, that is, when the officer has a reasonable belief that the subject of such force poses an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to the officer or to another person” (Hall 25).
The amount of force used cannot exceed what a reasonable person would deem necessary to make the arrest, detain the suspect, or protect an officer or third party. The term reasonable, when used to justify the use of force, is sometimes difficult to interpret. As stated in Wansbrough “Police are taught when they are using legal force and when they are using unnecessary illegal force against the public (Wansbrough). A general definition of reasonable in relation to the use of force is any action that a reasonable and prudent person would believe to be necessary to complete the required task.
According to most experienced officers, reasonableness can be easily determined. However, in a civil or criminal case, the officer is not the one that has to determine if the force was reasonable, but rather, the citizens sitting on the jury will be tasked with determining the reasonableness of the force used by the officer. Police officers have to remember that the public perception of what is reasonable is extremely important officer is not the one that has to determine if the force was reasonable, but rather, the citizens sitting on the jury will be tasked with determining the reasonableness of the force used by the officer. Police officers have to remember that the public perception of what is reasonable is extremely important. Once the decision is made by an officer that the use of force is necessary, there is a broad range of force that can be deployed depending on the situation. In the past many police departments chose to use the force continuum method to determine the amount of force required. This force continuum was arranged from the least amount of force to the greatest as follows: mere presence, verbal commands, hands on techniques, impact weapons or oleoresin capsicum (O.C.
) spray, and finally deadly force. However, departments have begun to do away with the term continuum and replace it with the term options. This is partly because the term continuum implies that the officer must always begin with the least amount of force in the continuum and progressively work upward until the actions of the offender are stopped. The problem with this approach is that the blind application of the force continuum from least to greatest without consideration of the specific situation or the sudden escalation of the offender may not be the appropriate response. For instance, if an officer is approached by a suspect armed with a weapon, it is unreasonable to think that the officer should start with mere presence and work his or her way up through the continuum before the option of deadly force is reached while the suspect is trying to cause them serious bodily injury or death. Force options allow the officer to immediately use the option that best suits the situation. Following the force options in the above scenario the officer would immediately use deadly force to handle the situation instead of working their way up the force continuum.Officers when it is appropriate to use force and which options are best suited for Training different situations can only be achieved through training.
Use of force training must be accompanied by clear and concise department policy. The policy must outline when the use of force is permissible, what tools may be used, and what training methods will be used so that the officer is clear about what is expected of them. The training must be twofold: the officer must be trained in how to assess a threat, as well as, how to counter. Training Teaching officers when it is appropriate to use force and which options are best suited for different situations can only be achieved through training. Use of force training must be accompanied by clear and concise department policy. The policy must outline when the use of force is permissible, what tools may be used, and what training methods will be used so that the officer is clear about what is expected of them. Liability is always a major concern for law enforcement agencies, and agency administrators are always looking for ways to shield themselves from liability.
Good policies and procedures, following legal mandates, maximizing performance, and the use of control documentation, help protect the department in the event of a civil suit. Here a policy is defined as “a definite course or method of action to guide and determine present and future decisions or a guide to decision making under a given set of circumstances within the framework of corporate objectives, goals, and management philosophies” (Kinnaird 202); a procedure is often defined as “a particular or consistent way of doing something” (203). Although both policies and procedures hold the department accountable for their actions, policies tend to be considered more legally significant (Kinnaird).
For example, if an officer fails to follow a departmental policy, the officer and the department can be held civilly and criminally liable. However, if the same officer violates a given procedure, that violation may or may not hurt the officer.Why are officers reluctant to use deadly force? Every officer knows there is always the possibility he or she will have to use deadly force during the course of their duties.
Most officers go through their entire career and never have to use deadly force. However, some officers are faced with life threatening situations where the only answer is the use of deadly force to protect themselves or someone else. Some officers are reluctant to use deadly force when their life is threatened. Reasons for this reluctance have been studied at length. We now know that these behaviors can be changed through training.
Studies of combat concluded there is an innate reluctance among human beings to take the life of another human (Williams). Research conducted by the U.S. Army shows that only 15% to 20% of military soldiers fired their weapons at exposed enemy soldiers (Williams). Most soldiers feared having to kill an enemy soldier more than they feared being injured or killed themselves. Some who refused to fire on the enemy would still expose themselves to enemy fire to save another soldier, however they would not participate in taking another’s life. By changing their training methods, the U.
S. military increased the number of soldiers who would actively participate in combat to more than 95%.How do we change the officer’s reluctance to use deadly force? The military used the Pavlovian and operant conditioning methods to effectively change the behavior of their soldiers during combat (Williams).
Law enforcement uses the same methods to condition their officers to overcome their natural reluctance to use deadly force (Williams). In a law enforcement setting, conditioning of officers begins early in their training. Desensitization techniques are used to dehumanize suspects. Instructors refer to suspects as “dirtbags” or other derogatory terms conditioning officers to think of suspects as less than human, giving their life less meaning. The reward for officers in training was respect from their commanding officers and more experienced colleagues (Williams).
Although this type of conditioning may not always be intentional it is necessary for officers to become able to use force. In fact, without desensitization officers may not be able to use any type of force that might cause injury to another human being (Williams). Law enforcement agencies also use a technique referred to as operant conditioning (Williams).This technique reprograms the officer’s reflexes to provide the correct response in a given situation. In the use of force instruction we refer to this as building muscle memory. Through repetition the body begins to react properly to the situation.
Whatever technique being taught becomes instinctual. These repetitive responses are stored in the midbrain. The midbrain is the primitive area of the brain and is capable of only one of two responses, fight or flight. Once the officer is conditioned to the desired response, it simply becomes a matter of stimulus-response or threatfire (Williams).To police officers, use of force is a necessary part of the job. No officer knows if or when the use of force must be applied until the situation presents itself.
Preparing the officers through training in department policy and procedures and classroom instruction and practical training in the use of force reduces criminal and civil liability on the officer and department in use of force cases. Maximizing performance and utilizing legal mandates can prepare officers to use force appropriately. Control documentation allows a department to determine if an officer is engaging in misconduct early so that the behavior can be corrected through re-training, counseling, or disciplinary action.
Police cannot avoid not using force. It is when lives are lost because police use the force in unnecessary or at the wrong time..By following these principles law enforcement agencies can protect themselves and their officers from the many problems that can arise from the use of force. As long as agencies strive to prepare their officers for incidents involving the use of force, the amount of civil and criminal liability will decline.
It will also begin to sway the public’s opinion of officers in relation to the use of force.