Police Brutality:Why Does It Happen and How Does It Happen?

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Police brutality, where does it happen, why does it happen and how does it happen? Well these are some of the questions you can ask yourself. Most of the time police officers are trying to enforce the laws of the land. But we typically have those who do not want to follow the rules and therefore police are forced with using excessive force in some of their situations. But the use of force can be questioned in many ways. The 4th Amendment forbids “unreasonable search and seizures”, with a “seizure” being the use of unreasonable force. Then with the offender often being arrested and incarcerated they have the 8th amendment that protects them from cruel and unusual punishment. But should someone be accustomed to being assaulted by a police officer just because? No. But this does not stop people from doing what they feel is necessary and breaking the laws. What type of person commits police brutality and why does it happen? Well, police brutality is done by a few rogue cops or bad apples.

Or it can be police officers whom like to inflict pain to those because of their feelings on the issue. This happens because there is no order in some of the departments. At least that is what I believe. “Police work is likely to attract at least some individuals who enjoy bullying others or join the force with the intention of exploiting special opportunities to enrich them”. Officers are also very likely to internalize powerful sub cultural norms, a main one being loyalty to other officers. There is also a lack of procedure for handling excessive force complaints against officers. The need to use force is one of the most demanding and critical decisions that a law enforcement officer must make. They may include other “non-deadly” protective instruments, like expendable batons, OC sprays, and flashlights, or any other means that can be used by an officer. With the media and issues in public that constantly scrutinizes police officers, television shows always often portray excessive uses of force and in most cases they do not show the incidents that lead up to that matter. Widespread media attention to these events unfortunately conveys the impression that rates the use of force, or excessive use of force, at a rate that is much higher than what actually occurs. “While police force is rare, various definitions and measures of force prevent researchers from definitively identifying the frequency of events that may be defined as justified or excessive.” Cothran Police enforce social order through the legitimized use of force or in other words levels of force.

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The levels of force police use include basic verbal and physical restraint, less-lethal force and lethal force. Officers should use only the amount of force necessary to control an incident, affect an arrest, or protect themselves or others from harm or death. Police officers have to receive guidance from their individual agencies, but they have no universal set of rules that governs to tell when officers should use force and how much they can and are limited to. The level of force an officer uses will vary based on the situation. But because ecause of this variation, guidelines for the use of force are based on many factors, including: The police department’s experience.

Federal and state mandates.
Available law enforcement technologies.
The complex relationships that may exist between the police and citizens in a given jurisdiction. Most law enforcement agencies have a policy that guides them in their use of force. These policies describe a series of actions that an officer can take to resolve a situation. Within this policy there are many levels, and officers have been instructed to respond with the level of force appropriate to any of the situations at hand. 1. Officer Presence — No force is used. Considered the best way to resolve a situation. 2. Verbalization — Force is not-physical.

3. Empty-Hand Control — Officers use bodily force to gain control of a situation. 4. Less-Lethal Methods — Officers use less-lethal technologies to gain control of a situation. 5. Lethal Force — Officers use lethal weapons to gain control of a situation. Should only be used if a suspect poses a serious threat to the officer or another individual. Montgomery County uses four of these levels. Communication and/or presence, Physical force, Protective instruments as weapons, and of course deadly force. They also follow a list of Authorized uses of deadly force which they define as: 1. Defense of self or another- Officers may use deadly force to defend themselves, or another person from what they have reasonable cause to perceive as immediate threat of death or serious physical injury. 2. Fleeing felon- Use of deadly force to apprehend a fleeing felon when: a. Probable cause to believe the crime committed was a felony of a violent type, the person fleeing committed the crime, or person fleeing escaped while being held in legal custody and a suspect in a felony of a violent type; b. And failure to immediately apprehend the person may place an officer, or other officer/ law enforcers and the public in immediate danger, death or serious injury. In the MCP37, a handbook memorandum, they have a “use of force report,” that shows officers must write this report: 1. Anytime force is used to counteract a physical struggle.

2. Following use of any force which results in an injury to an individual. 3. When the individual claims an injury as a result of the amount of force used. 4. Whenever force is applied by the use of a protective instrument. 5. Whenever a firearm is discharged other than at an authorized target practice. 6. Whenever a department canine inflicts injury to any subject. This form must be filled out at the end of a tour of duty regardless if the officer is injured and/or hospitalized. This form is only used administratively to evaluate the use of force in the department, department wide. When dealing with dangerous— or unpredictable— situations, police officers usually have very little time to assess it and determine the proper response. In my opinion, sometimes is the wrong choice. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has stated that “…in diffusing situations, apprehending alleged criminals, and protecting themselves and others, officers are legally entitled to use appropriate means, including force.” To some people, though, the mere presence of a police officer can be intimidating and seen as use of force. And I agree.

Only because I have experienced first-hand how some officers in the community don’t care. They just want to show that they have the authority to do whatever they want when they want and how they want. One day I came home and of course there is to be no loitering in the area. An unmarked police car pulled up and before the young man could even get his son off the ground from falling off a bike, he was pointed out and thrown to the ground. Why? He was in front of the building, and he matched the clothing description of someone who was assaulted hours earlier in the day. This also happened to someone who just stopped to tie their shoes. Why does this happen in the community?? No one knows. It just happens. The use of force in making an arrest, now that can be justified on some instances though. Although the criminal laws states that “Force may not be used legally in making an arrest unless the arrest is a lawful, custodial arrest can be made in good faith.” Meaning, that probable cause must exist to authorize the arrest otherwise it would be unjust. The only time force can be justifiable is in situations when a suspect resists arrest or attempts to escape. An officer can use force as reasonably believed necessary to 1: detain the offender, make the arrest, and conduct lawful searches, 2: Overcome any resistance by the offender, 3: prevent an escape and retake the person if an escape occurs, 4: protect the officer others and the prisoner, if necessary.

Determining whether the force used to affect a particular seizure is “reasonable” is another thing. But under the 4th amendment which requires a careful balancing of “the nature and quality of the intrusion on the individual’s 4th amendment interests.” sometimes is hard to prove. An unreasonable seizure would insure “deadly force” simply by stating that deadly force may never be used to make the arrest of or to prevent the escape of a person, whom has committed a misdemeanor, and cannot be used on mere suspicion and never be used by officers to arrest or prevent the escape of person who has committed a nonviolent felony. Take the Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1 (1985). This was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that under the Fourth Amendment, when a law enforcement officer is pursuing a fleeing suspect, he or she may use deadly force only to prevent escape, if the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.

In this case a young man was fleeing (garner) an area assumed by the arriving police officers that he was the person of interest or the person who broke in to the house. He was unarmed and made no threat to the police officer only so that he was about to get away. So the police officer shot and killed him as he turned to jump a gate that he came to. His father then brought the case up to a Supreme Court staying that the shooting was not called for. So In this case a majority opinion came into play. Where Justice White wrote more on the majority side to say this, “The use of deadly force against a subject is the most intrusive type of seizure possible, because it deprives the suspect of his life. White also held that the state failed to present evidence that its interest in shooting the unarmed fleeing suspects outweighs the suspect’s interest in his own survival.” He also felt that with the Sixth Circuit’s determination that apprehension by use of deadly force is a seizure, then framing the legal issue as whether the totality of the circumstances justified the seizure. In order to determine the constitutionality of a seizure, and that the court must weigh the nature of the intrusion of the suspect’s Fourth Amendment rights against the governments interests which must justify the intrusion.

On case in particular that a lot of people know of is the Rodney King case. Where, in this case King was beaten as a result of resisting arrest, when he wasn’t. King was just trying to get himself together after being pulled over for speeding. He was also drinking and driving and did not want to violate his parole. This case made headlines because a neighbor was looking out of the window and saw all the commotion and recorded the incident. My personal view on this issue is how some police officers take the authority figure role out of context, and take it for granted. I’ve seen friends of mines harassed by officers for no apparent reason, or because of the type of car they drive. It has happened to me as well. If the agencies try and change how they recruit, and train the new officers, there probably won’t be as many issues as there are today in reference to the excessive force. Although, they mean no harm with the community policing, it does not always work in the community, especially in the areas of very high crime rates. In, “Police Brutality- Opposing viewpoint: it states that community policing turns participating civilians and institutions into paramilitary forces that are used to oppress the very people who most need protection.” This just confirms how those who participate in community policing can often be turned on by the police and the fellow community for their efforts in keeping the community safe.

This in turn makes the neighbors reluctant in calling the police when something suspicious is happening in the area. Only in turn to be looked at as a suspect of the crime themselves amongst their fellow peers. Thus stating that community policing will give the police more ability to use crime against the people, enabling them to direct it against people who oppose them and spare the ones who cooperate. One case that has caught my eye was a case of Michael Bell v. City of Kenosha. In this case, Mr. Bell was unlawfully stopped, handcuffed, beat and then shot and killed in his driveway. The dash cam shows him just driving down his street, and then the officer getting into his cruiser to pursue him. A moment later, it shows the officer exiting his vehicle and telling Mr. Bell to” get back in the vehicle”. And then the video stops there. But the police do not. They say he was “actively resisting”, but he was just “passively resisting”. Basically, refusing to comply with a directive from a law enforcement officer but does not attempt to engage in physical action likely to cause bodily harm to the officer or to another person. After he was handcuffed one of the officers used a Taser on him.

This act was unlawful because in a memo that was just enforced on August 10, 2004, just prior to this arrest, officers were not authorized to use a Taser anytime a suspect did any of the following: When, during the arrest process the subject simply pulls away from or is not cooperating with an officer. When a subject is passively resisting an officer-running away without an articulable threat of harm. When a subject is resisting but does not have the ability to harm the officer or another person. But even with this case and having it reviewed by other officers. They felt that everything the officers did was done so in a just matter. And that what they used as force, was in fact necessary. If you were to read it and look at the video then you may think of it as being unjust. I know I did.

But as much as this world has transpired to be, you can never underestimate what the next person will or can do to harm you. I feel that some of the force that police use is used because they would have to subdue a suspect accordingly but the unnecessary force is another subject on its own. With how the courts are now changing how force can and cannot be used and which force is necessary you cannot pinpoint at which it is too much. Just like if a parent wanted to discipline their kids they would have to think twice as in doing so just for the simple fact that using a belt or leaving a mark is unjust and a form of child abuse. The definition of child abuse has changed. Right along with the definition of police force. Some say that this is also because there is a lack of female officers. “Across many cultures women police officers use force less frequently than their male counterparts….. And are more likely than male officers to diffuse potentially violent situations.” Stating that in a national and international poll, research shows conclusively that increasing numbers of women on police departments measurably reduces police violence and improves the effectiveness and service to communities. Women also respond more effectively than their male counterparts to violence against women. So with that being said, don’t you think that they should try and get more female officers to work on the force?? I would think so. But the majority of women would not because of how dangerous the job can be.

Works Cited
(n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/default.asp?Item=1374 Alpert, G. a. (2004). Understanding Police Use of Force: Officers, Suspects, and Reciprocity. New York: Cambridge Uinversity Press. Bell, M. (n.d.). A Plea for Change. Retrieved 2012, from Michaelbell.info: http://michaelbell.info/OverviewOfKeyPoints.html Cothran, H. (n.d.). Police Brutality. San diego, California: Greenhaven Press. Gardner, T. J., & Terry M. Anderson. (2006). Criminal Law. Belmont, CA: Cengage. Mehrling, C. (1998). Use Of Force. 10.

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Police Brutality:Why Does It Happen and How Does It Happen?. (2016, May 27). Retrieved from


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