Police brutality is the excessive, unreasonable use of force against citizens, suspects, and offenders. A study showed that most citizens complained against police officers because of the use of profanity and abusive language towards them, the use of commands to move on or get home, stopping and questioning people on the street or searching them and their cars without probable cause, the use of threats to use force if not obeyed, prodding with a nightstick or approaching with a pistol, and actual use of physical force or violence itself for no reason at all. Police brutality causes a lack of communication between minority groups and the police department and a lack of trust because of previous run-ins with brutality.
In some cases police brutality runs over into an officer’s personal life as well. There have been several cases where an officer is arrested due to domestic violence and leads to an investigation of their work life. Most of the time there are cover ups, when domestic disputes occur so that the department does not get negative coverage if the incident was to get out, (2002, November). Ethics are considered a structure for most departments in the United States.
There are several bad apples that get greedy and are cocky at times and think that they cannot be touched if they do wrong. Police departments around the U.S. have several issues with corruption, misconduct, and brutality. Most of the time these issues are covered up so that, these officers do not give the departments bad names and people do not trust them and they, are having more crime on their hands instead of defeating the crime. In recent years, police actions, particularly police abuse has come into view of a wide, public and critical eye. While citizens worry about protecting themselves from criminals, it has now been shown that they must also keep a watchful eye on those who are supposed to protect and serve.
This paper will discuss the types of police abuse prevalent today, including the use of firearms and recovery of private information. I will also discuss what and how citizens’ rights are taken advantage of by the police. Some measures necessary to protect ourselves from police taking advantage of their positions as law enforcement officers with greater permissive rights than private citizens. All citizens must take affirmative actions from physical brutality, rights violations, and information abuse. Members of the police force are government officials who enforce the law and maintain order. They are engaged in dangerous and stressful occupation that can involve violent situations that must be controlled. In many of these confrontations with the public it may become necessary for the police to administer force in order to take control of the situation.
As unfortunate as it may seem however, police officers are injuring and even killing people through the use of excessive force and brutal treatment. In regard to police abuse, there will be many officers who feel that their job of fighting escalating street crime, gangs, narcotics violations, and other violent crimes is difficult already, to such an extent that worrying about excessive policy for abuse behavior will only further decrease their ability to fight crime effectively, efficiently, and safely.
This abuse must be monitored so that police do not forget who they are serving; not themselves, but the public. This means that even the criminals, who are a part of the public, have certain rights, accurately identified as civil rights. One of the main police abuse problems is physical brutality. I think that there should be some kind of written policy that would restrict physical force to the narrowest possible range of specific situations. For example, there should be limitations on the use of hand to hand combat, batons, mace, stun guns and firearms.
However, limiting policies actions will bring much debate, especially from police officers and administrators themselves. Many feel that their firepower is already too weak to battle the weapons that criminals have out on the streets, thus limiting their legality of gun use will not only endanger them, but the innocent bystanders who must endure the hierarchy gun power creates in the benefit of criminals. In simple terms, corruption in policing is usually viewed as the misuse of authority by a police officer acting to fulfill personal needs or wants. For a corrupt act to occur, three distinct elements of police corruption must be present simultaneously: Misuse of authority, Misuse of official capacity, Misuse of personal attainment, (Kornblum 1976: p 71).
It has been said that power inevitably leads to corruption, and it is yet to be recognized that , while there is no reason to suppose that policemen as individuals are any less fallible than other members of society, people are often shocked and outraged when policemen are exposed to violating the law. Not only should officers use brutality in very limited situations, I think that it would help requiring officers to file a written report after any use of physical force, regardless of how seemingly insignificant. Although, if every incidence of police abuse was requested to be reported, how many actually would be? Maybe only those serious enough, as depicted in new guidelines, would make it, leaving some space for officers to exert pressure without crossing serious and abusive policy. Another good tactic to control police brutality is to establish a system to identify officers who have been involved in an inordinate number of incidents that include the inappropriate use of physical force.
The incidents should then be investigated. For those offices who are frequently involved in unnecessary police brutality, they should be charged, disciplined, re-trained, and offered counseling. If such treatment proves ineffective, officers who violate abuse standards should be brought up on review before an administrative board made up of citizens and police officials. Officers will most likely ask, “Is identifying abusive officers a form of prejudice? The police officer is there to serve and protect the public who pays his or her salary. The officer should then be subject to any investigations into his or her abusive actions on the job.
Yet even if internal policy and external government supervision is successful, it is difficult to say how the ethics of police officers will affect abuse policy as they are based on personal background and upbringing that have little to do with the issue at hand. While there are specific solutions to brutality and rights abuse, there are also some general solutions that could be implemented before the problems even arise. For example, there should be changes in police officer training. Some communities have demanded their officers receive higher education. However, there is no proof that well-educated officers rely less on abuse and more on departmentally sound investigation techniques.
The length of training of police personnel should be increased, as has been the recent trend throughout the years. “The average length of police academy programs has more than doubled, from about 300, to over 600 hours; in some cities, 900 up to even 1200 hours has become the new rule.” (Silverman 1999: p 124) As the time devoted to training has increased, the institutions should also stress the importance of the growing trends in criminal activity so that they are prepared to deal with them. These include such areas as race relations, domestic violence, handling the mentally ill, and so on.
This will, in turn, enable operations run more smoothly, hopefully avoiding police abuse problems in the future. Methods must be implemented which effectively deal with police who tend to cross the line, from simple situations to serious firearm use or prejudice. Some of the solutions, particularly the policy changes, will be met with controversy and will be difficult to implement. Keeping track of police actions is the next step in self-protection. There have been thousands of reported incidents of police misconduct in the countless cities throughout the nation, and probably thousands more that transpire without any mention. Law enforcement officers in the United States have been granted powerful authority to assist them in serving and protecting the people of this country.
Many of them use their authority to uphold their duties with honor and integrity. However, the abuses of these powers are taking place with more and more frequency. The police scandals that have surfaced within the past decade have been multiplying. If drastic measures are not taken to restore the integrity of the United States Law Enforcement, chaos will permeate throughout the nation. As citizens begin to lose their trust for law enforcement, they will gradually lose their trust in the “system”.
While the threat of a world war has diminished, the violence on the streets across America has increased at a dramatic rate. Police are forced to face this violence and are sometimes caught up in the same violent and abusive cycle whole trying to fight it. Citizens realize that there are limits as to what a police officer can do. To make society a safe place for both citizens and officers, it is imperative that they work together for a comprehensive checks and balances system.
The United States Constitution guarantees certain rights for everyone, and is the very backbone of this country. If these rights are to be ignored, either through permissive laws enacted by law enforcement against private citizens, or through a lack of maintenance of existing protective legislation, private citizens; which means the entire country, will become paralyzed. Because of this, the opportunity and freedom which this country is built on must be enforced, and those charged with doing so must not abuse their power.
(2002, December) Police Corruption, http://www.iejs.com/policing word-slash-word
(2002, November) Addressing police misconduct, http://www.usdoj.gov
(2002, November) Police brutality: the cop crimes homepage for law enforcement and government
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Cohen, Henry. Brutal Justice. New York: John Jay Press, 1980.
Kornblum, Alan N. The Moral Hazards. New York: D.C. Heath, 1976.
Silverman, Eli B. NYPD Battles Crime. Boston: Northeastern Univ. Press, 1999.
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