Police use of force is a tool that is taught to every Officer to help diffuses a situation, it is not meant to do harm, but to ensure the safety of the Officer and the people that are involved in the situation. In some rare cases there are Officers that abuse their power and with the use of excessive use of force on individuals is an issue, Officers not thinking of what the effects it has on the victim, the alleged perpetrator or the community that it occurs in. The ethical or unethical use of force is determined by the community, society, and often a judge and jury. Today’s society there are often electrical devices that capture uses of force which are often used against Law Enforcement, these devices often capture a use of force that had gone bad like in the Rodney King case for example . The Misuse of authority like in the case against Chief Charlie Beck in the Los Angeles Police Department the outcome and concerns with a case like this. The cause and effects of Police use of force in our society and the ethical and unethical outcomes it has.
Police Use of Force
Use of force is the “amount of effort required by police to compel compliance by an unwilling subject.” (National Institute of Justice) Police are given this special tool to help enforce their safety and the safety of others when in a dangerous situation, they are taught this through education and training that is kept up yearly to ensure they are the best they can be at all times. The ways that an officer can use force is verbally, physical-restraint, less-lethal force, and when necessary lethal force. “Police officers should use only the amount of force necessary to control an incident, effective arrest, or protect themselves or others from harm or death.” (National Institute of Justice) Unfortunately, at times there are some police officers have felt that they are above this rule and have used excessive force in unnecessary situations. This is a problem both ethically and lawfully. One of the most famous cases where use of force was abused is the Rodney King beating, this case was national news. This case was a use of force that had accrued in California with the LAPD. Their Police Chief Charlie Beck is being accused of letting officers who have used excessive force go unpunished. It is important for all law enforcement officers to only use force when absolutely necessary and all verbal commands have been expired. In today’s society there is always someone watching and often with some type of recording device recording all actions of Law Enforcement to catch them in an unfavorable situation.
Violating use of force protocol is unethical because it does harm to people who do not deserve it, it’s not just the physical damage it can do but the mental as well. It would also be viewed as unethical because it is not for the greater good or overall happiness of everyone. It also appears to makes the police officer look untrustworthy and uncontrollable. This was what happen in the case for Rodney King, who had beaten by three police officers while their supervisor watched. Unfortunately Mr. King was beaten with metal batons, stomped on, and kicked as he lay on the ground defenseless. King was being arrested after sending police on a high speed car chase, that could have injured many innocent bystanders, but that does not justify the actions that were taken upon him. While the officers were trying to arrest him, Mr. King had put up a fight, resisting arrest, so the Officers, shot him twice with a stun gun, unfortunately still he resisted. When he finally rose to his feet, this is when the beatings began. Unfortunately for the Officers but fortunately for Mr. King, all of this was caught on tape. Even though it was apparent what the Officers had done to be unethical when the case went to trial all of the officers were found innocent.
This verdict caused such outrage with many people who followed the case that soon after the verdict was announced riots erupted all over Los Angeles. This is a perfect example of society losing faith in our Criminal Justice System they see the proof of what the Officers had done wrong yet they hw were not held accountable for their actions. When things like this are released it makes our justice system look sloppy, unprofessional, and most importantly unethical. It is understandable that the officers were probably upset that King had sent them on a dangerous car chase and resisted arrest; however, once he was subdued they should have put the cuffs on him, and placed him in the police car, and take him away. Instead, it looks like these officers took out their frustrations on Rodney King brought justice they felt he deserved into the street without a judge or his peers or a right to a fair trial. This would be seen as unethical because it was not for the overall happiness of everyone, it did not do any good, and the officers did not follow by the rules. They took themselves and placed themselves above what society feels to be acceptable and they broke that trust.
Another ethical case involving use of force is also in Los Angeles, California. This is a recent problem involving the Chief of Police Charlie Beck. Beck is being accused of not punishing police officers who have used excessive force. “Since Beck took over as chief in late 2009, the commission has ruled on about 90 incidents involving officers who fired weapons or used other deadly force. In almost all of them, Beck concluded the officers used force appropriately and urged the commission to clear them of wrongdoing. The board followed his guidance most of the time.” (Rubin) However, four shootings that involved three people being killed and another three wounded by gunfire the commission did not agree with the Chief. This did not persuade Beck to invoke punishment to the officers involved in the shootings. He agreed that one of the officers had been wrong in his choice to fire, but still did not punish him. The commission fears that the lack of punishment toward officers who use excessive force could be sending out the wrong message to members of the LAPD. I would agree with the commission that Beck is sending out the wrong message. If an officer is already lacking good moral judgment when faced with a dangerous situation they may over-react to it if they know there are no consequences for their actions.
“Every day, law enforcement officers face danger while carrying out their responsibilities this is something they decided to do take an oath and are to abide by what they have been taught and represent. When dealing with a dangerous—or unpredictable—situation, police officers usually have very little time to assess it and determine the proper response.” (United) We can make sure that when faced with these situations police officers make the right decision through proper training. Such training could include knowing the Use of Force Model. As taught this model is a guide to what use of force actions are appropriate for each situation and should be carried out in such a manner. For example, if someone is assaultive (trying to cause bodily harm) the officer should use defense tactics to subdue the individual first trying all verbal communication before resulting in a physical altercation. Another training guide that is used is the Police Training Model, which was created in 1999 by PERF and the Reno Police Department. This model “addresses the traditional duties of policing in the context of specific neighborhood problems and includes several segments on the use of force.” (United)
It is very important for police officers to make ethical decisions while in the field. It is important because it is their duty to protect and serve. It is also important because we as citizens look up to law enforcement and if they are caught doing something unethical it can ruin the respect and trust we have in law enforcement. When faced with dangerous or a tough situation police officers need to be trained to quickly make the best and most ethical decision possible. Police officers like those who beat Rodney King should be punished and made an example of. It is not ethical to hurt someone just because you have the power to. “The criminal justice system is designed to enforce moral rules that have been written into the criminal law. Aristotle believed that justice consist of giving each person his or her due” [ (Jay.S, 2013) ]. Maybe the Police Officers in both cases felt they had to take on the ethical teachings of Aristotle. When looking at today’s society and if you go back as far as there is written proof the court systems and law enforcement rules and regulations have grown and developed into more evolved court system and law enforcement for society to follow. At one time it was not unethical to flogged or whip a person, this was to deter them from committing future crimes, this is where Officers like the ones in these cases may have gotten by with physical abuse and unnecessary of force. Fortunately for us as citizens we have constitutional rights and there are laws in place to protect us from unnecessary use of force and the citizens of The United States of America are allowed their freedom, a speedy trial
among a group of their peers fair, representation and the right not to be harmed by those who hold authority by law in which they represent. We have ethical responsibility s citizens to follow the rules and regulation of our count try and they s Law Enforcement Officers have n ethical obligation to lead by example.
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4. Matheson, V. A., & Baade, R. A. (2004). Race and Riots: A Note on the Economic Impact of the Rodney King Riots. Urban Studies (Routledge), 41(13), 2691-2696. doi:10.1080/0042098042000294628 5. Rubin, J. (2012, 04 16). Beck facing rare criticism Improper use of force is tolerated too often, police panel says. Retrieved from Los Angeles Times : http://articles.latimes.com/2012/apr/16/local/la-me-beck-discipline-20120416 6. Rubin, Joel. “LAPD to Hold Meetings on Use-of-force Policies.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 10 Sept. 2012. Web. 21 July 2013. <http://articles.latimes.com/2012/sep/10/local/la-me-lapd-violence-20120910>. 7. Stuart, F. (2011). Constructing Police Abuse after Rodney King: How Skid Row Residents and the Los Angeles Police Department Contest Video Evidence. Law & Social Inquiry, 36(2), 327-353. doi:10.1111/j.1747-4469.2011.01234.x 8. United States Department of