Police Brutality Cause and Effect
Possibly, anything can be considered a weapon, but they are only considered a weapon when they are used for anything but self-defense. A police officer’s job is to protect the public from danger by any justifiable means. This leads to police using force, and there are many types including lethal and nonlethal. Many people object to police officers’ use of force, questioning whether it is correct or not. Police officers are trained in various weapons of force, from the most controversial, a gun, to simple hand-to-hand combat.
Each officer is given training according to their job task and department, which comes with policies that they agree to follow upon being sworn in. The use of force by police officers is justifiable as long as it is appropriate for the situation they are in.
The use of force, in the context of law enforcement, may be defined as the amount of effort required by police to compel compliance from an unwilling subject. Use of force doctrines can be employed by law enforcement officers and military personnel on guard duty. The use of force is necessary—people may think that it is illegal, but in fact, it can be used in certain situations for self-defense or protecting the public from harm (National). Protecting the public from harm is what police officers are there to do—they risk their lives to keep people they may not even know alive. An officer should be allowed to use any force necessary to keep the citizens and themselves safe. There is no universally accepted definition of the use of force. According to the Association of Chiefs of Police, the use of force is “the amount of effort required by police to compel compliance by an unwilling subject” (National). Using force helps an officer to keep a situation under control, and department policies differ. Everyone has their opinion on what force is and if it should even be used—it should be used when a subject is not complying or is a threat to society. The use of force is a widely debated topic, with diverse definitions that influence what a person may think about the subject. Overall, the use of force should be used whether people have a negative opinion about it or not.
Policies per police department vary throughout the United States, and even in California. Each department sets their policies according to their environment and/or county rules. There are eight common policies that can be found within the use-of-force guidelines across America. Officers are required to try and de-escalate the situation before using force and they also need to determine the proper force for the situation they are facing (LPD). Chokeholds will not be used and the subject must receive a verbal warning prior to force being used. Officers should not shoot from or at a moving vehicle and should try to use all other means of force before resorting to the use of deadly force. Excessive force—including all attempts and actual uses of force—must be reported to their watch commander (Project). These rules are important for an officer to follow if they are in their policy manual. There are policies that may not necessarily be needed. Police departments feel the need to have their officers apply these rules because of the criticism they sometimes receive for what the public perceives as police brutality. Officers only need to use the amount of force necessary to control a situation and to protect the citizens of their city, which is determined by the officer on call (LPD). Using the correct amount of force according to the officer’s department policy can determine if they keep their job or not. The officer can also lose the trust of their community from causing harm to a subject.
When the use of force is broken down, people will learn that there are different types of force in law enforcement. There are two main types of force: deadly and non-deadly force. Deadly force can mean that the officer has used force to cause great injury or even death (LPD). People believe that this is where police brutality comes into play. There are also alternatives to force such as verbal communication (camp). Verbal communication is used to help an officer give warnings before force is used upon the subject. The communication deficiency between the subject and the officer is what leads to an officer using force. There are multiple types of force that can be used in an officer’s daily patrol.
The use of force pyramid is a tool used by police officers to determine what kind of force they should use. The use of force pyramid works by taking an escalated situation and de-escalating the situation with reasonable force (camp). Choosing the right kind of force to use in a situation is crucial. Not using the correct amount of force can result in an officer being accused of brutality and even losing their job. The pyramid starts off with no force at all and gradually gets greater all the way up to deadly force (Camp). No force at all would be considered verbal and non-lethal. As an officer works their way up the pyramid, they know that it runs risks using possibly deadly force. The key rule is to “use the option that represents the minimal amount of force necessary to reduce the immediate threat”(camp).
It is very important for an officer to choose the correct amount of force to use according to the situation that they are in. There are many factors that determine which kind of force to use such as height and age (LPD). There are many situations that can determine what the officer should do according to the health of the subject. Determining what kind of force to use is crucial because a person does not want to strike a 5-year-old with a baton unless it is needed. An important factor is determining the “immediacy and severity of the threat to officers and others”(LPD). This is another key factor on whether or not the subject is being a disturbance and/or putting the public in harm’s way. If a subject is being non-compliant and is in danger of hurting the public and/or an officer, force needs to be used in order to control the situation. Using the right kind of force with a threat is the ideal situation.
Any type of force can become deadly, but deadly force is categorized as ammunition hitting the suspect’s body, thereby having the potential of causing death. Even though there are other weapons of force that can cause deadly force, a gun is what causes death most of the time. Each police officer carries a handgun at their side that is used as a deadly weapon of force. Which handgun they carry depends on the agency they work for (LPD). A higher caliber gun will do more damage, and to the public eye should not be used, but everyone must understand a gun is a gun, and it can inflict fatal injuries, whether with one shot or more. When an officer uses their handgun they must write a report whether or not they shot at the suspect (LPD). Using a gun in police patrols is controversial, therefore, an officer must write an extra report on what they did with the gun, even if they merely aimed it at a subject. There are different types of deadly force guns, regulated by the department to which the officer belongs.
There are many types of non-deadly force that law enforcement officers all around the world use. Most are carried on their belt, but others are not; this method is used to de-escalate certain situations. The most common that can be called a weapon of force is OC spray, also known as pepper spray (LPD). Pepper spray is a superb way to gain a subject’s compliance. It inflicts pain but does not cause permanent damage to the subject. Following the use of force pyramid, one of the next options is a baton, which is also carried on an officer’s belt. It can cause moderate to severe damage. Using the baton is just an extension of an officer’s arm, allowing them to strike the subject while maintaining a short but crucial distance. Non-deadly weapons can also be deadly if used excessively, but this is not usually the case.
Force can be used when arresting and handcuffing a suspect. The use of restraints can be seen as applying force when a suspect is not complying with an officer’s commands (LPD). An officer may need to use force even when putting a subject in handcuffs. Situations may arise where restraints become necessary when detaining a suspect. Using restraints to control a subject and keep the officer safe is important, in order to avoid using additional force to gain compliance. The use of force may also be employed when handcuffing someone to detain them.
The SWAT team has special compliance tactics that aid a police officer’s job. SWAT teams carry weapons such as tear gas, which is used to help police officers complete their job (Pike). Tear gas is used to discombobulate one or more subjects at a time, comparable to pepper spray. It temporarily impairs the subject’s vision, allowing the officers to control a situation without any further force. SWAT members must adhere to the following steps when using force: First, verbal persuasion; Second, a show of force; Third, the use of chemical aerosol irritant projectors (subject to local and HN restrictions); Fourth, the use of physical force (other than weapons fire); Fifth, the threat of deadly force; Sixth, actual use of deadly force. These rules mirror the use of force pyramid and are essential, particularly in riot situations (Pike). The SWAT team’s tactics to exert force are similar to those of a regular police officer, but they tend to employ a broader range of weapons.
Police officers and special units, including SWAT, are often deployed to manage riots, utilizing special tactics and weapons. During a riot, officers can use tear gas and batons to control the situation (Pike). People’s behaviour during riots tends to be noncompliant and violent, and, to worsen the situation, several rioters may confront an officer at once. Officers are relatively unprotected in riot situations, which can escalate to life-threatening levels within seconds. The primary goal of an officer is to ensure safety, a mission pursued through special tactics like “pieing a doorway” (LPD). Special weapons and sometimes deadly force are employed in riots to control the situation, as people can easy lose control.
A canine unit is a powerful tool used by police departments to control situations, leveraging the canine’s force. “A canine may be used to locate and apprehend a suspect” (LPD). A canine officer undergoes extensive training with his canine partner (LPD). The canine has a powerful jaw that can inflict pain in a split second when the officer gives the command. This feature enables an officer to use non-lethal force to seek out a subject or detain them. Before releasing the dog on a suspect, a canine officer offers a proper warning (LPD). A canine unit is an invaluable tool for controlling suspects through the use of force.
Correctional officers encounter noncompliant subjects every day, often having to resort to force. Correctional officers can use force to enforce compliance if subjects have committed a crime (National). When a subject is uncooperative, an officer has the right to induce compliance. Correctional officers play a significant role in law enforcement. They use pepper spray when inmates start fights, and will, when necessary, use deadly force to subdue them (LPD). However, correctional officers primarily employ non-lethal force which explains their relatively low compliance rate. Once a subject becomes an inmate, they forfeit their right to resist correctional officers, and the deployment of pepper spray, a non-lethal method, can save officers’ lives. Correctional officers are permitted to use force, as they are dealing with criminals.
There are alternatives to force that can have the same effect as force, but most suspects do not obey them. According to the use of the force pyramid, an alternative can be just an officer’s presence (camp). An officer’s presence can be intimidating, knowing that they can have you booked within minutes, but most suspects in today’s society do not even care about law enforcement and what they have to say. Subjects disrespect officers on a daily basis, whether or not an officer accuses them of a crime. An alternative that does work for the most part is verbal commands. Verbal commands should be given with a commanding voice (LPD). Using a commanding voice can scare the suspects into complying with an officer’s direction(LPD). Although there are alternatives to using force in today’s society, subjects do not comply with these tactics as they did in previous years.
There are cases in the U.S where force did become fatal nevertheless, force should still be used. “44 million persons age 16 or older had one or more face-to-face contacts with police officers” (National). A lot of people have encounters with police officers because they are there to protect us, but they do not all contain force. Force is only used when necessary. Only 1.2 percent of police conduct were considered excessive force that became deadly (National). This statistic is very low, which has something to say about officers doing their job correctly. Whether or not there is force used in an officer’s encounter with a subject, they are just there to protect the citizens and that is why only “1.2 percent of police conduct” was seen or could be seen as brutality (National). Even though there are cases of police officers using excessive force, it is only a small select few that are doing so.
Force, also known as deadly force, is found in an officer’s job. When an officer uses excessive force, it can become deadly towards the subject. Therefore, it results in alleged cases of police brutality (PF). Police brutality is an opinion the public has. When cases come up, there is more than likely always exaggeration in the situation, whether it is the officer or the suspect doing so. Deadly force is usually caused by a gun but can be caused by other uses of force or weapons (PF). In most acclaimed brutality cases, an officer has shot a suspect “unlawfully” and therefore is seen as a criminal. What the public does not know is the actual details of the situation and why the officer did so. Any weapon can be considered deadly if it is used excessively and to cause death to a subject.
Police officers use their training to use force to control a subject according to what they believe is the right amount in a situation. There may be many types of situations that an officer has to deal with, that they have to use force because of uncompliant subjects. An officer’s duty is to protect and using force to control a situation is doing so. There are cases of police brutality but overall, police officers do their job which is to protect the public.