The public usually protests against police brutality but rarely takes time to evaluate the conditions necessitating such force. The media in its bid to sensationalize the act mostly uses the term police brutality. However, the use of such term though justified is just but a blanket condemnation with no thorough scrutiny of the events, it is distorting the real facts and it would make more sense if each situation was evaluated independently. The application of the force matrix depends on the level of threat facing the police officer.
It has to be appreciated that law enforcement officers most of the times are at the wrath both of the public and criminals. Like the statistics indicate, police officers are the most regular victims of assault especially in the line of duty or just hard targets for elimination by gangsters. To counteract such unwarranted attack would require a police officer to undertake self-defensive measures. Depending in the nature of the threat, police officers may result to kicks or police batons.
It would be imprudent to expect a police officer to receive blows from maybe a suspect and fail to retaliate accordingly, with an intention of containing such a person. At the extreme end of force matrix is the use of deadly weapons such as firearms to respond to an attack from a suspect. Such a police officer would be justified to take up the use of firearms to stop such a threat. Justification so such force would emanate from the need to control a situation before it gets out of hand. The constitution allows law enforcement officers to apply minimum reasonable force possible to apprehend suspects only if it is necessary.
Under the common law, it is important that a police officer give a prior warning to a subject before any force is applied, however the Amato Vs U. S, 1982, this is only necessary when a deadly force is about to be employed. In Tennessee Vs. Garner (1985), Tennessee laws provides that a police officer can apply all the necessary force possible to apprehend a suspect who escapes an arrest, even after being adequately informed of the resultant action to be taken, if he or she defies such a police order.
In this case, it was held that such a statute is unconstitutional if a deadly force is used against somebody who is not armed even if the said subject escapes. It will only hold however, if a law enforcement officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the escape of such a person will be a threat to the rest of the public or to even himself. It is the Graham V. Connor (1998) case that however sheds a light on the reasonableness of any force meted out against a subject by the police.
It held that, in evaluating whether a police action is reasonable, its important to understand that such a decision is normally made at a split of a moment in an environment and conditions that are exceptionally tense and unpredictable. It is hence an established fact that police must use force in carrying out their duties, though it is reiterated that this force has to be reasonable. Scholars have tried to theorize and study the reason why police use force and whether it might have a relationship to their personality as has been claimed by some.
Any relationship between the two has been disapproved especially as most forces departments usually screen their potential applicants to lock out any people with unwanted violent traits (Bayley, D. , 1986). Some further went on to say that some organizations might have a play in far as application of intense force is concerned. Police may not be inherently violent or prone to using unreasonable force. Most of the officers are led by the prevailing situation.
Many officers tend to turn to the application of force as a fast resort if specifically the situation demands for such force. For a reasonable and disciplined police officer, use of force is not the norm but rather a form of situational response. This is especially in these days when the public has become critical of the government and will take note of any instance of misuse of police powers. The public is usually critical of the police with many claiming that their coming across a police officer is an experience that demonstrates force being at play.
Application of force by the police is usually a sensitive issue especially as both the public and the police need each other. For effective policing, the police need the community and any act of undue or unreasonable application of force towards the community may tilt the stability that exists. The police also act in an environment of intense pressure. They are not expected to loose. The public and the civil rights movements will come out yapping about the police’s incompetence and inability to handle crime while at the same time demonstrating over isolated cases of brutality.