Understanding the police use of force

The youth for example in the United States have a bone to chew with the police force. They claim that the police have over the recent years been targeting the youth and harassing them. They have a negative attitude towards the police force. The police in turn take a defensive stand and provide with statistical evidence to indicate that the youth over the years have played a prevalent role in crime. Over one third of majority of the crimes are committed by the teenagers or to a greater extent those that are below the age of twenty-one.

This is an indicator that the police in a way are justified in their decision to watch closely the activities of the youth. Furthermore, this same case might apply to other groups who have a higher propensity to crimes. For example, a large proportion of those incarcerated are blacks. It is also blacks that decry most of the police brutality. There is a co relationship between the people who have a high prevalence of crime rate and those that are at the forefront in distrusting the police force and decrying the continued use of excessive force by the police.

Police may sometimes resort to unreasonable force but many times the interpretation of unreasonableness in this force may not be unanimous Alpert, G. & S. , W, 1994). To stretch the debate on the use of excessive force by the police officer further, the citizenry have also decried the laxity o the prosecutors to file charges that have been brought forth against the police officers. This is claimed as due to the difficulties and legal technicalities that might arise when the prosecution is trying to prove a case in court beyond a reasonable doubt.

What happens is that, most of the times such cases are forwarded to disciplinary committees for corrective measures, which might amount only to suspensions. It becomes hard to prove that a certain officer went overboard and applied excessive force in the process of discharging duties (Fyfe, J. , 1981). The public is more critical of such cases and should an indictment fail to go through, they are likely to claim that the department is protecting one of its own. The cases that proceed into the court are also hard to settle. In most cases the police officers will end up Scott free.

The issue of the reasonableness of force applied becomes rather tricky. The chew Vs. Gates case of 1994 sets a number of parameters that would be used to prove whether force use is excessive or reasonable. In arriving at this, it is necessary to evaluate on whether in meting out such force, the law enforcer was able to accomplish the key objective of the force. And for the force applied it should be evaluated whether there was any threat posed to the police officer or the public by the subject, the nature of the crime, or if the subject was by any chance resisting apprehension.

In Johnson V Glick, 1973, it was established that it is important that in determining whether a police officer applied unreasonable force, it be established the extent of the force used and whether there is any trace of malice on the side of the police officer. It is more than apparent that most people lack an understanding of the essence behind the application of force by the police officers and the legal technicalities involved.

The level of force to be applied in any particular situation is dictated by a number of factors, which revolve around the threat that such a subject poses to the officer and the public in general.


Howard Ralitz, 2003. Understanding police use of force. Criminal justice press Dan Montgomery, August 2004. Understanding the police use of force. Retrieved on 19/11/2007 from http://www. c:westminister. co. us/res/ps/pd/topics. pdforce. htm Portland State University. Use of Force Matrix. Retrieved on 19/11/2007 from https://www.pdx.edu