The use of deadly force by police officers

Police officers have powers rivaled to them. Some of hem use these power wisely, while there are those who misuse them, causing injury especially to citizens. Misuse of these powers is violating the rights of the citizens. The situation gets worse because the people violated in most instances are unable to accuse the police officers of using deadly force against them. This is because the officers are able to defend themselves, or even cover their actions.

The use of fire arms by the police has come in many forms: night sticks, clubs, saps and batons, handcuffs and Velcro straps, nets, arm locks, chokeholds, taser guns, tear gases and pepper spray, dogs, fire arms and high speed pursuits. I have chosen this topic because the issue of deadly force is serious, but little attention has been given to it. In this paper, I will research on the use of deadly force by police officers. I will also try to come up with solutions that police department could use to minimize the use of deadly force by the police officers. The use of deadly force

Deadly force is any effort to apprehend or subdue suspects that results to their death. No clear cut standards exist that guide police officers regarding when to apply excessive force in subduing suspects. There are also no consensuses that exist regarding which variables are important in excessive force situations or how these variables might interact. An examination of officers who have been cited for use of excessive force suggest that in an actual sense they tend to have personality disorders, previous job-related experiences such as justifiable shootings, a heavy patrol style and sensitivity to challenge and other personal problems.

Attempts to involve psychiatrists and psychologists in the training and monitoring of police behaviors have been only partially successful. In most instances, psychologists and other professionals are more likely to involve themselves in post-excessive force counseling situations. Such after-the -fact remedies do very little to prevent the occurrence of excessive force applied by officers generally. Early use of deadly force The problem of police brutality seems to have become a major concern with the advent of civil rights movements in the 1960s.

Since that time, the term “police brutality” has come to connote physical violence by police against racial or ethnic minorities. However, an early research concluded that the police were twice more likely to use excessive force against whites than blacks. The critical determinant in the use of excessive physical force by police was that the civilian’s actual or perceived defiance or the officer’s authority. The individual, most invariably male, who challenged the cop’s superior status, was the one who was most likely to be struck. (Bonifacio Philip, 1991, pg 157).

In the 1970s, police officers in virtually every police department in the United States followed what was known as the fleeing felon rule. The fleeing felon rule is a legislatively sanctioned provision that permits police officers to prevent the escape of any fleeing felon by means of any force, including deadly force. Thus, pre-1985 fleeing felons such as burglars, rapists, robbers, car thieves and drug dealers could be prevented from escaping from police by means of potentially deadly force. In short, police officers were entitled to shoot at, and possibly kill, fleeing felons attempting to avoid arrest. (Champion D.

, 2001, pg 50-51) Example of applied deadly force In 1985, the U. S Supreme Court heard the case of Tennessee V Garner. The case originated in Memphis, Tennessee in the late 1970s. Police were originally advised that some one was in a vacant house in a Memphis suburb about two o’clock in the morning. Police officers arrived at the scene in time to see some boys running away. They shouted at the boys to stop, but their warnings were ignored. One of the officers drew his revolver and fired at the fleeing boys, striking one of them in the back of the head, killing them instantly. The dead boy, Garner, was fifteen years old.

He and his friend had been exploring a vacant house at the time. If he had been apprehended, Garner’s crime would have been simple trespassing or burglary, although there was nothing in the house to steal. His punishment would have been a possible fine and probation. Instead, an officer imposed the death penalty on Garner by shooting him in the act of fleeing. (Champion D. , 2001, pg 50-51) The U. S Supreme Court concluded the case, saying that a much greater penalty had been exacted than would have been imposed under the circumstances. Accordingly, the Court set forth new “deadly force” provisions.

These provisions destroyed the fleeing felon rule, causing it to be unconstitutional. The new provisions guiding the application of the deadly force by police were: deadly force would be used only when the lives of officers or innocent bystanders are jeopardized by fleeing suspects. A new “defense of life” standard was created for all deadly applications. Police officers were now supposed to justify their application of deadly force to show that their own lives or the lives of innocent citizens were in jeopardy by the actions of certain suspects who were subsequently killed by police.

(Champion D. , 2001, pg 50-51) Effects of applied deadly force Death of innocent people In serious cases, most deadly police force results to death. As in the Tennessee V Garner case, the police officer fired without thinking first, whether the person being shot at was actually committing a crime or not. Today, the case has not changed, with many police officers shooting at crime suspects, even before they are sure of them being the real criminals. This is wrong and should be punishable at the police departments. Even if the targets do not die, they are often disabled permanently.

Today, there are police departments and countries that permit shooting. Shooting to kill crime suspects is dangerous, and there is likely to be high percentages of missed shots. Just as the nonselective shootings are extremely dangerous for the officers involved, they are also very dangerous for their opponents. It is far much easier to hit someone who is standing eight or ten feet away with a shot gun in his hand than some one who is running away in the dark. (Bridges, etal, 1996 pg 171) Such police departments experience high percentages of wounding in relation to fatalities.

For example, in 1996, there was a four to one ratio of fatal to non-fatal wounds in Philadelphia. This ratio did not result from an extraordinary humanness of the part of PPD officers. It came about because an extraordinary percentage of the people shot at by the Philadelphia police were running targets; the officers fired at ranges so great that they were unable to hit the center body mass at which they were trained to shoot. (Bridges, etal, 1996 pg 171) Furthermore, police use of deadly force might be broadened in their arsenal, the motor vehicles.

Pursuits involving police cars maim and kill more people each year than police fire arms. Although more deaths and injuries occur in the course of high speed pursuits than as the result of police firearm use, they are less dangerous. The reason for this is because when police discharge their fire arms, they intend to kill or to injure. Police who engage in high speed pursuits have more control over the situation and intend only to apprehend, preferably without injury. Nevertheless, there are inherent skills in high speed pursuits that make it appropriate that they be considered somewhat analogously to exercises of deadly force.

Perjury and false testimony Many criminal convictions are obtained by prosecutors as the result of perjured testimony from police officers who seize contraband illegally. Perjury by police officers is especially serious because officers are committed to abiding by a higher moral standard than that of the general public. The effects of perjury by police officers are justification of illegal conduct and strengthening of weak cases against criminal defendants. Perjury by police officers results as thy try to cover either for themselves or for their colleagues who may have used deadly force.

In some instances, perjury by police officers occurs because of the pressures of police agency to make more arrests of vice offences (drugs, prostitution, and gambling) and greater need to get convictions. This pressure encourages officers to engage in shortcuts and engage in illegal practices. Occasional perjury is one way of accomplishing several ends, including securing convictions against criminal defendants and protecting informants. Line police officers are not the only law enforcement officers who engage in perjury, however. All law enforcement agencies are tainted by perjury disclosures.

Rationalizing deadly force Police officers who engage in misconduct of different kinds have devised various explanations for their misconduct. These rationales have become reutilized and generally accepted, despite the absence of a legal basis for them. Generally, police officers tend to deny responsibility for potential or real citizen injuries. The officers attempt to neutralize deviance they may exhibit. For instance, officers may use excessive force on citizens who attempt to resist or who otherwise challenge police authority. When police officers overreact in these situations, they may say later, “I didn’t man it.

” They may also deny injury and say that they did not hurt anyone, especially when they commit perjury to justify illegal searches. Another neutralization technique is the denial of a victim, which means that whenever a suspected criminal is physically injured by police. It is justified because the suspect has committed other crimes for which he or she has not been apprehended. Therefore, police do not consider the suspect a victim in the sense that he or she is innocent of any wrongdoing. In these cases, police officers may fail to find illegal contraband when searching the premises of a known drug dealer.

In the process, they may physically abuse and seriously injure the suspect. Possible ways to control use of deadly force Allegations of police brutality and other complaints filed against the police officers generally are investigated within the department. However, it is often asserted that the agency either cannot adequately discipline officers who abuse the right of citizens. For these reasons, there have been frequent suggestions dating back to the 1960s, that some form of review persons outside the department be established to hear complaints.

Although the citizen oversight mechanism would hear evidence and make recommendations, it would not have the power to discipline officers. It is ironic that despite the acrimonious debate that had raged over this issue, there is evidence from a number of cities that citizen oversight mechanisms are actually less likely to find police officers guilty of misconduct and deadly use of force on citizens than internal investigators from within the department. In addition, citizen reviewers are generally more lenient in their disciplinary recommendations when they do find that officers have misbehaved.

This has been attributed to several factors, including problems that reviewers have in obtaining access to information, the substantial procedural safeguards that are provided for officers accused of misconduct, and the citizen investigators’ poor understanding of both the police subculture and various police practices. A key element in restricting the use of force is to confine the use of force by specifying the circumstances when they may and may not be used. The prevailing standard is that an officer may use the minimum amount of force for achieving a lawful purpose. However, there is no clear consensus on exactly what these purposes are.

The Kansas City Department reflects the prevailing national standard by specifying that force may be used for four basic purposes: “Members may use department approved non-lethal force techniques and issued equipment to: effect an arrest, protect themselves and others from physical injury, restraint or subdue a resistant individual, bring an unlawful situation safely and effectively under control. Unstated but clearly implicit in this policy is the prohibition on the use of force in response to an officer and his or her authority, or what if often called “contempt of cop.

” Another way to control this issue is by using less lethal weapons. In an effort to reduce the use of deadly force, police departments have adopted various forms of non lethal force. These include chemical sprays, tasers and so on. The goal of providing alternatives to deadly force is laudable, but adding non lethal weapons also creates new policy requirements, as department must specify the proper use of each non lethal weapon and provide the necessary training in its use.

The department of justice faulted the Detroit police for having only “a limited array of (non lethal) force options available: a firearm and chemical spray. The department of Justice fund the Buffalo, New York Police Department deficient with regard to the use of chemical sprays, and directed it to provide eight hours of training on its use, including a “discussion and role plays if situations in which use of CAP (Oleoresin Capsicums) spray is and is not permissible and how to assess relevant factors before using CAP spray.

” However, some people may view use of such non lethal weapons as applied lethal force, although to a small extent. One of the greatest obstacles to investigation of misconduct incidents and to police accountability generally has been the refusal of involved officers to give honest answers to investigators. Officers who witness events under investigation often refuse to either report what they observed or give complete and honest answers to investigators. This usually happens when the police were involved in any form or brutal force.

Such a problem is referred to as a “code of silence” and it has been identified in innumerable reports as an impediment to the investigation of officer misconduct. Some new policies and procedures have been developed that address this long-standing problem. An increasing number of departments have a policy explicitly directing officers to report and testify accurately about misconduct by other officers. Some attention has also been given to providing protection for whistle blowers, officers who voluntarily come forward and report misconduct by other officers.

Finally, the Police Departments should have consistency in justice. Officers learn that a department is serious about accountability when they see critical incidents investigated thoroughly and discipline actually imposed for violations of policy. Nothing undermines a use of force policy more quickly than the failure to discipline an officer who clearly used excessive force or who violated some departmental policy. For example, the Philadelphia Integrity and Accountability Office found many instances of officers not disciplined even though the department had sustained the allegations against them.

A related problem is consistency in discipline. One of the greatest causes of morale problems among rank-and-file officers is the perception that some favored officers escape proper discipline. To correct this problem some departments have adopted a discipline matrix, a schedule of discipline similar to sentencing guidelines in criminal courts that prescribes a disciplinary action based on the seriousness of the immediate incident and an officer’s disciplinary record. Statistics showing police use of deadly force According to Roberts A.

, there is no national data on the incidence of the use of excessive force by police officers. There is no national reporting system on this subject, no state maintains a complete database, and there is not even a standard of collecting use-of-force data at the agency level. Although a number of researcher have relied on citizen interviews or observational research to access the extent of this problem in various communities, most of these studies are quite dated. In addition, the limited information on police use of force comes from a small number of agencies.

He also says that, the available data indicates that police use of excessive force is considered a statistically infrequent occurrence. According to him, the best recent estimate of police misuse of force is a recent study of contacts between police and the public in a Bureau of Justice Statistics national survey. (Roberts A. R. 2003, 57) Other researchers found out that during 1999, the police used or threatened to use force against nearly 1% of the nearly 44 million people reporting face to face police contact with the police. This represented a total of 422,000 people during the year.

About three quarter of those experiencing the force used or threatened by the police was excessive. With respect to racial and ethnic differences, about 59% of those experiencing force were white, 22. 6% black and 15. 5% Hispanic. When respondents were asked to describe the type of force used against them, 72% involved in a force incident said that the police grabbed or pushed them, while another 15. 3% said that the police pointed a gun at them. The remainder of those experiencing force from a police officer reported the use of chemical spray (9. 8%) or the threat to fire a gun (5.

4%). It has also been reported that despite the lack of national reporting system, there is a good reason to believe that this is a problem that varies greatly from department to department. Reiss, a researcher, indicated that the use-of-force incidents accumulate over time and that a sizeable minority of citizens will experience police misconduct at one time or another. Previous studies have found large variations in the rate of police shootings between various jurisdictions that cannot be explained as a result of differences in the crime rate or the arrest rate. pg 149-150) Conclusion

The police have awesome powers unrivaled by any other public officials: to deprive people off their liberty, to use physical force against resisting clients, and ultimately to take human life. Ensuring that these powers are used only when absolutely necessary and without bias against any group is a matter of the highest priority. After many decades of shameful neglect, the police have developed a process of controlling police use of force. The essential features of that process are simple: specifying when force can be used, requiring officials to complete a report on each force incident, and reviewing each report.

As seen from the research, each of these elements is extremely complex and filled with problematic issues. Only in recent years have police departments begun to address all f the relevant issues, often under the compulsion of the U. S Department of justice and federal courts. Much remains to be done. Specific steps should be taken to identify violence prone officers before they act. One way to reduce police brutality is by creating a more balanced approach to address citizen complaints of excessive use of force by bringing such complaints to independent review boards.

As long as police continue to investigate themselves, suspicions of undisclosed corruption and brutality will inevitably persist. Approaches to remedy this situation include more effective disciplinary procedures, refined police selection criteria, more thorough police training on appropriate use of force, and instruction on alternative methods to maintain control when a suspect is resisting arrest. Unfortunately, these remedies have not significantly reduced police use of excessive force. References 1) Bonifacio Philip. (1991).

The psychological effects of police work: a psychodynamic approach. Springer; pg 157 2) Bridges George S. Weis Joseph G. Crutchfield Robert D. (1996). Criminal justice: readings. Pine Forge Press. pg 171 3) Champion Dean J. (2001). Police misconduct in America: a reference handbook. ABC-CLIO 4) Kleinig John. (2nd edition). (1996). The ethics of policing. Cambridge University Press. pg 17-18 5) Roberts A. R. 2nd edition. (2003). Critical issues in crime and justice; SAGE 6) Walker Samuel. (2005). The new world of police accountability. SAGE; pg 60-70