This article post is intended to put some misguided perceptions of police brutality to the test. Many videos that are posted on the Internet, high profile and disturbing cases on TV, as well as personal experiences of people we know can distort the truth. Extreme experiences will often propel extreme viewpoints—especially to those who had preconceived notions to begin with. Here are some important points to consider.
Overkill: The Use of Force and Excessive Force
Gather a group of people together who have experienced some form of brutality and they will most likely say something was “too much.” Here are some examples: “the handcuffs were way too tight”, “they slammed to the ground”, “they put my face into the pavement”, “I thought I was going to pass out when they chocked me”, and “Things got heated way too fast.”
Of course, one person’s brutality is another person’s “typical arrest.” The reason there is so much confusion is because the majority of the people who are reading an article such as this one are not used to being arrested every month. In fact, statistics will show that are you have probably never been formally arrested. Therefore, how would a person know how much is too much? The rule of thumb is typically a common sense one: You’ll know it when you see it.
Officer Safety & Sudden Escalation
As much as some people have experienced the ugly side of an arrest where things could have been handled a lot better, the reality of daily police work concentrates on an officer’s safety. Pulling someone over like yourself, you would think there is nothing to worry about. But the fact of the matter is that an officer has never met you—so how would they know? Not only that, but once a suspect makes a gesture or movement that they could be reaching for a gun—an already excited and stressed-out officer will panic just like anyone else. Which is why you will see police reach for their service weapon so fast once the scene gets messy. That is why it’s so important to pay attention to police department policy and make sure officers follow the guidelines they have been taught.
Overuse of Police Force Equipment
Tasers come to mind as one of the most overused weapons in officer’s arsenals. Prior to their introduction into most law enforcement communities, their main purpose was to combat difficult suspects that could not be made to comply with officer commands. They were used sparingly. Today, reaching for the taser is equivalent to police officer’s “last chance command.” This is a gray area in the law that requires close examination in deciding when is the proper timing to use a weapon in escalation. Consider the following scenario: Should an officer have the option to eject a high voltage taser into another person where the officer’s commands are not even warranted? Flip the coin, and ask yourselves if it is proper for officers to use their tasers as their first line of defense when seeking compliance? To make the discussion more difficult, consider this: Most studies support the fact that suspects are more likely to become combative and noncompliance once a taser is used due to the disorienting effects it has on them. How do you feel if someone were to wake you up in the morning with his or her hands around our throat wanting to choke you? That’s a common experience in many individuals that are tased.
Lethal Force and Last Resort Conduct
Perhaps the most disturbing and most difficult cases to make sense of are those where someone has lost their life. The moment someone is pronounced dead at the scene, an army of investigations follows with multiple levels of oversight. In many cases, lethal force was justified at best or a split second decision. In the worse cases, opening fire has been shown to be reckless and negligent—where it really did not have to escalate to such a degree. The only way to gain perspective on these cases is through investigation. By the time a designated lawyer begins to look into the case, at least two other agencies have placed their stamp on the investigation: the law enforcement agency that was responsible, and the local district attorney’s office that looks into the shooting for the potential of criminal activity. As you can guess, rarely will there be conduct that rises to such a level of criminal conduct. In cases where it gets close, you will often see officers placed on administrative leave or internal affairs procedures will take over for instituting discipline.
As you can see, police brutality facts differ in respect to a very wide range and can have several layers of investigations that come with them. The important note to take from that range is that a competent attorney who knows how to ask the right questions and get to the meat of the issues is the best choice in handling issues of police brutality.
If nothing comes of the investigation but clarity and understanding, then the victim and loved ones can at least rest well knowing they have looked into making sure things were handled the right way. In a complex and litigious society—this is an appropriate balance in overseeing those who are placed in positions of power and authority.