Claim of policy: Society should continue to trust and understand that the majority of all local law enforcers are good
People’s Perception of the Use of Force by Police Officers
Our aim in this paper is to show that most of the conceptions regarding improper use of force by police officers are flawed from the start. For instance, we will rely on a past investigation to show how the events where force is used account for only a minuscule part of the police-citizen encounters. In the same way, we shall argue in favor of the police as a whole, given the fact that most police officers are individuals who work in a highly stressful environment and sometimes they can go bad. Also, we aim to show the public that the cases of force usage are mostly done by a few “rotten” cops, not by the entire force, and putting all the polices departments in the spotlight for the actions of a single member is highly counterintuitive. We consider that the public should understand and support the police departments, as it has been noted in previous research that the only way to pave the inequity and flawed relations between citizens and police officers is through communication and mutual understanding. What we mean is that maybe, police officers could learn to understand the community’s problems, and the community could start seeing them as humans.
Claim of policy being argued for
Corruption in police departments is rare, and even if it happens, people should not judge police officers based on the performance of isolated individuals.
Our research will show that police corruption, and events that lead to the use of force, in citizen-police interactions are rare occurrences, and to judge and prosecute police departments based only in isolated cases of repeating offenders, is counterintuitive. We are not saying that police departments should not be scrutinized, on the contrary, they should. Our thesis is that passing judgments on some police officers’ actions and instantly blame the whole force is, colloquially speaking, as deranged as being prosecuted for a crime committed by a member of our family. In a strict sense, these individuals’ actions have tarnished the image the public has, concerning what a police officer is.
When police does not meet our expectations, we tend to react with anger, or posing additional demands. The truth is that despite the latest incidents regarding police brutality, what might be seen as a trend, is slowly disappearing. Incidents regarding police abuse cost communities millions of taxpayers’ money, destroy otherwise brilliant police officers’ careers and compromise the trust the public might have on the force. In a strict sense, how could police perform their duty properly, if the public eye is waiting for them to commit a mistake? The public eye can be harsh on them, and sometimes pressure and stress can drive otherwise honorable men and women to behave improperly (Weisburd et al. 2001). In order to avoid improper conduct, or abuse, most police departments have strong regulations that prescribe what is considered proper conduct. At the same time, police departments have a strong code regarding the use of force. The code relies heavily on the moral standards of the force, but every officer is expected to abide by it. On the other hand, no police department would knowingly condone misconduct, and it is possible that those officers who behaved poorly, were subjects to their own will, not to something they might have learned from their police departments.
Police administrators have the obligation of enforce policies against misconduct, and most of the times, the departments or government offices recollect data regarding police-citizen contacts, such as complaints, and use of force. These methods are implemented so the public can rest assured that the police officers are being also policed, therefore, the citizens can feel safer. However, controls are not perfect, and many times “rotten” cops can hinder the public image of the whole force. American cops are known to be hardworking and caring, but these bad cops are damaging an otherwise clean image (Weisburd et al. 2001).
Research demonstrates that only a small percentage of police officer-citizen interactions involve force (National Institute of Justice, 1999). According to this investigation, about 1 percent of people reported that police officers used force against them. In the same way, there is no correlation between the officers’ length of service or age in the use of excessive force. Nevertheless, it is said that some officers are more problematic than others, and tend to repeat their offenses (Harris, 2009). These problematic behavior exhibited by some officers can shed light over our subject, as it is possible that many offenses could have been carried by the same offenders. Sadly, there are not many studies on the particular, and it is still hard to distinguish from offending and non-offending officers.
Possible solutions to our problem
Constant contact between police officers and the communities they serve, so the citizens can feel real involvement from the officers in the community problems. In the same way, people should give credit to the officers as they put their life on the line everyday
Most Americans express positive views on police treatment. Police officers are ranked among the best public servants. The image of police officers as honest and ethical has improved in he last decade. For instance, events such as the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and the subsequent police response, have helped to substantially improve the public opinion regarding police actuation. The problem most police officers face is a matter of trust, what we mean is that despite the efforts made by the police departments, it is possible that those efforts do not translate accordingly to the streets, which contributes with the feeling of fear toward police officers. Police could improve public opinion by stablishing informal contacts with the citizens. If police officers participated in the community, and were part of the solutions as an internal force, rather than an alien one, it could improve the perception most people have (National Institute of Justice, 2003). This could be of critical help in neighborhoods were crime is perceived as one of the biggest problems faced by the community. If police came in contact with the reality of the communities, they would be perceived as humans, thus, treated and seen as them. Personal interactions play a key role on the police officers’ public perception, and most people regard them as non-humane in their treatment, even those who did not commit crimes consider that police officers manhandled them, and were not polite toward them, treating them as if they were guilty. However, people’s opinion is based in their own interactions, and it might be shaped by the media, and sometimes media does not depict police officers in a good light. In the same way, people focus on their interactions instead of focusing in the outcome of those interactions. For instance, research shows that people report positive impressions from officers who treated them fairly and responsibly even if they ticketed them (Tyler, 2005). As we can see, if police officers communicate well, listen and treat the citizens accordingly, they are likely to respond well. Although is not only a responsibility of the officer to respond well and be polite to the citizens, citizens must treat police officers with respect, not only because they are carrying a gun, but because they are performing a duty that could possibly cost them their lives.
Police brutality exists, and besides the case featured by the media, there are many cases that go unnoticed.
Police brutality cases receive high media coverage, as they are of great interest to the public. For instance, if we examine evidence regarding episodes of police brutality, most of them feature a highly stressed officer who carries on a misconduct produced by a situation that escalated out of hands. For instance, if we examine the Ferguson shooting, we observe that this was the case. Although we do not condone any kind of violence, it is likely that if what Officer Wilson says is true, and Mr. Brown reached for his gun, the shots fired by the officer are understandable. However, the rest of the shots correspond to excessive use of force, product of a stressful situation. If officers received more training regarding verbal skills, and not only in the physical part, many of the violence related episodes would cease to exist. If a police officer has not been using his or her communication skills, it will likely resort to using something he, or she knows, such as handcuffing, shooting, or physically restraining it. Perhaps, if more taxpayers’ dollars were used on promoting and providing officers with verbal skills, police brutality would come to an end.
Perhaps many cases go unnoticed, and police officers go unpunished, but these flaws in the system should not be blamed upon the officers, but the legal system. In a strict sense, if an officer commits a crime, it should be punished, but considering that if a “rotten” cop commits a crime, automatically the whole force is rotten is counterintuitive, as you cannot blame an entire group of devoted people for the actions of a particular deranged individual. Research data shows that out of 1,600 incidents of police-citizen encounters, force was used only in 79 cases, which constitutes a 5.1% of the time. Out of these 79 cases, only 28 or the 1.8% of the cases featured an improper use of force (Harris, 2009). As we can see, force usage is a rare occurrence, even when the citizens were suspects of a crime, an event that would feature higher stress levels.
The best way to pave the inequity between the public and the police officers is through communication and mutual understanding.
It is being noted that work is needed in order to pave the differences on the public perception of police officers use of force and the realities those officers might face in their jobs. In a strict sense, we might consider this issue a social problem that requires a shared solution. It is not solely a problem regarding police brutality, or the use of force, but also the way police officers are crucified by the media and the general population (National Institute of Justice, 1999). In as strict sense, if the citizens understood that the law enforcement officers are there to be respected and trusted, that could make their job easier. On the other hand, police officers must understand that the public eye is a powerful force that must be threaded carefully, and those who misbehave are surely going to receive what they deserve. Also, if police departments worked closer with the communities, chances are that both could find common grounds of understanding, which could mean, security for the citizens and support to the officers.
Factors That Influence Public Opinion of the Police. (2003). Research for Practice. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/197925.pdf
Harris, C. (2009). Victims and Offenders, Vol. 2, No. 4, July 2007: Pp. 1–30 Victims and Offenders Police Use of Improper Force: A Systematic Review of the Evidence. Victims and Offenders, 4(25), 41-41.
Police Attitudes toward Abuse of Authority: Findings From a National Study. (2000). Research Brief. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/181312.pdfTyler, Tom R., “Policing in Black and White: Ethnic Group Differences in Trust and Confidence in the Police,” Police Quarterly 8 (2005): 322-342.
Use of Force by the Police. (1999). Office of Justice Program. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/176330-1.pdf
Weissburd, D. (2001). The Abuse of Police Authority. The Police Foundation.