Police Use of Force by alicejenny


									          Police Use of Force
Recall Bittner on Police use of Force

A mechanism for the distribution of situationally
   justified force. In order to preserve democratic
   processes, society grants to police an exclusive
   right not permitted citizens: the use of force to
   achieve democratic ends.
Force definition: Any time the police try to have
   citizens act in a certain way.
a. Even a request, because it carries the authority of the state to
     back it up.
b. All police-citizen interactions carry elements of force even if
     police don’t intend them to.

Use and justification of force: determined by two
1.   Formal training—state code.
2.   Local police cultures, which provide normative
     understanding of police behaviors.
                     Force & Coercion
Acceptable Force & Training:
1.   The ―continuum of force‖: from the least to the greatest.

       a. Mere presence. Visible authority of the state will resolve some
       b. Verbalization: verbal force. Adult to adult communications. ―Sir would
            you please step out of the car.‖
       c. Command voice. Issued in the form of an order.
       d. Firm grips. Physical grasps direct a suspect when and where to
       e. Pain compliance. Techniques that cause pain without lasting injury.
       f. Impact techniques. Knock down or incapacitate a dangerous person.
            Pepper spray. Beanbag bullets. Stun guns.
       g. Deadly force: to immediately incapacitate another person.

2. Assessment of threat—both from the nature of the resistance and the
     potential of the resisting person, whether is under influence of
     drugs/alcohol, and likelihood that he/she has a weapon.
           Force & Coercion
Hunt : ―working notions of normal force.‖ Standards of
acceptable force learned on the street. Force is normal
under two circumstances:

   1. Outcome of emotions airing naturally from some kinds of
   police work.

   2. Establishes police authority in the face of a threat or is morally
   appropriate for the kind of crime encountered.

   Both normal levels of force and psychological
   mechanisms for its use are learned in day-to-
   day encounters (read the socialization process
   is at play.)
           Race and CJS Control
African Americans represent approximately 13% of the
   – 31% of persons arrested
   – Nearly 50% of all persons in prison
Clearly this is partly a reflection of crime processing after the
  police, but the police are instrumental as gatekeepers.
Race differences in police satisfaction
   –   76% of Blacks vs. 90% of whites (Hisp in b/t)
   –   Blacks more likely to report being hassled by police
   –   Have fear of the police
   –   Intersection of race & class
        • Weitzer (1999 study)
        • Lower income Blacks more likely to report
            –   Being stopped without good reason
            –   The target of insulting language by police
            –   That police use excessive force
            –   To have personally witnessed police use of excessive force (50%)
            –   White middle-class reported never seeing force incidents
      Race and CJS Control
Discrimination vs Disparity
Discrimination: Differential treatment based
  upon an extra-legal characteristic
  It may take a variety of forms and comes in a
  range of degrees (from relatively minor to
Disparity: Different outcomes that are not
  necessarily caused by differential treatment.
Context is important. Why?
Discrimination may vary across: Officer
  actions, Officers, Dept. units, Police Depts,
  Communities, etc.
             Police Use of Force
Extent/Prevalence of Use of Force
The Police-Public Contact Survey.
     1. BJS—The first national questionnaire to assess
        overall use of force by police during police-citizen
     2. Representative citizen households: 80,000
        households interviewed in 1999.
     3. Estimated: 43.8 million citizens (~20%) had a face-to-
        face contact with an officer.
     a. 19 million traffic stops
     b. 52% for speeding. 6.6% involved a search. Twice as likely to
        search non-whites.
     c. 421,700 total contacts involving force
     d. 321,000 claimed force was ―excessive‖
Police Contacts
   2000 LEMAS Survey
Police Contact by Race
      1999 LEMAS Survey
                 Inappropriate Force
A. Overview
     1. Legalized means—due process—what the police are
     permitted to pursue crime.
     2. Many officers are ends oriented. Arresting dangerous
     3. Police culture seems to give more emphasis to good
     ends than legal means.
B. Brutality and excessive force.
        a. Excessive force: violence of a degree that is more than
        justified to affect a legitimate police function.
        b. Police brutality: more than excessive force, and may not
        support a legitimate police function.
        c. Carter: Abuse of authority (three parts)
             1. Physical abuse/excessive force. More force than
             necessary for an arrest/ wanton use of any degree of
             physical force by officer
             2. Verbal/psychological abuse. Assail, ridicule, harass,
             threat of physical harm.
             3. Legal abuse/violation of civil rights. Occurs with other
Frequency of Excessive Force & Brutality
  1. Barker (1986). South city. Small sample (45). 40
  percent used excessive force at times. Half of officers
  would rarely if ever report excessive force.
  2. Carter McAllen, Texas. 23 percent excessive force
  sometimes necessary to justify an officer’s authority. 62
  percent believed officer use excessive force in retaliation
  against anyone who used force against an officer.
  3. Friederich (1980): officers use force in only 5 percent
  of encounters with offenders/suspects. In two-thirds, it
  was excessive.
  4. Most recent infamous case: Rodney King (Los
  Angeles 1991).
             a. Supervisors were aware of officers using excessive force repeatedly
  and lied in reports.
             b. Messages on the computer indicating violence and prejudice were
  ignored by police supervisors.
             c. Citizens who complained about excessive force were routinely ignored.
  2000 citizen complaints—42 resolved in favor of the complainant.
               Force & Coercion
Is Brutality a problem today or not?
What’s the evidence?
     • Prosecutors do not take on cases. Closely allied to
     police. Most don’t keep a log of police incidents.
     • Prosecution record. 1997: Federal Civil Rights
     Division—10,891 complaints—25 indictments and
     informations of 567 officers. 9 convictions, 19 entered
     guilty pleas, 4 acquitted.
     •1989—8,953 cases forwarded to FBI.
     •1996: 11,721. 30 percent increase.
Is Brutality a problem today or not?
What’s the evidence?
     • Sulc (1995): Restraint, not brutality, is typical of police
     behavior. And is less prevalent than 20 years ago.
     Perception of police violence is a media artifact.
     • Tucker (1995); cannot only look at complaints—must
     consider if they are justified. Of 2,286 cases in NYC in
     1990, 566 dropped because complainant was
     uncooperative, 234 complainant withdrew charge, 1045
     closed without full investigation usually because
     complainant was unavailable. Only 81 had a finding
     against the police.
     • Problems of ―no problem‖ perspective:
        – Blame police brutality on behavior of victims, as if police are
        not responsible for their own behavior
        – The real problems victims face when they try to file complaints.
                 Force & Coercion
Six central policy issues regarding police brutality.
       1. It cannot be gleaned only from official reports.
       2. Officer safety and brutality are sometimes confused by
       3. The media dramatize that which comes to their
       attention, including police brutality.
       4. Police departments need to recognize the emotional
       context of police-citizen encounters.
       5. A small percentage are rogue officers. More are brutal
       rarely. These two kinds of officer should be treated
       differently. Decertify and prosecute the repeat offender.
       Retrain the rare offender.
       6. The public supports the war on crime, creating an
       environment that morally justifies overuse of force.
              Force & Coercion
Use of Deadly Force
  –Definition: force used with the intent to cause great
  bodily injury or death.
  –Also consider death when not intended: : Choke
  holds, high-speed pursuits.
  –Outcomes include Death, Injury (2x as likely as
  death,) Non-injury (most common)
Police Lethal Force
     Source: BJS 2001
              Force & Coercion
Use of Deadly Force Explanations:
Environmental and department variations
    1. Rates per 1000
    Low = .44 in Sacramento, CA, to
    High = 7.17 in Jacksonville, FL.
    Mean = 2.24 citizens per 1000 officers.
    2. Environmental factors: homicide rate, overall arrest
       rate, violent crime rate, gun density.
    3. Department policies, practices, and values.
       Leadership may be influential—Philadelphia in the
       1970s. How aggressive are officers encouraged to
             Force & Coercion
Use of Deadly Force Explanations:
Officer factors
  – More risky assignments.
  – Off-duty officers. 15-20 percent of all shootings.
  – Race of officer. African American officers—more
  likely to shoot and be shot at because they are
  more likely to be assigned to, or live in high crime
  areas—exposed to more deadly situations.
  – Women—less likely to have ego involvement
  with suspects and consequently less likely to use
  deadly force.
Police Lethal Force by Race
         Source: BJS 2001
             Force & Coercion
Use of Deadly Force Explanations:
Racial considerations
African-Americans and Hispanics more likely to
be shot.
  –Explanation 1: They are more likely to be involved
  in crime and provoke shootings.
  –Explanation 2: they are more likely to be selected
  as targets. Fyfe: Police are 15 times more likely to
  shoot a black person involved in a property crime.
  –More restrictive shoot policies have tended to
  reduce the number of shootings of African
Legal & Policy Changes Affecting Deadly Force
    •Fleeing Felon rule: Dates to middle ages
    when all felonies were punishable by death.
    •Tennessee v. Garner (1985)
       –Court rules fleeing felon rule unconstitutional
       –Decision accelerates trend toward ―Defense of
       Life‖ standard
            »New York: an alternative. Use force only in immediate danger:
            Result—30 percent reduction in shooting of citizens.
            »No evidence that restrictive policies result in greater danger to
       –Racial disparity in police use of deadly force has declined from
       8 to 1 (B:W) in the 1960s, though a disparity still exists.
            Are current disparities a reflection of…:
            »Systematic, Contextual, or Individual sources of

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