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 contacts. 2. Representative citizen households: 80,000 households interviewed in 1999.
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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 contacts.
2. Representative citizen households: 80,000 households interviewed in 1999.
3. Estimated: 43.8 million citizens had a face-to-face contact with an officer.
a. 19 million traffic stops. 52% for speeding. 6.6% involved a search. Twice as likely to search non-white.
b. 421,700 total contacts involving force; 321,000 claimed force was “excessive”
c. 1996 findings presented in case study 9.2. Reviews prevalence, reasons for contact, and police actions during contact.
African Americans represent approximately 13% of the population
Clearly this is partly a reflection of crime processing after the police, but the police are instrumental as gatekeepers.
Race differences in police satisfaction
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 severe).
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.
Bittner: justified the use of force in two ways:
1. Self-defense: people can use force if they reasonably believe that they are in danger.
2. 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 factors
a. Formal training—state code.
b. Local police cultures, which provide normative understanding of police behaviors.
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 situations.
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 move.
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.
Hunt : “working notions of normal force.” Standards of acceptable force learned on the street. Force is normal under two circumstances:
1. Outcome of natural 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 (socialization process.)
1. Legalized means—due process—what the police are permitted to pursue crime.
2. Many officers are ends oriented. Arresting dangerous felons.
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 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 types.
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.
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.
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.
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 citizens.
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.
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)
Use of Deadly ForceExplanations:
Environmental and department variations
1. Rates per 1000 for Category 1: from .44 in Sacramento, CA, to 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 intervene?
Use of Deadly ForceExplanations:
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.
Use of Deadly ForceExplanations:
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 Americans.
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 officers
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:
Systematic, Contextual, or Individual sources of discrimination?