Extralegal and Unnecessary Police Violence
There is a major difference between extralegal and unnecessary police violence but the problem is that people cannot differentiate violence that is simply illegal and violence that is attributed to police incompetence. The difference is crucial since the cause and motivation of the two types of violence are significantly different. Extralegal violence is where police officers wrongfully and willfully use excessive force while knowing that they have exceeded what is required under the law (Fyfe, 2015).
Conversely, unnecessary police violence takes place when well-intentioned police officers cannot handle the present situation without having to resort to hasty or needless force. A number of scholars have argued that some officers think that the procedural limitations of their workplace act as arbitrary barriers that prevent them from achieving their goals.
Extralegal violence mostly occurs when police perform their duties based on the assumption that they cannot achieve what is needed when they operate according to the code of conduct. For instance, officers may become frustrated when people who were caught committing crime are acquitted by the legal system. Therefore, extralegal violence is where officers resort to dirty means fabrication of evidence, intimidation and even torture to evade barriers to justice (Fyfe, 2015, p. 518).
On the other hand, although extralegal violence is remarkably bad, unnecessary police violence is more frequent and it causes severe injuries to innocent victims. The main distinction is the fact that unnecessary police violence simply results from police incompetence. For instance, an officer may lack the ability to convince disturbed individuals to put down their weapons and end up shooting them.
Police-client interactions are unique in nature, and they can be subdivided into involuntary, urgent, and public ones. The urgency of police-citizen encounters presupposes that the police often lack the right to decide when they will conduct their duties because they are expected to be always on alert and respond immediately to any calls for assistance. Therefore, the police perform their duties similar to emergency room personnel who have to act immediately when there is a problem.
Further, involuntariness of police-citizen encounters means that police officers are not provided with the luxury of choosing or picking their clientele from among those people who require police assistance (Fyfe, 2015). For instance, a doctor may diagnose a disease but refuse to treat and refer the patient to a specialist.
However, police officers do not have such liberty since, when faced with public disturbance, they cannot withdraw and recommend a more experienced officer. Irrespective of inexperience, the public expects the police to handle the situation and leave a place, which was full of disturbance, with peace. Thus, the involuntary nature of police work implies that they cannot decline the demands of their clients.
Finally, the public setting of police-citizen encounters presupposes that the police lack the ability to choose specific places where they can perform their duties. The public nature of police work implies that they cannot work in private offices and they are expected to respond to all calls for assistance in any public space (Fyfe, 2015). Most of these places are not constrained by any form of formality or professional setting. Furthermore, officers must pay close attention to the immediate problem they are attending to, as well as the reactions of third parties who are there to judge if the officers were professional in nature.
Split-second syndrome can be defined as the reflections on different kinds of instant decisions that police officers make, especially when they face a crisis. Owing to the syndrome, a well-intentioned officer can make poor decisions due to pressure. The syndrome has two purposes, namely it curtails the growth of higher police diagnostic expertise and offers after-the-fact justification for unnecessary police violence (Fyfe, 2015, p. 526).
Numerous assumptions underlie the split-second assumption. To start with, there are no two problems faced by officers that are distinctively alike and, therefore, the specific situations cannot be diagnosed by the same principles. Second, because of time constraints and other stress factors, numerous inappropriate decisions are expected and there should be no subsequent criticism. Lastly, analyzing if the police actions are justifiable can only be done appropriately after considering the perceived pressure at the moment when the officer made the decision.
Officers can avoid split-second decisions by surveying the geographic areas they are assigned to so that they can have an experience of how to react when faced with a violent situation. Consequently, this can provide officers with an opportunity to form provisional advance plans, such as for those dealing with warehouse burglaries and supermarket robberies, among others (Fyfe, 2015). Concealment and tactical knowledge are two major principles that can be used as diagnostic tools when making decisions on ways of dealing with violent individuals and situations.
What people know with substantial confidence about the use of force by police officers is widely recorded in a wide range of reports such as citizen complaints, use-of-force reports, and victims reports. Evidence suggests that only a small proportion of interaction between the police and the public results in the use of force injury. The use of force mostly occurs when suspects are being handcuffed and they are resisting.
For instance, in 1996, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) showed that close to 500,000 people were exposed to the use of force and that the number increases to 1.2 million when handcuffing is included (Adams, 2015). Scholars discovered that the use of physical force that does not include handcuffing is less than one of five of the people arrested. It has also been emphasized that the police infrequently use force, which portrays the methodological problem of attempting to study or count the infrequent events. The 1996 BJS pilot study of 6,421 individuals showed that 14 participants, or approximately 1 in 450, argued that they encountered the excessive use of force (Adams, 2015, p. 536).
What is known with substantial confidence is that the use of force among police officers usually takes place at the bottom of the force spectrum, and it involves pushing, grabbing, or shoving. Weaponless tactics are usually used by in approximately 80% of use-of-force incidents and that half the time the tactic involved grabbing the suspect (Adams, 2015, p. 537).
As showed in the above report, in Miami, approximately 500,000 individuals were held, hit, pushed, choked, controlled by a police dog, sprayed or threatened with a pepper or chemical spray, a flashlight, and a gun, or exposed to other types of force. However, studies indicate that three-fifth of these incidents only involved holding and not the severe forms of force. Basically, what is substantially known is that the police typically use force when they are attempting to arrest suspects but they are resisting.
There are a number of things that people know with modest confidence about the use of force among police officers. To start with, the use of force is not related to the personal attributes of the officer such as gender, age, and ethnicity. However, research studies have shown that violence and criminology, as well as various forms of norm-violating and risk-taking behaviors, are usually associated with young men (Adams, 2015).
Therefore, it can be deduced that male officers who are young are more likely to use force as compared to their female colleagues or aged officers. Second, a high possibility of the use of force takes place when officers are dealing with drunk people, those under the influence of drugs, or mentally ill individuals.
However, more research studies are required to verify this conclusion. When police officers encounter drunk or mentally disturbed persons with a weapon, they usually try to talk to them and convince them to put the weapon down instead of using force. Another issue that is associated with modest confidence is that only a small number of police officers tend to involve themselves disproportionately in the use-of-force incidents (Adams, 2015).
The rogue officer or the rotten apple theory has been used to explain the police corruption. The same theory has been utilized to explain the use of force challenges in police organizations, with some officers being labeled as violent prone.
What is Unknown?
There are numerous issues that people do not know about the use of force among officers. First, people do not know the frequency at which the police use wrongful force. There is a need for comprehensive research studies that will determine precisely and validly how transgressions and the use of force take place (Adams, 2015). It is not clearly known how different kinds of forces can be categorized, for instance, illegitimate, abusive, unnecessary, and improper.
Second, police organizations tend to differ based on a wide range of areas, including administrative policies, training, hiring, technology use, and discipline. The extent to which these areas impact the illegal or excessive use of force is not known, and there is a need for further research.
Studies need to analyze if the attributes of the police force, as well as its leadership, tend to influence the character of the police officers and their tendencies to use force. However, it is evident that poorly educated, loosely trained, unsupervised, and undisciplined police officers have a higher possibility of being problematic, but there are not enough studies that address these issues (Adams, 2015).
Third, little is known about what influences the situational attributes and the use of force among police officers, as well as the transactional character of such events. This implies that since the use of force is both transactional and situational, police officers respond to various issues as they first find them and then they continue to unfold with time. There are four major themes in the law enforcement codes and they include fairness or justice, the importance of law, the theme of service, and personal conduct.
All professionals face situations where it is difficult to make ethical decisions. Nevertheless, the kind of ethical dilemmas that police officers face tend to differ from those of other professions, especially due to the fact that they are public servants. The private life of a public servant usually becomes public. For instance, no one will be concerned with sexual escapades, drinking, and gambling habits of a plumber (Pollock & Reynold, 2015).
However, one major ethical dilemma is that the private behavior of a public servant is highly scrutinized. Police officers belong to the group of individuals who are expected to practice ethical and moral standards since it is believed that their private life affects how they perform their public duties. Described above is a social contract concept by Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The public gives a certain amount of power to the government in exchange for protection. Thus, officers are expected to have high levels of fairness, objectivity, and lawfulness.
When the code of ethics was created and promulgated, it became the starting point of professionalizing law enforcement (Pollock & Reynold, 2015). An important phrase added to the code of conduct is that police officers should collaborate with all legal agencies, as well as their representatives, when pursuing justice. This adjustment helped to solve another ethical dilemma of whether a police officer was expected to cooperate with different agencies.
Day-to-day ethics is mainly influenced by the kind of decisions that people make based on their discretion or powers, and these decisions can be either ethical or unethical. When it comes to day-to-day ethics, there are some circumstances when the police have the authority to make an arrest or simply ignore the situation. For instance, not all motorists on the road are arrested. Whereas police officers are trained to follow the law and departmental policies, there are officers who choose to ignore the formal systems. At the same time, there are also those who follow the law as they are trained by the book (Pollock & Reynold, 2015, p. 185).
There are numerous examples that are associated with day-to-day ethics. For instance, a police may respond to a call where a 70-year-old woman with hearing problems is accused of shoplifting batteries for her hearing aid and they can decide not to arrest her. The scope of the officers duties is usually complicated since they can make discretionary actions that may impact ethics. Some of these areas include gratuities, drug and alcohol use, and discrimination.
Noble Cause Ethics
The noble cause of ethics among police officers is to fight crime and make the world a better and safer place. When noble cause of corruption is discussed, it draws significantly from the two models of law enforcement of Herbert Packer, which include due process and crime control. The operations of the crime control model include repressing crime, enhancing efficiency, and emphasizing finality and speed. Conversely, the due process model operates on the basis that efficiency is not as important as eradicating errors, and protecting the law process is more significant than the outcome of the conviction.
Some of the areas that are associated with noble cause ethics include undercover testilying and investigations, interrogation, the use of force, whistle blowing, and the blue curtain of secrecy (Pollock & Reynold, 2015). There are certain situations where officers find their friends committing a crime in the office. The ethical dilemma and conflict would be to report or remain loyal to their friends. If they lack loyalty to their friends, it would be easy to report, but if they have no loyalty to the agency, they would not report.
The two types of ethics have a high level of similarities such that it is difficult to differentiate them. However, the day-to-day ethics is usually associated with matters that give a police officer the discretion of making a decision of whether to arrest or not arrest an individual. For instance, officers are exposed to a wide range of choices to make and then decide whether they will ignore the law or whether they will comply with it when making the final decision (Pollock & Reynold, 2015).
Conversely, the noble cause ethics differs greatly since it puts emphasis on ensuring that a case is followed based on the due process of the law. It implies that it is much more important to adhere to the due process of the law than the outcome of the case. In such a situation, officers can only be ethical if they follow the law instead of using their discretion.