Research Paper: Lawsuits Against the Police

Pages: 6 (2275 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Criminal Justice  ·  Buy This Paper

Police agencies have adopted different training modules in order to understand, counteract, and possibly diminish, if not eliminate, excessive use of force. Faced with an increased number of police men who engage in violence when exercising their power, Canadian police agencies have incorporated force simulation training as instructional method. This is to say that police men can now hypothetically engage in scenarios of use of force to help them face real life similar situations and to help them adopt a just and appropriate behavior in such cases. From a psychological point-of-view, it is understood that stressful and dangerous situations are among the causes for police excessive use of force. Of course, that is not to say that police men are not held accountable for their acts or that their use of force is justified. This is why the kind of support as the one aforementioned is provided, so that excessive use of force can be avoided and controlled. IES Interactive Training is known throughout America and internationally for their simulation training programs. Another issue that has been widely approached in regards to police forces acting against their oath is the attitude of suspects. That is to say that research has indicated that police officers are likely to engage in coercive actions against suspects when the latter are disrespectful. However much we understand that certain situations can trigger undesired and often repented demeanor, it is nevertheless acknowledged that use of force is indeed a problematic issue. In the following, we will address specific cases when police officers were brought before the law to respond for their use of force. Where relevant, we will also point towards judgment of the case by the courts and whether or not corrections were applied justly.

In 1991, four Los Angeles police officers were arrested and indicted in a case of assault against Rodney King, an African-American man of twenty five years old. In fact, only three of the officers engaged in violence against King, while the fourth, their supervisor, passively watched the scene. However, a respectable number of other police officers also attended the scene as Rodney King had led police on a high-speed chase that night. Nevertheless, none of them did anything to stop the beating as evidence revealed and neither one was indicted by the court. The day after the incident, a tape was released which had been filmed by an amateur at the scene. On the night of March the 3rd, King had a few drinks at a friend's house before driving home when he noticed a police car following him. Robert King had been previously convicted of robbery and was on parole during the time. The man later revealed he feared being sent back to prison which is why he panicked and didn't stop the car. But when he realized he was outnumbered and outran by the police, he picked a public place and surrendered.

The video clearly depicts the three officers violently beating King and the bystanders around them. It also shows King in defenseless position, trying to protect himself, and there is no sign of him physically challenging the officers. The video was shown on TV repeatedly which further enraged the masses and contributed to subsequent violence and racism accusations. Daryl Gates, who was Chief of the Los Angeles Police between 1978 and 1992, declared in an interview for PBS that the case had nothing to do with racism. Moreover, he stated that ? King decided he wasn't going to follow the directions of the police officers because he didn't want to go to prison, and he knew he was violating his parole. So he aggressively attacked the police officers… (Gates, February 27, 2001, Frontline Interview) In the same interview, Gates emphasized that none of the officers knew about King's parole and that he was violating it as to defend his statement that indeed no racism was intended. Without going in depth of the financial costs and deaths that followed Robert King's beating, we draw the attention that it was a case which for ever changed the perception over the Los Angeles Police Department. Indeed, racism was perpetuated as the primary motif for the assault on King and Gates himself was forced to resign being called repeatedly a racist. It is not the racism context which is relevant for our research but indeed the violence which was used against Robert King and which is obvious in the video. Whether or not the man actual challenged the officers is relevant but not so much as it definitely not explains nor does it justify their demeanor. It is usually expected that officers will act with temper and that use of force is only allowed when circumstances call for more coercive actions. Even if King did attack the police officers, the treatment he was applied would still be considered wrong. Not only because he was outnumbered by the police, or that he was unarmed, but because officers of the law are required to handle situations differently and just. These being said, it was acknowledged that Robert King did keep the officers in contempt leading one of them to believe he was "dusted" with a drug which police officers feared the most at the time. Nevertheless, it was also acknowledged that the police officers in question rather bragged for ?not beating anyone this bad in a long time, ? therefore offering basis for racist accusations.

It is possible that, had Robert King been a white male, such extreme riots would have not occurred following the verdict. Then again, it is also possible that, if Robert King had been a white male, the four police officers would have been, if not convicted, then punished. But they were acquitted by a jury composed of mostly white citizens with only six being African-Americans. In the first few days that followed the verdict, dozens of people were killed, thousands of arrests were registered and property damage was acknowledged in value of 1 billion dollars. Circumstances forced for a new trial, bringing federal charges against the four Los Angeles police officers. Two of the officers were found guilty and the other two were acquitted.

In the year 2000, the results of two studies that encouraged ?American police officers to explore their attitudes on the abuse of authority by police, ? were released. (Weisburd et al., 2000, p. 1) Among other findings, the studies revealed that ?police harassment of minorities is not an isolated occurrence. (Weisburd et. al., 2000, p. 2) The study focused on police officers in Illinois and Ohio. Nevertheless, a study received by the U.S. Department of Justice that same year indicated that ?force is used in approximately 8% of police-citizen contacts. (Alpert & Dunham, 2000, p. I-3) In more than in one occasion it has been emphasized that police use of force is not regularly, that it happens regionally and is not to be considered representative of the entire police system. As already stated, working in dangerous environments and being exposed on a daily basis to crime scenes, make one become suspicious in whatever circumstances it appears to him as unusual. Such was the case in 1989 with police officer M.S. Connor who, mistakenly, assessed a rather banal situation as a case of crime committing. What happened was that a diabetic, by the name of Dethorne Graham, had asked a friend to drive him to a store to purchase a bottle of orange juice. When Graham saw how crowded it was, he decided not to wait and rushed out of the store asking his friend to take him someplace else instead. Police officer Connor followed the car due to his suspicions and asked Graham and his friend Berry to wait until he would investigate the matter in the store. Meanwhile, back-up police officers arrived on scene and handcuffed Graham, not allowing nor accepting any explanation as to what his condition was. He was released upon Connor's return from the store who found no injustice had been committed. However, Graham sought the injustice had been upon himself and led the police officers into trial on charges of excessive use of force and violation of rights. The Court however wanted to investigate whether the police officers acted in validation of an alleged crime or made conscious use of force to inflict harm. Graham had suffered some injuries during the seizure. What's more, one of the officers concluded that ?many people with sugar diabetes never act like this? And assumed that Graham was in fact drunk. All the while, Graham was unconscious after having fainted previously. Upon regaining consciousness, he asked the police men to check for a diabetic decal that he carried with him but the officers ignored his request. What's more, orange juice had been brought to Graham by a friend but the officers refused to let him have the drink. The Court acted in favor of the police officers and it was decided that their use of force had been appropriate, given than suspicions surrounded… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Lawsuits Against the Police.  (2013, July 31).  Retrieved April 19, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/lawsuits-against-police/6222661

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