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Use of Force Issues in Law Enforcement

Essay by   •  September 25, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  1,425 Words (6 Pages)  •  1,718 Views

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Law enforcement in the United States is a fine tuned machine. Many third world countries throughout the world do not have the luxury of being trained as well as United States police officers do. One way police officers in the United States are superior is the fact that officers in the US are trained better than most countries in the world when it comes to the training they receive in Use of Force and Use of Force situations.

Basic law enforcement training and use of deadly force is taught straight from the police academy to all new police recruits. This training does not stop at the end of the academy however, law enforcement professions spend considerable amounts of time and resources training officers in the use of force, weapons handling and understanding the constitutional standards and laws associated with the use of force up to and including deadly force. (Bohrer and Chaney 2010).

The public depends very heavily on the assumption that all police officers hired are well trained, of good moral character, are competent to perform their duties as the public expects. If the public loses this very important trust, there can be very high tensions that come out from this. In the past, there have been riots break out, formal complaints filed with the police department, and assaults and even murders committed against police officers. It is very important that officers always use the best judgment when policing the public and never let personal feelings or prejudice get in the way of their sound judgment.

Problems that may occur after an officer is forced to make the ultimate decision come in the form of an internal investigation by other police officers throughout the department, usually detectives who are specially trained to investigate any wrong doing done by other officers. These can a very nerve-racking process. "Interviews conducted with officers who have been involved in shootings have revealed that while many were well trained for the event, they often were not prepared for the investigation afterward (Bohrer and Chaney 2010).

Internal Affairs investigations can take upwards to several months to conclude. This can be very stressful to a police officer on top of everything else he or she has to deal with on a day to day basis. If the evidence points too much into the officer's guilt, it may even be necessary for the officer to get a lawyer of his or her own to defend them. It is not uncommon for a police officer to be incarcerated for the wrong actions in use of force cases. This is another stressor for the police officer that involves time and money. Time off work can also be assigned to an officer by his superiors as per administrative procedure. A police department may make this admin time off mandatory to ensure that the officer has plenty of time to think things over about what happened at work and to let the situation cool down before that officer returns to the line of duty.

One aspect that is often forgotten when it comes to the use of force by police officers is the paper work that goes a long with it. Many departments now require police officers to submit use of force statements whenever they use physical force, but not verbal commands (Gaines 2008). The amount of paperwork that is already required of police officers is on the high side. Police officers may think twice before using physical force unless it is absolutely necessary out of fear of the paperwork that will follow.

Police department often require their officers to document all use of force incidents because of the legal proceedings that may follow after the incident. This may or may not help the officer in court when trying to defend him or herself if an excessive force investigation happens to come up. Police officers must have a clear understanding of the department's and the Constitution's policy on use of the force. This is only way police can be sure they are within the limits of law when applying force on the street. One study in Kentucky State, "Evidence suggests that in rural states and when very small police departments are included in the analysis of data, a very different picture of police use of force policies emerges" (Gaines, 2010). All this study suggests is that in areas of the US where there are small departments in the country, there may be some departments that lack in



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