With times changing and individuals obtaining more powerful mobile, almost every move a person makes can be recorded or looked back on in some sort of way. With this great power, comes great scrutiny for not only everyday individuals, but for the individuals that protect us day in and day out. Law enforcement has suffered more scrutiny, and has obtained a substantial amount of media coverage over the past few years. This coverage has not been positive, and often highlights the mistakes, and aggressive actions taken by the officers of the law.
With the framing of police officers changing from being outstanding citizens who uphold the law, to vicious animals who abuse their power, one begins to question the reasoning for all the brutality. In this review the intent is to review what we already know about police brutality. Why it happens, who does it happen to, and what can be done to stop it. Although many have covered different potential factors, few have considered the training provided to law enforcement as a potential causation for police brutality.
Could the training that is being provided lead officers to using blunt force as a method of enforcement when alternative options are available. Police brutality is a situation no being wants to be a part of, by assessing the question, “What factors can predict police brutality? ” one may be able to reduce or eliminate the use of necessary force that causes many fatalities every year. One of the most common ideas shared between the studies of police brutality is that there is a main contributor that can be attributed to police brutality.
However there are many factors that are potentially contributing to police brutality. Many studies do not seem to consider all potential variables, but rather focus on one to two variables. By limiting certain variables observed it allows the researcher to conduct a more thorough study, but it overall limits the outcomes and makes for an incomplete study. A study that investigates all possible variables has been yet to have been conducted. This study will focus on many variables, collecting metadata, not only focusing on one specific area but the United States as a whole.
Although this may make the findings very general, and not specific, each individual law enforcement could develop methods to reducing police brutality based on the metadata provided. Police brutality is a very loose term adopted by many facets of media, and society. It can range from vulgar words and slurs used, ranging to excessive force used to detain or stop an a suspected criminal. The use of force is an area in which police officers must exercise good judgment. Chapman, 2012) Often police have exercised great judgement, but more recently with the invention of image and video capturing devices, more cases of police brutality have been captured and recorded. One of the most agreed upon arguments of researchers is the point at which the use of force crosses the line from reasonable to excessive is necessarily hard to define and fraught with controversy. (Chapman, 2012) Often the complaints of excessive use of force, and police brutality are classified differently across different counties, states, and countries.
Many researchers like Christopher Chapman choose to include every report of force used by the police in data used for research. The problem that arises is one of a lack of definition. In order for us to start effectively studying, and accessing police brutality, excessive force must have a universal police definition. It must be able to interpreted, and looked upon when officers actions are in question. By also setting a definition, officers will have a set limit to refer to when making behavioral decisions.
One personal characteristic that appears to be both very important and under-studied is the officer’s level of education. (Chapman, 2012) Many studies have been conducted refuting each other’s findings as to whether or not education tends to have an effect on police brutality. Mixed results seemed to be the result of misreporting and a lack there of reporting. Research on the relationship between education and performance, and on education and use of excessive force in particular, has produced inconsistent and conflicting findings. Atherley, 2014) The argument for education seems to be more persuasive, and far more backed then arguments reporting that education does not have an impact. One may attack this argument stating that experience on the job is much more valuable then education, but each experience and education have different outcomes when studied. Officers with a college degree were less likely to use force than those with no college (Chapman, 2012) Often during these years individuals are taught the most up to date methods of reducing confrontation and resistance, attempting to avoid any escalation.
However on the contrary they also found that officers with more experience relied less often on both verbal and physical force. (Chapman, 2012) With the large amount of mixed results, education is a very important variable to study when attempting to locate causing variables of police brutality. The most thought of and studied variable of police brutality is race. The race of both the victim and offender have been studied heavily, with most researchers agreeing that race does play a role in brutality.
Cities with extremely high levels of black segregation, which is closely tied to black disadvantage, have a far higher incidence of sustained excessive force complaints compared to less segregated cities. (Smith, 2014) Often the cities with high segregation suffer from the most brutality complaints not only due to availability of police officers, but the current state of the locations of certain raced individuals often contributes to the probability of excessive force being used. The place hypothesis predicts that the challenging circumstances of policing in America’s ghettos and barrios may trigger the use of xcessive force. (Smith, 2014) Another interesting finding is that the location of complaints and the race of the complainants is not related. Minority citizens complain in numbers disproportionately greater than their representation in the population served, and this is particularly true for Black citizens. (Hickman, 2016) Additionally often the most complaints filed are ones against minority officers, one may draw from this that race is important on both the offender, and responding side.
Although the research gathered by many different researchers covers many different areas, the results appear to line up with each other. When a conflict is at hand, or a tense situation arises, races tend to act more hostile towards others. An item that should be further explored is the reasoning for these actions. Had either party ever been assaulted, mistreated by the opposing race, causing the individual to predisposed? This information is important to gather and analyze.
If this information is present before an officer is called to respond, or this individual is approached; a different set of actions and methods could be used to avoid escalation and or conflict. Race is very much regarded as a fuel for police brutality, with supporting data it is very easy to jump to this variable, but more data regrading the history of the individual may help either debunk or strengthen this variable. One of the most valid variables presented is the causation and allowance of force due to poor organizational structure and management.
Hoon Lee of Sam Houston University hypothesized that civil liability for police use of deadly force should increase when police officers are poorly supervised, inadequately trained, and lack communication and accountability. With most human nature, if bad habits are formed and not corrected, humans will continue to due them. This idea is adopted by Hoon Lee, that brutality, once used and not corrected, due to poor management and oversight by the police chiefs and commanders, will continually be used. Using any cases of brutality, and misuse of lethal force from across the United States, Lee was able to confirm his hypothesis, concluding that breakdown of division of labor, hierarchy of authority, command and control, and communication may contribute to excessive police deadly force. (Lee, 2010) The idea of organizational breakdown is one that has not been studied very often, Lee conducted a very thorough study including other variables including officer demographics including age, gender, and experience. Of all research to date, his findings seem to include the most diverse set of variables, while offering a criticism.
Finally, it would be beneficial to specify how the results of studies that examine the “causes” of excessive force are affected by the source of data on which excessive force is measured. (Lee, 2010) Again getting back to the necessity of the definition of excessive force. Police officers are one of the most stressed out individuals in the work force. They are required to remain calm, cool, and collective in the most hostile situations. Often they are shot at, and are required to show up the next day for duty.
The level of stress, and tension put on these individuals is an interesting topic that has barely been touched upon. The sources that have been used for this review did not include any findings on the stress that is caused by the job, that potentially could turn into directed anger towards individuals. Stress is an emotion that can cause any level headed individual to make rash, or non compliant decisions. When officers receive a report of excessive force, each time the officer should be questioned, and evaluated not only mentally, but physically.
The data collected will be analyzed to not only see how stress appears overtime, but how certain stresses can cause the use of force. Stresses outside of work would also be observed, making sure that work and personal life stay separate ensuring that this individual remains in the sharpest state of mind. This variable may be hard to measure, but if measured correctly, could reveal potential correlations not seen before. What is important to remember is that the collections of research and data, can mean nothing in a matter of seconds.
Although an officer can receive immense amounts of education, training, counseling, advising, and supervision. The individual has free will to choose to do the correct thing or not. The reason for collecting the above data is to not only discover possible predictors of police brutality, but to also better understand criminals and officers. By collecting the metadata on criminals, crime prevention can not only be improved, but methods of help, and control can be produced to help individuals in need.
As for the information collected on officers, the goal would to be to develop a program or equation that could predict potential conflicts given both the officers prior experiences, education, demographics, etc. , and place them not only in a better patrolling location, but rather an area where they are less likely to use brutality irrationally. This program may not be fit for smaller cities where all variables aren’t the same, but the end goal would be to tweak the program for each individual law enforcement area, to not only better understand the area that is being patrolled but to also ease the concerns of the public.
With a program that can predict potential conflicts, concerns of the public would be eased knowing that everything that can be done to prevent problems statistically, is being done. By analyzing all the data collected and considering all measurable variables, the potential for police brutality could be reduced. Although we can never directly change the actions, and response of law enforcement, we can attempt to avoid all possible forceful situations. The limitations of this would be the entry and recording of data.
Although excessive force reports are turned in, not all are filed. Not every individual in law enforcement may be willing to open up about personal information that could be detrimental to predicting forceful situations. Future research should focus on areas of organizational dysfunction, stress, and race. Each variable should be included, ensuring that no measurable variable is left out. Creating more work, but ensuring that it is a thorough study, considering all possible factors.