Today, many police departments across America find themselves amidst turmoil with widespread allegations of police brutality. These accusations are ongoing from a segment of our modern-day society that never seems to be satisfied.
Left and right wingers alike will either be for total strict law enforcement up through the death penalty, or argue for a slap on the wrist with rehabilitation for armed robbers, murderers, and rapists.
The resulting melee is nothing but political games, swinging forward and backward, twisting and bending toward the most favorable public opinion. It might hinge on upcoming elections or appointments, reflecting the mood of the majority of voters.
The configuration of a city administration can change overnight, as the result of one mistake, by one police officer, involved in a single incident. A hero one day could be sacrificed the next – if circumstances create an angry neighborhood, which has been misled by a quick-selling media.
SEEING ISN’T BELIEVING
Only on TV does law enforcement look so easy. In real life situations, criminals do not wish to be arrested. They do not put their hands out, waiting to be handcuffed. These felons run, fight and kill, just to avoid apprehension.
Some criminals instigate, telling the officer to kill them, exclaiming they’ll never give up! Most of them have nothing to lose. Prison is not new to them; crime is a way of life.
Lately, video cameras and lawsuits have added a new dimension. A cop never knows what type of criminal he’s dealing with. They could be first-time offenders, first-timers at being caught, or firsthand killers. Many have rap sheets that are taller than they are.
Police officers must apprehend these criminals to protect the public. No one is there to see what kind of a challenge it is. No one knows the strength necessary to overtake a thug who has been caught disobeying the law and is resisting arrest. Everyone thinks a gun in the cop’s holster is enough to keep perpetrators at bay. Police officers today know that such a notion is completely false.
ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL
Each criminal is an individual, as is every person. The amount of ‘necessary force’ required to apprehend one individual may not be nearly enough for the next. Who is to judge? Who has the right to determine what ‘should’ have transpired during an arrest?
That decision is left up to the cop at the scene. Lately, after his or her job is done, he may be told, “It could have been done differently.”
How does this reality affect the cop’s attitude on their next tour of duty? Should different methods be used? Should the cop’s mind be purged of all they’ve been taught? Should cops allow their lives to hang by a thread while they try to persuade some thug to come calmly? These are situations that the public cannot fathom.
The police frequently arrest individuals who have been injured in fights or as the result of accidents. Prisoners are sometimes injured in jail as a result of fights with other prisoners. Injuries can be the result of falls due to intoxication, fainting, or epileptic attacks. Don’t forget that police often use physical force to subdue a person in order to effect an arrest and injuries may result.
The public is inclined to look upon the injury or illness of a prisoner with suspicion and believe it is evidence of police brutality. Because of current attitudes, it is doubly important that officers give careful attention to injured or ill prisoners. It is very wise to detain no one in jail who is in critical condition.
Police officers are not trained to judge the extent of an injury or seriousness of an illness. It is in every officer’s best interest to ensure that the prisoner is examined by a physician. The commanding officer and other superiors should be informed when injured and ill prisoners are brought to police precincts, courts, booking centers, or headquarters.
Necessary steps should be taken to safeguard the life and health of these at-risk prisoners. They should be sent to a hospital or examined by a physician. They should not be held in jail except on the written consent of a physician. An injured-prisoner report should be filed. That protects the prisoner and the agency by recording the physician’s approval of the prisoner’s incarceration. It documents that an examination was made and necessary treatment given.
Who makes the determination when an allegation of police brutality has been made? Civilian complaint review boards have failed to satisfy both the police departments and the public. Officers often must make life-or-death decisions in a matter of seconds where the circumstances are tense and rapidly evolving.
- Should I use deadly physical force, or not?
- Should I hit, or not?
- Should I use a baton, taser or other non-lethal weapon, or not?
No matter what the decision, a cop stands to be criticized, penalized, fired or even jailed. Juries have days or months to decide if a cop overreacted or used too much force, to save his or her own life.
THE COP IS NEVER RIGHT
While the incident is investigated and evaluated, public sympathy invariably leans toward the criminal, due to press releases and one-sided news coverage. Malice spills towards the cop who only did his job.
If one of these arbitrators or members of their families are mugged, robbed, raped, assaulted or held at gunpoint, their viewpoint may change. Then and only then, they will impatiently be calling for an officer to apprehend their attacker using whatever means necessary, “within the law!” Only then will that person begin to understand the predicament, because they are now taking a view from the other side.
Many administrations have found themselves between a rock and a hard place. They must walk a fine line between aggressive patrol and police brutality, often termed an abuse of authority. Sweeps for quality-of-life offenses should not be sacrificed to alleviate tensions that may result from a single incident.
The sweeps often use tactics like Stop-Question-and-Frisk in high-crime neighborhoods as a necessary part of aggressive patrol. The old passive patrol technique, the wait-and-see attitude, is (and always was) a failure.
WAIT FOR THE FAT LADY TO SING
No one condones beating cuffed prisoners. HOWEVER, in the past, handcuffed felons have somehow managed to kill cops. Yogi put it best; “It isn’t over till it’s over!” Handcuffed prisoners can still resist arrest and cause death or serious injury to police officers or innocent bystanders.
Most cops out there know the truth. There are doers and there are watchers. The doer, the aggressive cop, usually winds up the hero, the most decorated, the promoted one. It’s too bad that he or she is also the one who usually winds up holding the bag.
The old police proverb still prevails; “A cop would rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6.”
Today, when a cop falters, he or she stands alone, stripped of all dignity and respect. But, when a heroic deed is accomplished, everyone will applaud and stand behind them while basking in their glory.
The message is loud and clear; be careful out there, use common sense, be professional, but, do your job.
“Above all, it’s about going home at the end of the shift … “
We couldn’t agree more.
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