Use of Excessive Force by Police

Use of Excessive Force by Police


Police officers are given a significant amount of discretion simply due to the nature of the job. Officers are faced with many threatening situations forcing them to react quickly yet appropriately. They have the power to infringe upon any citizen's rights to freedom and therefore they must use this power effectively. One major concern with the amount of discretion officers have is their power to decide when to use force or when to use lethal force. Manning (1997:295) argues that it is generally accepted that police should be allowed to use force. He also explains that there is an uncertainty among people as to what constitutes excessive force. The line between what is necessary and what is extreme is very thin. Use of force is no doubt one important aspect in policing; however, force should also be used with great discretion. If officers do not use force on every suspect they encounter they may be creating a negative environment for the community.

The community policing style is defined by David M. Allender as (2004:18-19),

?Community policing is a philosophy of full-service, personalized policing where the same officer patrols and works in the same area on a permanent basis, from a decentralized place, working in a proactive partnership with citizens to identify and solve problems.?

The most important factors to community policing include personalization, partnership and problem-solving (Allender, 2004:19). The idea is to create a relationship with citizens that is trustworthy and honest. When officers begin to use force to control the community, citizens began to view officers as authority figures instead of service officers that are there to protect and serve. This results in a break down of the relationship between officers and the community. In community policing force should only be used if other efforts are deemed ineffective.

The use of force can pertain many different actions a police officer participates in. Force can range from simply verbal commands to the dangerous use of lethal force. Police no doubt need to have discretion to use force to protect themselves as well as community. Guidelines need to be set so that officers continue to incorporate and maintain the concept of community policing. The purpose of this article is to inform readers that police discretion not only encompasses use of police profiling, responses to domestic violence, or choices in acceptance of gratuities but discretionary decision to use force.
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