Extralegal Police Violence

The issue of extralegal police violence can be contributed to personal or departmental factors. Individual factor such as officer competence and integrity and departmental factors such as the characteristics of police work and police organizations, are the major reasons of police misconduct when it comes to excessive use of force. Although, these factors may run parallel with each other by departments accepting or encouraging individual behaviors.

Reasoning for individual extralegal violence comes down to the competence and integrity of a police officer. Police officers who are dispatched to handle a non-violent dispute may act in a way to provoke the subject to the point where police force is needed. An incompetent police officer won’t know how to defuse situations and his or her presence will intensify the hostility. An incompetent police officer will take what the subject is saying personal and have to have the last word during the hostile situation. Integrity on the other hand, is doing the right thing when no one is looking. However, regardless of what the media portrays, there are only a small percentage of officers who will abuse their authority and use their badge as a license to vent hostile or anti-social issue.

The reasoning for police organizations being a focus of police misconduct may be due to the organizational norms. These organizational norms may influence the officers of a particular agency to abuse force to conform to other officers. Agencies not only accept particular violent behavior but reward it as well. More attention should be focused on whether the officer responded in a way likely to reduce the potential for violence. This is not only the moral responsibility of police supervisors, but will potentially reduce officer injuries.

What is known about police use of force is that it is very rare. There are a very small percentage of police-citizen encounters that involve the use of force. However, an accumulation of alleged abuse of force incidents, widely reported to the media, encourages overgeneralization by giving the impression that police brutality is rampant and that police departments across the nation are out of control. When police use force, it is relatively minor, such a grabbing an individual to gain compliance. Resistance from a suspect will increase the likelihood that force will be used. Reasoning for resistance may be that the suspect is intoxicated or mentally ill. In these situations, competent officers will strive to talk their way, rather than force their way into solution. Competent officers will increase officer and suspect safety and use force only if necessary. However, a competent officer who deescalates a potentially hostile situation will rarely win an award for his or her actions.    
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