The fundamental objective of governments is to protect their citizens. As the most discernable government arm, law enforcement authorities (police force) are on the forefront in the contest to protect the public from harm, and to maintain public order. To achieve this objective, the society gives a unique power in civil government to the police force, which involves controlling the behaviour of the public. In the most undeviating way, and on a daily routine, police officers are involved in the control and management of the behaviour of the fellow citizens (Adams et.al, 1999).
Police officers are government executives who are tasked with the responsibility of enforcing law and maintaining order. Police officers are often involved in a dangerous or fatal, and stressful profession which may involve violent circumstances that should be contained. In majority of these conflicts with the public there might arise the need for the police officers to administer force in order to take control or contain the situation. By law, a police officer has the right to apply legitimate force if indispensable to keep the law, maintain order or make an arrest. On some occasions this use of force may take the instance of hand to hand contest with a suspect who is seen to be resisting arrest.
The police force has stringent guidelines to be adhered to when applying force to enforce law and maintain order. Force should be applied in only the least amount required to attain a legitimate determination. For example, the New York Police Department (NYPD) has set 5 stages through which the use of force can be procedurally applied. The first instance is the verbal persuasion, which is trailed by physical but unarmed force. The use of non-lethal weapon then comes next, but if the challenge persists, force involving impact weapons may be utilized. However, when efforts seem to be like hitting on a hard rock, NYPD provides for the use of deadly force (Alpert et.al, 2011).
The use of force by police has a distinct importance in realizing the main objective of the police force which is enforcing law and maintaining order. In cases where there is perverse resistance retaliation from a suspect against arrest, force may chip in to ensure the apprehension of the culprit thus restoring order and peace in the long run. However, as much as force may be applied to the benefit of maintaining order and enforcing the law, it has been faced by many misfits in the context of a society. This paper examines the advantages and disadvantages of the use of force by police to contain a situation, highlighting the best examples where possible.
Basic training of law enforcement officers covers the use of force, which includes investigating crimes involving shootings and assaults by police, and deadly force. The existing relations between the events of deadly force and such investigations which might involve the use of force have extensive results, both desirable and non-desirable for the officers engaged, the public and, the law enforcement department (Petrowski, 2002).
The advantages of use of police force
The use of force by police is of both practical and theoretical importance. In a theoretical perspective, weber states that the government upholds the claim to the monopolistic and legitimate use of force in law enforcement (Weber, 1964). The police force in modern democracies such as the U.S. possesses a simulated monopoly on the authentic use of force over citizens (Reiss, 1971). Therefore this justifies that the use of force by the police to effect their operations on law enforcement, helps the police force gain a public confidence as it is vital to the relations of the officers and the other members of the society.
The power to use force imprints the police profession with some uniqueness which makes it different from other professions. The use of force by the police ensures the effectiveness of the force in attaining its goals of enforcing law and order. In cases where the police are intending apprehend a criminal who is in the run and poses a serious threat to the community at large in the sense that he or she is heavily armed, the use of force can come handy in immortalizing or neutralizing the threats posed by this culprit as he cannot be tamed or arrested with bare hands.
As Klinger (1994) concludes, the effective way to control a serious crime which demeanour exerts an independent effect on the effort to make an arrest, the use of force, which might involve deadly force or use of lethal weapons, enhances the likelihood of apprehending the suspects or containing the threats they pose. This is because the hostility of the suspects might result in crimes being committed against and in the presence of the arresting officers since their demeanour presages a privation of respect for law enforcement authority.
Disadvantages of using force
In practice, the use of force by police has significant consequences for both the society and individuals. The people subjected to force might suffer emotional or physical injury. This is leads to failure as the police force is an arm of the government with a parent objective of protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens. The officers also involved in the process of engaging force against an individual or group of protester might develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which is a diagnosable disorder resulting from exposure to harsh, life- threatening actions and causes substantial disruptions in feelings, behaviours and thoughts. According to Honig and Sultan (2004), the reactions of officers after being involved such incidents of police force, included increased feelings of rage and anger, fear of future assignments, concentration challenges, physical distress and raised startle response. Among these reactions, what is elucidated as the main post incident factors were fear and vulnerability.
Cumulated across the society, direct experiences of force, as well as indirect experiences through word of mouth and observation, seem to impact the perception and attitudes of the public towards the laws enforcement agencies and towards state and law in general( Friedrich, 1980). The use of force by police alongside the failure to deliver sufficient security against law-breaking offences has been an enduring complaint and basis of disaffection by the minority groups in the society. It has also been cited as one of the civil disarrays which has racked majority of the American cities in the past (Friedrich, 1980).
The other challenge of using force which has been received is the controversy which surrounds the way it is applied. Use of force has been mainly influence by the race, and to a minor extent the gender, of suspects. Although some of the studies which have been done on the impact of race on the use of police force have been inconsistent, some researchers have found that male members of the minority groups in the society are likely to have force used against them during their encounters with the police (Crawford & Burns, 2008; Lawton, 2007). Contrary Garner et al. (2002) found that race was not statistically relevant in relation to the use of force by police. Garner et al. (2002) stated that, males were much likely to be on the receiving end of force than females. For suspect demeanour and resistance, the most uncooperative, antagonistic and disrespectful citizens are more likely to have force used against them (Brooks, 2005; Garner et al., 2002).
Police use of force has many consequences both good and bad. As much as the police utilize force in apprehending or containing unrests it should be considered that the use of force has much more adverse effects than its main objective or sole advantage. Many a times, the use of force has been subject of controversies which has seen the use of force as a way or mechanism which individuals in the police force use too target or enhance their racial oriented differences or other partial incriminations.
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