Appropriate Force vs BrutalityHistory . Law Enforcement . Self-Defense
Over the last few years to a decade there has been an active movement to rebrand and vilify the Law Enforcement Officers, the Police. Let’s be honest the Police have never been widely accepted. In the 1960’s they were branded Pigs. In the 1970’s corruption tarnished their image. In the 1980’s that all started to change, the cleaned their ranks and until the early 2000’s had a positive image, they were heroes and role models. Now I have always and always will object to the use of the word hero when referring to Police in general, its their job.
As I was saying something changed in the last 10-15 years in public perception and police attitudes. Protect and Serve use to be the culture of these noble civil servants, today the public image is that of enforcer. The media puts any bad apples on continuous loop to further erode public support, while the politicians and bureaucrats use Federal dollars to militarize the armories and dilute the recruitment standards. Despite all that the job and the laws that govern the job have not significantly changed. One of the biggest issues being debated recently is that of Reasonable Force versus Brutality. To talk more about this we should talk about the purpose of unarmed defensive tactics first.
The purpose of unarmed defense is to help anyone to protect themself and overcome attacks against their person. A Police Officer has a substantial likelihood that at some time they will have to face a violent, resisting person. It must also be realized that in such incidents some policemen will be injured or killed. A working knowledge of unarmed defense will help to avoid a disastrous outcome when encountering a dangerous adversary. The use of unarmed defense helps to avoid not only personal tragedies, but also the cry of “police brutality” because the manner in which an arrest is made. Police must from time to time deal with unpleasant characters, some of whom are vicious. The “velvet glove” technique of asking the criminal to submit to arrest and search is not always successful nor is there any assurance that criminals will remain passive following the arrest; the Police may be required to subdue them before and during transportation to jail. The Police are obliged to overcome the resistance and control the prisoner with the minimum amount of force necessary.
The fundamental distinction between the use of force and brutality is the element reason. Force becomes brutality when it has exceeded bounds of reason. For example, by the very nature of the mission of the Police, they are required by law to use whatever force may be necessary to effect a lawful arrest. Thus, if the force they use is excessive, beyond the minimum amount necessary to control the person, beyond reason, then they are committing an act of brutality.
It is safe to assume that for some time to come crime, disorder and violence will be present in society. Therefore, the Police will always need to be prepared to take action to defend themself in the course of duty. The Police must be so conditioned from the first day of service to accept the eventuality of facing desperate, violent persons. The Police Officer must fully know their responsibilities and limitations when using force in making arrests. Police Officers must also be able to justify its use. Further, the Police Officer should be aware of the consequences of illegal or imprudent procedures, not only of the effects of such misconduct upon the entire department. Police work involves the basic rights and duties of men, and must be discharged in the most conscientious fashion. When a Police Officer employs the violence he has sworn to suppress, he threatens the survival of America.
The above applies to Police use of Reasonable Force versus Brutality however these same rules apply to all of us when faced with defending ourselves. The same questions are asked albeit with a lower standard, but our answers have to hold water. If attacked did you stop beating your attacker when they were subdued? How would your actions be judged in other situations less violent situations?
It is easy for us to read the above and pass judgement on the Police from our safe perspective. We can Monday Morning Quarterback Police actions with ease but how would we handle the same examination of our actions? Reasonable Force versus Brutality do not just apply to self-defense situations.
People cross these lines every day with their family, friends, co-workers, strangers on the street. We rarely see anything from our perspective, self-justifying our actions. When Police do this it leads to Brutality. When we do this it is because they deserved it! Remember Reasonable Force versus Brutality applies to any conflict situation, physical, verbal or mental. If everyone would approach conflict with a bit less emotion there would be less conflict in the World. Sadly that is not our state, so we must reflect on our actions and decide objectively if we used Reasonable Force or Brutality, if the later we should seek remedy.
The next time you read a story about some unjust Police action, take a minute and consider their job, the situation, the requirements of their job and how you might realistically react in that situation. There will still be Police who do wrong, they are human, then ask yourself is it a recruiting problem, a training problem or a person problem. Because if we are going to find blame we should also understand the root cause.
After all that, then ask yourself, if you are in trouble who are you going to call?
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