The Congress passed the law misconduct statute in the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act in 1994 as a response to countrywide debate concerning violation of use of police force after the brutal killing of Rodney King in 1991. The statute authorized the Justice Department to investigate and press charges against specific police departments. The statutes aimed at reforming the investigated departments with high levels of excessive force and misconduct and encourage police reforms countrywide (Walker, 2019). Nevertheless, some scholars regard it as inefficient due to lack of consistence in implementation and financial challenges associated with launching investigations (Walker, 2019). This study examines six case reports provided by the Justice Department to find out systemic failures that cause high levels of excessive use of police force complaints and misconduct reports. The study will also examine the common reforms of settlement agreement between the Justice Department and individual Police Departments to potentially cub excessive use of police force.
Chapter 1: Introduction
Police brutality is a major public concern among police and societal organizations all over the world. It involves assaults and death related to the excessive use of police force and harassment. Physical brutality comprises assault, while non-physical brutality includes using verbal language. Brutality cases have been part of American history marked by protests over Eric Gardener and Michael Brown’s deaths, and it is much worse today as individuals have rights. Most of them have access to camcorders, where they record such cases and later grab the media attention (Clayton, 2018). The public is gradually losing their trust in the police due to their involvement in brutality, abuse of power and criminal behavior cases.
Police brutality exceeding the normal range of punishment has dominated the media headlines for the past few years. Extrajudicial killings are becoming rampant, and the police officers responsible are not held accountable for their crimes but are allowed to continue carrying out their normal duties. Different researchers have found out that police officers use excessive force on the general public instead of criminals. Some people believe that it is necessary to use excessive force to avoid additional crimes in society, and hence it is essential to analyze the two perspectives of police brutality (Lee, 2018).
Brutal officers should be held accountable for their crimes since brutality is based on racial grounds to enable them to exercise equality among all groups of people by using a reasonable amount of force. Social scientists believe that communities do not trust many police officers because of their anger and misconduct (Obasogie & Newman, 2017). Other studies confirm police brutality’s persistence as complainants find it challenging to seek administrative assistance because many officers avoid punishment after breaking the law. Nearly 7/10 of all police misconducts are unreported, and hence no actions are taken against those officers (Baldwin, 2018).
Although many people view police brutality as a negative incident, some people view it as a better way of ending crimes. The old and the young have enhanced their tactics of handling guns. Very young citizens commit violent crimes, and the majority of criminals view tapes of gun shows. Therefore, it is challenging for police officers to maintain law and order, and they may be justified to use extra force to scare criminals (Leider, 2018). No one would want to experience police brutality, and hence it should be used to scare criminals and people planning to engage in criminal activities in the future. Suppose the police officers aren’t brutal; numerous crimes would be reported after every second. The Justice Department has investigated several police departments suspected of misconduct practices and patterns, sometimes placing specific reforms in these departments via settlement agreements (Douglass, 2017).
1.1 Statement of the problem
Citizens expect police officers to perform their duties professionally and take responsibility for their actions. They expect the officers to uphold the law, protect the citizens and their properties. There are powers invested in police officers, and certain legislation governs how the officers perform their duties. Individual rights in the constitution require police to treat citizens politely (Magaloni & Rodriguez, 2020). Hence, it is a problem since the criminal procedure Act allows police officers to apply force to overcome challenging situations resulting in some police officers using such powers unnecessarily. Police officers exercise their duties under extreme conditions, such as dealing with protests and political violence. They may also use violence to counter the protests, which may lead to citizens’ death. This affects the community’s relationship with the police as people lose trust in the police by viewing them as violent people.
1.2 Purpose of study
The purpose of this study is to offer all police officers information on how to deal with the public professionally and avoid brutalities and their negative impacts. The study’s specific objective is to identify sections that should be improved within the police force to avoid future police brutalities and other misconducts.
1.3 Research question
The research question guiding this study is what are the measures that Police Departments should undertake to reduce police brutality cases within the departments?
1.4 Assumptions of the study
This study’s first assumption is that reducing police brutality is a national issue in America because it injures, kills, and imposes very high costs on American society. This study also assumes that the police misconduct and use of excessive force in the six investigated departments depict the forms of police misconduct happening in other departments worldwide.
1.5 Definition of terms
Police brutality: Any instance whereby a police officer uses unnecessary excessive force to or during interactions with citizens while undertaking his duties. Police brutality can be classified into physical brutality, which includes killing a person, such as the killing of the black American man George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and non-physical, which include orally abusing the public (Magaloni & Rodriguez, 2020).
Police reforms: Professional standards are employed to increase public trust in the police departments and police officers who serve the public. An example of these reforms is community policing, which allows the police department to work together with the community to address the community’s challenges and concerns (Magaloni & Rodriguez, 2020).
Department of Justice: it is an executive department of the federal government that enforces the law and administers justice in America. The department is equal to the interior ministry of other nations (Douglass, 2017). In this study, the Department of Justice has actively investigated various police departments alleged to engage in unconstitutional practices that deny citizens’ civil rights.
Excessive force: The use of force over what an officer thinks is reasonably necessary. An officer can be held accountable for employing excessive force in investigatory stops or arrests (Obasogie & Newman, 2017). In this study, the Justice Department is responsible for determining whether the investigated department used excessive force depending on the facts and a detailed assessment of the situation (if the suspect attempted to resist the arrest actively or if he posed a threat to the lives of the people in the incident).
Police misconduct: it refers to police abusing their authority or violating the constitutional rights of citizens. Police misconduct forms include excessive force, unlawful arrests or stops, false arrests, torture, discriminatory harassments, and dishonesty (Obasogie & Newman, 2017).
I have used secondary sources of information to collect the data necessary for this research. I have studied a few investigations conducted by the justice department to explain the different forms of the excessive police force and how to reduce police brutality. I have included investigations of the Seattle Police Department, New Orleans Police Department, The Cleveland Division of Police, Puerto Rico Police Department, Portland Police Department, and Ferguson Police Department in my study’s scope. I found these cases outstanding since they had similarities in their reports of force violation and their information readily available online. The findings report of the investigations conducted in these departments was common and diverse in ways that enabled me to draw my conclusions. All investigations in these departments came from complaints regarding the department police misconduct and brutality, and the Justice Department has availed the reports of the investigations online. Therefore, I will use this online information to come up with my conclusions due to inadequate resources and time.
This research starts with chapter two, which gives a literature review to reveal how different researchers have defined police brutality and related misconduct. In chapter three, I have evaluated the findings report of the investigations and given analysis and analyzed various behaviors that could necessitate investigations of a department and increase the level of misconduct in the departments. In chapter four of this study, I have provided solutions to curb and reduce excessive force use. I examined the settlement agreement between the Department of Justice and specific police departments to develop the solutions explained in chapter four. I also wanted to conduct field interviews with police officers to gather first-hand information, but the officers refused the interview request. In chapter five, I have included the conclusions, recommendations, and limitations of this study.
Chapter 2: Literature Review
More research is being conducted to uncover America’s current trends as far as police brutality is concerned. A study conducted in 2017 showed that police officers killed nearly 1150 citizens, of which a quarter of these victims were blacks. Black Americans only constituted 13% of the total population at the time, showing that they are overrepresented. The findings report showed that black citizens are three times more likely to suffer police violence than whites (Baldwin, 2018).
Sinyangwe et al. (2017) argue that there is a lack of accountability in the 1147 brutal police killings whereby an officer was only held accountable for one of 13 crimes. There are no legal punishments, and the police departments withhold information from the public. The authors argue that shooting is only reasonable and effective to disarm a suspect. The lack of discipline and supervision by their superiors, leading to excessive use of police force, has been discussed in chapter 3 of this paper.
Minaar & Mistry (2017) argues that the police use of unnecessary excessive force is mainly related to their well being, like stress. The two conducted interviews with the local police officers in Minnesota. They found out that the officers work circumstances, like interacting with criminals and suspects, is the main reason for police brutality. They also suggested that stress management and counseling sessions should be undertaken to improve the officers’ well-being.
Studies conducted by Shawn & Tait (2018) suggest that most brutalities result from violent protests by the public and involve public order policing units. They also suggested that police officers employ excessive force as the last options, particularly when the public outnumbers the officers, often leading to the protestors’ death.
Burger (2016) suggests that police brutality, misconduct, and criminal behaviors reduce the police’s trust and confidence. He added that society should trust the police and have faith in them for their safety. However, this seems impossible as recent images and report of police misconduct such as the brutal torture and murder of George Floyd by police officers continue to destroy the relationship between police officers and the public.
Bruce (2017) states that the use of force by members of the U.S. Police Service is uncontrolled and is being misused and the policy should be amended to allow the officers to work effectively. He mentioned the killing of Rayshard Brooks as an example of abuse of power by the police. The police officers shot Brooks in the back for sleeping in the car for over 40 minutes and blocking the drive-through near a fast-food restaurant.
Russell et al. (2016) explained that police officers should not use excessive force in discharging their duty unless, after negotiation, persuasion and discussion have failed to be effective. All police officers should abstain from inflicting unnecessary suffering or pain and engaging in cruel or degrading treatment of people.
The law enforcement misconduct statute 42 U.S.C. &14141 was passed in 1994 to allow the Department of Justice to monitor police activity and ensure that the officers were not abusing American citizens’ civil rights. Police departments often hesitate to implement reforms that protect human rights since the reforms may limit the officers from using all methods available to solve, prevent, and end crimes. The statute authorizes the Department of Justice to construct investigations on local police departments suspected of engaging in unprofessional practices and patterns that deny citizens of their civil rights (Neubauer & Fradella, 2018).
During the investigation process, the Department of Justice first identifies a particular department suspected of unconstitutional practices incited by media reports, whistleblowers within the department, studies that reveal misconduct in a department or a major incident of misconduct. Within my study, I found out the investigations started after public protests over deaths or videos exposing the use of excessive police force (Cole et al. 2018). The Ferguson investigation started after killing the unarmed Michael Brown, which captured the justice department’s attention since the media publicized it, resulting in public protests and outrage.
Once the Department of Justice is informed of a certain police department involving in unconstitutional practices, they launch a preliminary investigation where the investigators use public data, news report, private complaints or even interviews with people in the community to collect information concerning the police department. The justice department uses this information to decide whether the police department is involved in unconstitutional practices. If they confirm with sufficient evidence that the claims are true, they launch a formal investigation (Cole et al., 2018).
During the formal investigation, the justice department aims to confirm a pattern of unconstitutional practices or patterns and identify and suggest areas that need departmental reforms. If the justice department confirms that a police department has violated the constitutional standards, the case may proceed to the court trial (Cole et al. 2018). Nevertheless, most departments prefer to agree on reforms and terms provided by the justice department than the expenses and embarrassments of a court trial.
Chapter 3: Research
3.1 Detailed description
In this chapter, I will identify various commonalities from the police departments’ research in this study. It is easier to identify the most common forms of excessive force abuses and misconduct and the people who often experience these abuses by understanding the various forms of violations in the investigated departments. This chapter reveals that these misconducts often occur against minority communities or those with poor mental status. Moreover, this report’s findings describe the systemic deficiency that may contribute to higher levels of excessive force abuses and misconduct, such as vague policies, lack of training, and supervision failures. Although the statute may only reach a few police departments, the information provided in this report shows the forms of abuses and malpractices that other departments in the country can learn from and avoid.
3.1.1 Use of force violations
The application of force by police officers is assessed in terms of the people’s right to be secure in their houses, papers, persons and impacts against unreasonable seizures and searches. Unreasonable seizures or searches occur when police officers use excessive force during arrests or a stop. The justice department considers all the facts and an in-depth analysis of the circumstances such as the severity of the committed crime, availability of any immediate threat to anyone in the incident and whether there was active resistance during the arrest to determine whether the use of force is reasonable or unreasonable (Kerr et al., 2018).
All the investigated departments had violated the people’s rights to be secured as the justice department identified excessive force in the departments. Although the forms of force violation varied among the departments, I found many similarities in the departments’ violations. In all the departments, the Department of Justice discovered that the policemen had unnecessarily used less deadly weapons. Five departments had used excessive force against people with poor mental conditions, and four of them employed excessive force against people who talked back.
One of the commonalities in the investigated departments was the excessive use of fewer impact weapons such as flashlights, electronic control weapons (ECWs), batons, kicking, and punching. The justice department discovered that 57% of the reported incidents in the Seattle Police Departments used excessive force, whereby multiple officers used less-lethal weapons against a single person. In one incident, four policemen employed force against the unarmed person by striking him with a flashlight, fists and knees, and punching him. The unarmed person couldn’t speak English fluently and was tortured for failing to show the police his hands when they asked him to do so (Leider, 2018). The officers justified their actions by saying that the man had started kicking as they approached him, but the justice department termed this excessive use of force.
The Department of Justice found unconstitutional and abusive use of ECWs in the Ferguson Department and gives examples of police officers who used ECWs against people in noncompliance instances (Shaw, 2015). For example, when a man in handcuffs refused to descend the police car when they arrived at the jail and when a handcuffed woman tried to stop the police car from moving by putting her leg outside the car, the officers immediately used ECWs, which could cause injuries or harm against the two victims who did not set forth an immediate threat. Similarly, in the Seattle Police Department, the Department of Justice reported that the officers immediately used ECWs instead of a less forceful alternative (Baldwin, 2018). The report shows that a policeman used an ECW twice against a man already grounded by two other police officers.
The Portland Police Bureau findings report shows that the department did not properly assess the mental condition of the people they were arresting on many instances because of mental instability or influence of alcohol and other drugs. Due to these challenges, these people may not fully understand a police officer’s commands, and the situation may worsen if the policeman is not appropriately trained to deal with such circumstances. The justice department also recorded on Seattle’s report that 7/10 of excessive use of force cases involved people who were mentally incapacitated or under the influence of alcohol or drugs (Walker, 2019).
Ferguson’s finding report also indicated that the officers used their ECWs and batons against people influenced by drugs and alcohol or who experienced a mental illness. The officers in the three departments did not de-escalate the situation when handling mentally unstable individuals. The de-escalation method includes verbal persuasion, verbal warnings, slowing the progress of circumstances, waiting outside for the suspect instead of confronting them directly and asking for backup or reinforcement from other police units (Shaw, 2015). In all these findings, the officers neither assessed the mental state of individuals they were interacting with appropriately nor used de-escalation techniques to avoid unnecessary force to people who may not respond fully to the officers’ commands (Kerr et al., 2018).The officers also did not de-escalate situations whereby individuals talked back during the arrest process but instead engaged in retaliatory force.
3.1.2 Systemic failures
In the Seattle Department findings report, the Justice Department revealed that the main cause of force violation in the department was unclear policies governing the use of force. The policies were generally outdated and needed review and did not offer essential information to officers, including handling a situation involving mentally unstable suspects. The policies did not provide any guideline for the kind of force that officers should use; both supervisors and officers lacked knowledge of how to react to escalating incidences. Some thought it was appropriate to resort to the immediate use of ECWs. Inadequate policies were explaining how and when the officers should use the ECWs (Lee, 2018). The Justice Department argued that the policies must include clear guidelines about the reasonable use of weapons, such as how and when to use them.
In the Cleveland Department, the justice department criticized the vagueness of the terms used in the policies whereby Cleveland’s police officers admitted they were uncertain of the appropriate level of force to use in certain situation. For instance, the department’s policy stated that police officers should be active and employ significant force as the use of ECWs when it seems the suspect may attack. Nevertheless, the policy signals stated in the policy include stretching arms when yawning and looking around to assess the surrounding. The Justice Department regarded this as excessive use of force against an individual who may not be indeed presenting a threat to others or the officers by these explanations. This kind of policy fails to provide appropriate police force guidance to supervisors and officers, hence contributing to misconducts. Lack of adequate discipline and supervision is another systemic deficiency that can result from using force violation.
The Justice Department found that poor response and poor investigation of misconduct complaints in the Ferguson Department made the community lose trust in the police, making it challenging for the police to carry out their duties effectively. The department used to discourage people from reporting complaints and discourage police officers from acknowledging the complaints hence agitating the community distrust. Complaints were never investigated in this department, and some people feared reporting complaints concerning an officer as the officer could retaliate against them.
The Seattle Police Department did not collect enough field evidence, and their reports on the use of force complain they failed to include critical information needed to assess whether the use of force was necessary or not. Moreover, investigations regarding the use of force complain could take more than a decade to complete enabling the officer to go undisciplined for such a long period (Clayton, 2018). Across all the departments, the Justice Departments concluded that there is an inadequate investigation into force violations that failed to discipline officers for their excessive use of force.
The justice department’s findings report shows that there was inadequate training across all the police departments in this research. Training enables officers to familiarize themselves with their department’s expectations on when and how to apply force. Officers should be trained before joining the department as well as throughout their working period in the department. The Portland Police Bureau lacked in-service training, and the department’s training emphasized on ECWs and firearms but ignored training on the use of batons, physical encounter and OC’s spray.
The department’s training also failed to include adequate guidance on handling mental health situations and dealing with mentally unstable people, resulting in excessive force described in this chapter. According to the justice department, the Seattle Department did not train their policemen on the de-escalation techniques resulting from forcing violations which could be avoided through verbal de-escalation techniques.
3.1.3 Discrimination and bias
Some of the investigated departments had engaged in discrimination that unevenly affected specific ethnic and racial communities. The Justice Department indicated in the findings report that both Puerto Rico and Seattle Departments seemed to engage in discriminatory departments against ethnic and ratio minorities. The report indicated that nearly 45% of all citizens and 55% of black citizens believed there was discrimination on a racial basis. Police officers in Puerto Rico engaged in racial discrimination and biasness against Dominican people (Oh et al., 2017). Still, the available evidence and data were inadequate to make strong decisions. However, it was enough for the justice department to discover it was an issue of concern in the two departments.
The Justice Department discovered that Ferguson engaged in discriminatory policing against the black population. For instance, black people constituted over 85% of traffic stops and 95% of arrests in the Ferguson Department from 2018 to 2020. Moreover, black citizens are less likely to possess illegal substances but are likely to be searched more than two times in traffic stops (Oh et al., 2017). Other incidences of discrimination in Ferguson were discovered from court supervisors’ and police officers’ emails, which directly mocked and stereotyped African Americans and went undisciplined.
The Department of Justice also found biased policing in New Orleans based on ethnicity and race. The residents of the New Orleans community, especially the Latinos and other minorities, fear that they are targeted by the police, which create perceptions of seclusions and distrust, making it challenging to carry out their duties effectively in the whole community. The minorities hesitated to report crimes as they feared the police would question them concerning their immigration status. The departments in Ferguson, New Oreland’s and Seattle did not have efficient community policing tactics that would help engage the communities, ending discriminatory practices and establishing strong partnerships between the police and the members of the communities. The departments tuned away from community policing and failed to establish positive relationships and trust with Black American communities leading to distrust between police officers and the Black Americans (Clayton, 2018).
3.1.4 Positive aspects of the police
Although there has been increasing cases of police brutality and misconduct in the United States, not all police officers are brutal. In fact some have played their roles of maintaining law and order and defending citizens excellently. Officer Eric Talley of the Boulder Police Department in America who was killed during King Soopers mass shootings this year is a good example of excellent police officers who sacrifice their lives to protect citizens. The officer was among the front line responders and he met his death on the line of duty while protecting the lives of the people of Boulder County. The officer dedicated his life to serving the public and worked to protect the citizens. His tragic death will always remind us of the selfless actions many courageous first responders pursue on their daily activities (Gaub et al., 2020).
Sometimes police officers face deadly encounters with dangerously armed criminals and they are left with no choice than to use excessive force to protect their lives, those of citizens, and those of other officers. For instance, two police officers from the New York Department went to rescue a woman from a criminal who was pointing a gun at her. The officers employed de-escalation techniques to persuade the criminal to surrender with no fruits and they were forced to shoot the criminal to protect the woman’s life as well as their lives (Lee, 2018). Moreover, he could have posed a great threat to the community at large.
3.2 Data analysis
The use of excessive force in all cases is objective. The Fourth Amendment forbids excessive and unnecessary force against people, and police officers need to be sufficiently trained and ready to evaluate a situation from all angles. That evaluation should involve the use of de-escalation techniques instead of resorting to immediate use of less-lethal force, ECWs, and other impact weapons. It should also consider the mental stability of an individual with whom the police officer is handling and respect the right to freedom of speech regardless of whether the speech is disrespectful or not. The use of excessive force is not specific to a single department, as explained in this report, because there are similarities across all the departments.
The department of Justice identified various systemic failures within all the investigated departments because it is unusual that the justice department found unnecessary use of excessive force in all the departments. Still, the departments themselves had not identified or addressed these challenges earlier. The justice department indicated in the finding report that all the departments needed to improve their systems in terms of training, policy, and supervision. The system’s failures to adequately train police officers appropriately supervise and establish clear policies lead to police misconduct and excessive force used (Donnelly & Salvatore 2019). The officers lack the appropriate skills and education to perform their job efficiently. Vague policing policies fail to offer sufficient guideline for police hence contributing to their misconduct.
Lack of appropriate investigation and supervision of excessive use of force cases can lead to detecting and punishing officers used to applying excessive force when discharging their duties. Moreover, a lack of consistent and thorough training results in officers who are not ready to perform their job effectively as they don’t understand how they are supposed to do it. When police departments fail to train their officers on how to assess and de-escalate an incident involving mentally unstable individuals accurately, the officers’ police could escalate the incident and resort to immediate use of excessive force (Walker, 2019). Therefore, systemic failures led to higher levels of excessive force and misconduct in the researched departments. Thus, there is a need to establish reforms that address systemic deficiencies in these departments.
Systemic failures of unclear policies, inadequate supervision of officers, and inadequate police officers training lead to excessive use of force discussed in this chapter. Nevertheless, this use of force violations is worse when applied unevenly against a specific population. Police discrimination or bias against specific individuals is a major concern encompassing police brutality worldwide. Although not all police departments countrywide discriminate against individuals, the Justice Department’s finding report indicates that some departments exist. Community policing enables officers to liaise with the community members to proactively respond to and address the concerns in the communities they work for. Community policing also helps the officers to prevent crimes instead of reacting to them proactively.
3.3 Problem significance
Police brutality affects all people, including the public, police officers, police departments and the government. This study aims to prevent future force violations by the police and enhance the working relationship between the police and the community. This study will help the officers to work peacefully and professionally without brutality hence safeguarding their future career.
The research will help society regain its trust in police through community-based policing, and hence it will be able to fully depend on the police for its safety. The police department will realize how their system’s deficiencies have contributed to the severe police brutalities and establish policies that discipline the culprits. The departments will also increase their efforts in equipping and training their police officers to use de-escalating techniques and peacefully deal with the citizens hence gaining their trust. The study will also be of use to future researchers and hopefully, lead to future developments.
Chapter 4: Solutions
In this chapter, I will discuss the solutions to the excessive use of police force and ways to modify the systemic failures that violate the use of power. I will focus on the settlement agreements between the Justice Department, and Police Department discussed in this paper, but it can also be effective in other departments.
4.1 Use of force policy revision
From chapter 3 of this study, it is clear that vague policies regarding the appropriate use of force resulted in a systemic failure, leading to excessive force and misconduct within the investigated department. The justice department identified specific policy reviews in the settlement agreement it made with each of the departments. These policy reviews involve unique guidelines for the various forms of force that police officers should use to provide the officers with a clear idea of employing the de-escalating technique and using reasonable force instead of escalating the situation unreasonably. Some agreements included regular training for different forces like the ECWs and training in the de-escalation tactics (Lee, 2018). All the investigated departments agreed to review their policies as per the request of the justice department.
As part of the Puerto Rico solution, the justice department required the department to establish specific policies controlling the use of firearms, chemical agents, batons, lethal force, ECWs, canines, and less lethal munitions. The justice department required Seattle, Portland, New Orleans and Cleveland to employ disengagements and de-escalation tactics in the policies for general use of force. New Orleans and Cleveland were required to wait for people to submit to an arrest before using force, and various types of lethal force, including neck hold, were forbidden unless it was reasonable to use them.
Policies eliminating the use of excessive force for individuals who talk back during an arrest should be enacted. The policies should also prohibit police departments from using retaliatory force against citizens and handcuffed people unless the use of force is necessary to prevent injury or harm. The Justice Department argued that these general guidelines help officers understand how and when to use force and emphasize the importance of de-escalation technique when dealing with citizens.
Police Departments should establish specified policies that guide how to use specific weapons appropriately. For example, ECWs should not be used unless the situation presents aggressive or active resistance to arrest or when de-escalation techniques and other peaceful methods have failed. ECWs use is reasonably necessary to avoid physical injury or harm to an observer, the officer, or even the person. Police officers should issue a verbal warning and give the person adequate time to respond to the warning before using ECWs. These ECWs specified policies require police officers to only use the weapon for one round at a time and then wait for the appropriate amount of time before using it again if the situation demands further use (Chanin & Sheats, 2018). When using ECWs, police officers should not target an individual’s neck, genitals, or head. The officers should never use ECWs in situational hazards such as falling or on handcuffed individuals and mentally unstable people unless the situation presents a possibility of a severe injury.
The departments should regularly train their officers on how to use ECWs. The departments should also enact policies that clarify the proper use of impact weapons, firearms, and OC spray. Police officers should not use firearms unless they reasonably believe the incident could worsen to warrant lethal force and should not discard firearms at or from a moving motor vehicle unless the victim uses deadly force. The policies for the use of OC spray are similar to those of the use of ECWs. Policies regarding the use of impact weapons such as batons should include explanations that their use can be deadly, and police officers should be corrected regularly to use lethal weapons.
4.2 Mental health and crisis intervention
It is critical to increasing understanding and training in addressing situations involving mentally unstable individuals because of the large number of use of force violence cases against mentally ill individuals. As discussed earlier in this study, interactions between police officers and mentally unstable persons may escalate very fast, mainly because of the poor understanding of the officers’ commands. Inadequate training of de-escalation technique and insufficient understanding of handling situations involving mental health crisis leads to unnecessarily use of force against these persons (Lee, 2018). The departments should increase crisis training and embrace programs such as Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), which ensures officers’ regular training to specialize in addressing crisis incidents. The departments should employ CIT officers to encounter other officers who face crisis incidents. The CIT officers can be sent to assist them.
Data collection to identify crisis incidents covered by the police is critical in preparing to handle situations involving a mental health crisis. Police officers should record the location, date and time of the crisis they address, narrate the situation briefly, describe the subject and state whether he was armed or not, indicate the tools used to address the situation, and state whether they contacted anyone to help. Using de-escalation techniques enhances the officer’s training and their ability to deal with crises. When used together with detailed data analysis, it helps to oversee the officer’s performance in such situations (Todak & White, 2019).
4.3 Reporting and accountability
Police departments should establish guidelines that ensure accountability of police officers, such as increasing access to civilian complaints form and comprehensive collection of data regarding the use of force situations. These guidelines enhance the transparency of the officer’s performance to the public, supervisors and other monitoring groups. All departments should have a police inspector general to revise and analyze the department’s policies, make public reports, and conduct investigations to improve transparency and accountability in the department through a third party’s employment (Oh et al., 2017).
The departments should also create early intervention systems or early warning systems that track officers’ misconduct practices and excessive use of force. The system creates a baseline for officers with a high number of complaints or violation of force. For instance, Portland Department created the Portland Employee Information System, which puts a threshold on officers with 20% of unnecessary forceful arrests within half a year and officers who have used force more than three times the average number of other officers. Police departments should also include the canine bite ratio that shows the number of times a police canine beat a citizen for every canine officer in departments where the canine is a problem. All these records can be kept in the public domain annually to increase the Justice Department’s ability to enhance police transparency.
The departments should also establish standards for the filing and intake of civilian complaints because some civilians fail to file complaints against officers for fear of police retaliation, as explained in chapter three. The standards should prohibit this form of retaliation or intimidation of anyone who would want to file a complaint against an officer. By distributing the forms to different locations around the state, the departments should increase the citizens’ accessibility to the complaint forms by sharing them on online platforms and allowing submission of written letters, phone complaints and emails, which could hide the sender’s identity but still warrant an investigation. The forms should avoid any forms of language that discourage civilians from completing it, such as the effects of filing a false complaint (Wood & Watson, 2017).
4.4 Bias and community policing
The police departments should embrace community policing reforms. Chapter three of this paper has discussed that police brutality could damage the relationship between the community and police departments, leading to discriminatory and biased policing stereotypes. The departments should implement reforms that increase unity with the diverse community population and reduce discrimination and biasness in the departments (Morton, 2018). They should develop bias-free policies, incorporate training that reduces discrimination and create community councils to address the perceptions of discriminations present in many departments.
The departments should encourage community engagements to reduce the gaps between civilians and police officers and involve the community in creating police reforms. They should create community councils to contribute directly to the departments, suggest policy amendments, and report to society as a union between civilians and officers. The community panel should comprise a diverse population, including religious groups, specialists on homelessness and mental health concern, student and youth organizations, and firms representing different races (Moore et al., 2018). The police officers should be trained on community policing techniques to become familiar with various community regions such as the community leaders, the demographics, and quality of life concerns and engage the communities in those specific areas.
This will also help the officers understand the challenges and issues that the citizens of a certain community face and address them accordingly. These efforts to reduce perceptions of bias policing and improve collaborations may eventually enhance the relationships between the departments and the community leaders and stakeholders.
4.5 Compliance and effectiveness
The news report shows that effective compliance with the above reforms is underwhelming, and the police departments are likely to reject the reforms than accept them. The reforms discussed above would certainly benefit the departments if they strongly adhere and comply with them (Morton, 2018). However, they are too expensive for the department, which could lead to incomplete adherence and compliance.
Chapter 5: Discussion
One of the limitations of this study is that I could not get first-hand information from officers in the local police departments. I wanted to conduct interviews with police officers from New Orleans Police Department and Minneapolis Police Department to add my knowledge of police brutality and include the police officers’ opinions as they are the main subjects of this topic. Still, they did not accept an interview.
Another limitation is that the Department of Justice and police departments’ settlement agreements that I analyzed carefully to come up with solutions for excessive police force were not effective in some departments. For instance, some departments’ level of force violation increased after the settlement agreements, although it reduced in others. Therefore, these reforms require further attention, such as officers own self-drive to do the right thing to be effective.
Congress passed the Law Enforcement Misconduct Statute in 1994 to reduce excessive police force and misconduct by authorizing the Justice Department to investigate and reform various police departments. However, the statute has some weaknesses that prevent it from effectively enacting reforms countrywide, but a lot can be learnt from the investigated departments discussed in this study. First, police departments could review the evaluation of the systemic failures and types of force to identify the areas that need improvement within their departments. For instance, departments that do not train their officers on the de-escalation techniques might read chapter three and consider embracing this training. Use of force violation occurs when officers resort to immediate use of batons and ECWs instead of applying de-escalation tactics.
Secondly, departments should embrace community policing around the country to prevent and avoid racial bias and discrimination depicted in the New Orleans and Ferguson Police Departments. Departments should embrace reaching out to community members and engaging them in discussions to address certain issues in the society instead of allowing tension and distance to increase between police officers and minority communities.
Lastly, departments should encourage civilians to report complaints without any form of discouragements or intimidation from reporting. They can encourage the citizens to report concerns by availing complaints forms on online platforms or distributing them in different areas around the community. If a police department is dedicated to addressing its challenges effectively, it must identify the starting point. Departments could identify their weaknesses and improve them by allowing civilians to report concerns easily without any discouragements or intimidation. These suggestions are forms of bold reforms that can limit the use of force violation and avoid another person’s death.
I recommend that individual citizens play a greater role in reporting complaints against police departments rather than waiting for the Department of Justice to identify a department engaging in excessive use of force. The justice department is unable to investigate many police departments in the country because of inadequate resources. Therefore, it is likely the department will consider the most publicized brutal incident for investigation. I advocate for stronger stakeholder collaboration during the enactment of reform policies to ensure the reforms are implemented effectively and establish reforms targeted to the challenges of the specific communities they will be implemented.
I also recommend better methods of collecting and distributing data to enhance accountability and transparency. According to various researchers, the number of deaths linked to police shootings ranges between 400 and 1200 annually. Police officers engage in excessive while the total number of shootings, whether deadly or not, ranges between 2200 and 6200 annually in the United States. Police shootings are never recorded comprehensively as police officers self-report themselves at their departments, and cases of brutality that does not result in death are rarely reported. Therefore, comprehensive data collection and documentation of excessive force will improve accountability by assisting the justice department in identifying the departments to start an investigation.
I advocate for police departments to implement early warning tools that ensure the accountability of the officers. These systems identify certain officers’ performance misconduct and can improve the relationships between local police departments and civilians in the community. The systems also provide data that police departments can use to tress and rectify systemic failures, increasing accountability and benefiting the entire department. If all departments embraced these systems, there would be a comprehensive data collection countrywide critical for the countrywide data collection on police brutality and misconduct.
Finally, I recommend that all police departments embrace training their officers on using de-escalation tactics and handling individuals with mental crises. The police officers should be trained on community policing techniques to become familiar with various community regions such as the community leaders, the demographics, and quality of life concerns and engage the communities in those specific areas.
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Sample graph showing the number of police killings of civilians between 2014 and 2018