Excessive Use of Force Term Paper

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Excessive Psychological and Physical Force on Victims and the Public: An Exploration of Police Practices

The subject of excessive use of violence by authoritative figures has been widely examined throughout history. Alpert and Smith suggest that the authority of the police to use force "represents one of the most misunderstood powers granted to representatives of government" suggesting that police officers are authorized to use psychological and physical force to apprehend criminals (p. 481). When does this use of force become excessive or unreasonable?

There is relatively little data that examines the outcomes of police violence though much research has devoted its time to examining the causes of excessive force (Hale & Ross, 2000, p. 2). Thus the aim of this research proposal will be to examine the result of excessive violence and the impact excessive violence has on the responses of those affected and ordinary citizens.

The goal of this study will be to narrow the gap in this aspect of research and uncover how much excessive violence takes place and what can be done to control/limit the excessive use of force within police institutions.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this research study will be to provide insight and information relative to the outcome excessive force has on victims and the public.

The information is useful because up until this point in time, a majority of the research surrounding violence has focused on the causes rather than the outcomes. Relatively little research has also been conducted that examines police agency responses to use of excessive force. Until these factors are examined in greater detail, it is unlikely that patterns of excessive force will change.

The study will also examine the extent to which use of excessive force is problematic in police agencies, both large and small.

Study Objectives/Methodology

In order to succeed in examining the topic proposed, the researcher will embark on an exploratory study that incorporates the use of surveys to examine public opinion on police force. In addition, a literature review will be conducted from which the researcher will draw comparative conclusions with the information reaped from the survey results.

The methodology used will include techniques of descriptive and investigative analysis. A hypothesis will be drawn after the results of the literature review are revealed. Evidence will be gathered from previous studies and the results provided by survey respondents.

The approach to the study will be to examine the historical facts available related to police violence, including the results of studies that examine the cause of excessive violence. Part of the intention of the researcher will be to examine the extent to which excessive force is actually used by members of police institutions.

After examining this the researcher will set out to examine to what extent the use of excessive force impacts victims, families of victims and the general public. As an aside the researcher will examine what methods if any police agencies are using to minimize/regulate use of excessive force. To this extent a brief questionnaire will be developed and members of three police academies will be interviewed to gain insight into current police practices and procedures.

The following questions will be examined in greater detail for purposes of this study:

To what extent is excessive force problematic within policing agencies?

What impact does excessive violence have on victims/families (short- and long-term).

What impact does excessive force have on the public's opinion of police agencies and attitudes/responses to police efforts.

What can police agencies do to minimize use of excessive force within their organizations.

Preliminary Literature Review

There is a large body of research that supports the notion that excessive use of force is still a pressing issue among police agencies. The purpose of the full literature review will be to examine the historical framework for police violence, identified causes of violence and other information relevant to the consequences of violence in modern society. There are those that suggest that police violence and use of excessive force stems from threats from sub-minority groups, and argue that "police violence is used to control racial and economic classes deemed threatening to the existing social order" (Smith, 2003, p. 1; Holmes, 2000; Harring, Platt, Speiglman & Takagi, 1977).

Alpert and Smith suggest that police are asked to make grounded decisions under high stress situations under high potentially high degrees of physical and mental stress (Alpert &…[continue]

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