Police and the Use of Force

Watching a little more mindless entertainment on Netflix.  Crossing Jordan.  I love crime dramas, and I watch a lot of different ones, (much to my husband’s dismay.) But it’s interesting to me how often this so-called “mindless entertainment” actually leads to thought provoking…er…thoughts.

So this particular episode of Crossing Jordan deals with an alleged cop killer who dies in police custody.  (*I say alleged because there is no question in the scope of the show that the suspect did kill a cop, in real life he is of course presumed innocent until trial.)  Upon examination by the coroner  it’s discovered that the suspect has petechial hemorrhages in his eyes, which although possibly indicative of many things, often indicates strangulation.  Upon opening his head, it’s discovered he has a bruise on his brain, basically the result of hitting his head/being hit in the head so hard that his brain slaps against the inside of his skull.  Though he is alive when apprehended, he dies sometime during transit to the station and is instead taken to a hospital.

There is pressure from all sides to either discover or cover up what happened.  There’s a coroner’s inquest.

In the end it is revealed that one of the arresting officers did indeed kneel on the suspect’s back to (in his own words) maintain control of the situation.  The suspect was, according to the officer, acting erratic (as if on drugs), and was also quite large (6’4″,) and a known* cop killer.  It is implied that perhaps a stranglehold was used to subdue the suspect, something that is against police policy, according to a senior officer.  There were no drugs found in the suspect’s blood, so again it is suggested excess force was used.

Eventually, it is discovered that the brain injury sustained by the deceased suspect occurred three days before the arrest (essentially around the time the suspect killed the officer victim.)  Not only is the injury the cause of the suspect’s erratic behavior, but likely contributed to his death in custody.

And as often happens, a TV drama leads hubby and I into a serious discussion:   Why is it against police policy to use force?

I know a lot of people mistrust cops.  I know a lot of people hate cops.  Lastly, and most importantly, I know there are bad cops.  However, I have immense respect for cops.  You may not trust them, or like them, but chances are, if you’re in trouble or need help, you will call them. And you expect them to come, and to protect you.  So why do you expect them to do this, essentially without being allowed to use force to defend themselves?  There is necessary force, and unnecessary force, but in a given situation, it has to be up to the persons involved to decide what is necessary.

Sadly, incidents like the Rodney King incident in 1991 taint the reputation of the police force and have far reaching and damaging repercussions on police procedure.   And with suspects able to file even illegitimate claims against officers for brutality, police officers are daily in situations where they may face bodily injury or death if they run across the wrong suspect, but face inquest, job loss, and possible criminal charges for using “excessive force” to defend themselves.

Am I alone in feeling that if a person violently resists arrest, tries to harm an officer (either intentionally or due to drugs or mental instability) that an officer should be able to use force to defend themselves and keep themselves and their partner safe, even as a preemptive measure?

Am I the only one who feels like most people know that cops have guns and can use lethal force if a weapon is waved at them, and consequently, if a suspect becomes violent or resists, it’s their own damn fault if they get their ass kicked or killed?  To be clear, I’m not advocating cops beating on people for no reason, or using excessive force on non-violent offenders, or in any way taking advantage of their position of authority, but I do believe we expect police to do a generally dangerous and thankless job for relatively little pay, and we should give them the benefit of the doubt in most situations where force is necessary.

I don’t know much about the supposed blue wall.  I’m sure it does exist in some departments, among some cops.  But is it at all possible that if those officers felt safer in their jobs, and felt as if they were backed up by the law in cases where force was required, they might not need to “cover” for one another in some cases?

In conclusion, these are just my personal thoughts and feelings as related to police– they’re not backed by statistics or science, that I know of.  But since police are essentially civil servants with whom virtually everyone has either tangential or direct contact at some point in their lives, I figure we are all entitled at least to an opinion (as I’ve said before, opinions are one of the only true rights humans really do have!)

Police Brutality?  Bitch, please!

Police Brutality? Bitch, please!

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