What Is Police Brutality?

It seems like every other week we hear another story of a police officer being investigated after misusing their power. With all of the news stories, it makes us ask the question, “What constitutes police brutality?” Is it intentional or accidental, is it straightforward or complex; this blog will help you get facts.

Definition of Police Brutality

What the public calls police brutality, the Bureau of Justice Statistics calls “use of excessive force.” However, before we talk about the definition of excessive force, we must identify what constitutes acceptable use of force.

Use of force is defined as, “the amount of effort required by law enforcement to gain compliance from an unwilling subject.” Based on this definition, the police are legally allowed to use a necessary amount of force to gain compliance from someone who is not following their instructions.

Use of excessive force is defined as, “the application of force beyond what is reasonably believed to be necessary to gain compliance from a subject in any given incident.”

This is a highly subjective definition. What one person believes is “required effort to gain compliance,” another may say is “beyond what is reasonably believed to be necessary to gain compliance.” With this in mind, it’s crucial to identify the variables that can impact potential police brutality scenarios.

Variables that impact police brutality investigations are:

  • The threat the suspect poses (armed, unarmed, etc.)
  • The suspect’s compliance with the police (is the suspect doing what police ask, is the suspect “dangerously hesitating” to comply, is the suspect refusing to comply, etc.)
  • The police maneuver used to gain compliance (is the maneuver part of police training, is the maneuver contextually relevant given the circumstances, etc.)
  • The compliance requested of the suspect (is the police’s request reasonable given the scenario)

Proving police brutality and use of excessive force is a complicated legal matter. However, an officer’s use of excessive force may impact criminal charges like resisting arrest. Therefore, anyone suspected of a crime should tell his or her lawyer their story about police brutality.

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