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Black And Blue: Police Abuse Of Force

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Richard Edwards

Professor Wedes

ENGL 1302

November 16, 2006

Black and Blue: Police Abuse of Force

Ever since Rodney King was plunged into the national spotlight following his violent

arrest by Los Angeles Police Department officers, law enforcement agencies nationwide have

been implementing policies in order to cease any such incidents from occurring within their

jurisdiction. Contrary to popular belief, many incidents concerning police abuse of force stems

from Special Weapons and Tactics (S.W.A.T.) officers and not ordinary patrol officers. The

number of police abuse of force incidents involving S.W.A.T. officers have been increasing

over the last few years. Some believe that this is due to their military-esque training, which by

comparison can be related to that of the NAVY SEALs. Not only do these police officers

undergo rigorous military style training, but many of them have experience in the military to

some degree. The risks associated with such teams are high because "Special Response Teams

deal with incidents that have a potential for personal harm and/or loss of life" (Smith 4). Also,

"the cost of poor decisions is the greater risk-to the agency, administrators, team members,

victims, and suspects" (Smith 4). The issue regarding S.W.A.T. team excessive force may never

be eliminated entirely, however, through extensive training involving simulations we can

hopefully limit these number of incidents. This training could possibly instruct S.W.A.T.

officers what not to do given specific situations and circumstances.

A majority of incidents occur because of the overall violent nature of S.W.A.T. team

deployments. According to Professor Peter Kraska, an expert on police militarization from

Eastern Kentucky University, "I get several calls a month from people asking about local

incidents - wrong address raids, excessive use of force, wrongful shootings - this stuff is

happening all the time". The manner in which these S.W.A.T. teams handle different

situations does not always fit the offense. In S.W.A.T., not one mission is the same, however,

the way that they execute their mission objectives does not fluctuate. For example, the entry

made into a residence while serving a simple warrant is closely mirrored to that of a high-risk

situation. This ultimately increases the possibility for a non-violent offender to then retaliate in

a violent way because of the way the situation was handled. This can also occur on the

opposite end of the spectrum. While reporting to a hostage negotiation scene, S.W.A.T. officers

could actually make matters worse by engaging hostile actions in an already hostile

environment. A possible solution would find S.W.A.T. officers training for different situations

by the degree of danger that it may pose. This would eliminate many of the suicide-by-cop

incidents that occur because of the pressure that is put on when there is a Special Response Team

present. By training for different situations according to the degree of danger that it may pose

would utilize the tactical capabilities of Special Weapons and Tactics teams. This focuses on the

self-discipline aspect which should be higher in a S.W.A.T. team officer because they are

required to decipher the correct amount of force while under a tremendous amount of stress.

Special Response Team members must understand that "the level of professionalism

expected is not something that is easily obtained and requires training, confidence, team work,

self-discipline, and the controlled use of force when necessary" (Smith 2). The most notable part

of Special Response Team training should be the focus of controlled use of force when

necessary. The common misconception is "the public's image of the Special Response Team...

Muscle-bound, military commando types..." (Smith 2). An example of how not to control

use of force can be observed in an incident which occurred when an unarmed Virginia doctor

was killed when a S.W.A.T. team officers handgun was "accidentally discharged" (Davis 1).

This only further proves that there has to be a change associated with policy so that "these kinds

of accidents never occur again" (Davis 1). The psychological aspects regarding police training

are becoming more a part of police academy curriculum as a way to institute correct thought

processes. This is one way that law enforcement agencies have been altering training

procedures in order to better deal with the issues facing police abuse of force in specialized

units. Without such training the problem would just further perpetuate the cycle until it

spirals out of control resulting in one tragic incident after another. Many issues concerning

excessive force come from the "us versus them" mentality. This concept establishes that to




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