Prevention of police misbehavior is no simple task. Discussions can be held and penalties can be imposed to help prevent cases of excessive force and abuse of power, but such measures do not guarantee a positive result. Steps for detecting potential misconduct might include observing anti-social behavior in police officers in the early stages of employment (e.g., anger management problems, unnecessary risk-taking, and frequent disregard of orders), receiving and tracking complaints from citizens about a certain officer’s work, and monitoring those officers who are known to be prone to the use of excessive force on duty.
The most notable types of police misbehavior are the use of excessive force, putting one’s subordinates in danger without any clear necessity, defying orders, and not performing one’s basic professional duties. To deal with these issues, quality intervention is advised. Counseling is the standard choice for dealing with employees’ social and psychological issues, helping them control their aggression and advising ways of coping with stressful situations without endangering or causing harm to others. However, a major contributor to the problem is the fact that “identifying when police use of force is excessive or unnecessary is difficult because no single definition of excessive force exists” (Phillips, 2010, p. 2). In this case, an exploration of officers’ opinions on the problem of violence might be useful, although there is also no guarantee that their stated opinions and their actual behaviors would align.
For example, in a hypothetical but realistic situation, a police officer might take a suspect into custody and in doing so, inflict on him or her serious injuries without an objective need to do so because the suspect did not try to resist arrest or attack an officer. In this case, the superior officers should note the injuries, investigate the situation, and file a report stating that the officer has exceeded his or her jurisdiction. After this, the superiors should order a mandatory psychiatric check-up and initiate a discussion with the officer about further steps to be taken. If the officer is to face official consequences, the punishment could range from a fine to a demotion, depending on the gravity of the offense and the officer’s motivations.
Death Penalty: A New Twist on an Old Topic
Today, capital punishment is practiced in 31 states, including Alabama, Texas, Nevada, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Oklahoma. The states that have already abolished the practice, including New York, West Virginia, and Minnesota, are mostly located in the North or Northeast. As we can see, the majority of the country still has capital punishment. Considering the socially progressive changes that have occurred in the United States lately—like marijuana legalization in several states and gay marriage legalization in every state—people are warming up to ideas that previously had been considered too radical or even immoral. It seems safe to assume that one day the death penalty will be abolished in most, if not all, states. However, the problem here is posed by conservative Southern states like Texas and Mississippi that are slow to embrace socially progressive change. It would not be surprising to see a more liberal state like California ending capital punishment. In my opinion, the United States should not administrate capital punishment, but rather the country should move in the opposite direction and try to eradicate it from our judicial system altogether. However, because the South may not agree with this policy, capital punishment may be here to stay unless the government acts in the same way it did to legalize gay marriage.
Apart from the moral considerations, there is also a financial problem with capital punishment. Research out of Indiana has estimated that out of 84 cases of capital punishment, the average cost of proceedings—including prosecution and law enforcement, trial and appeal, incarceration, and execution—was $667,560. A life-without-parole sentence, on the other hand, only costs $551,016 on average. As we can see, capital punishment is not only an archaic procedure with no place in the modern world, but it is also financially unsound. A life-without-parole sentence still results in the death of the convicted and at the same time saves the judicial system the solid amount of $116,544 (Dickson, 2006).
Primary Arguments against Plea Bargaining
A plea bargain is an agreement between attorneys that forces a defendant to plead guilty to one or lesser charges in exchange for a lesser sentence. The basic arguments against plea bargaining are:
- The accused, even if he or she is innocent, is compelled to admit to a crime. In this way, he or she waives his or her right to a formal trial.
- The idea of preference of trial by jury loses its significance.
- Plea bargaining fails the fundamental principles of the U.S. Constitution, which states that everybody has the right to a fair trial.
- The refusal of a plea bargain usually has negative consequences for the accused. As Lynch (2003) points out, he or she might be intentionally mishandled by both attorneys and the prosecution for “simply invoking his (or her) right to a trial” (p. 25).
A good example of these problematic issues is Paul Lewis Hayes, convicted of forgery in 1977. He was supposed to serve ten years in prison until the prosecutor tried to strike a bargain with him: if Hayes would plead guilty, he would get only half of the initial prison term. The prosecutor warned him, however, that if he refused, the state would impose greater charges based on his whole criminal record before that incident. Hayes refused to accept the plea bargain and was eventually sentenced to life imprisonment. Even more preposterously, “it’s quite possible that no one…believed the life sentence was fair or appropriate in Hayes’s case…There is no reason to believe any of the judges or Justices who considered Hayes’s claim thought otherwise” (Stuntz, 2005, p. 24).
Weekly Research Discussion
For this task, I have explored Chapter 22, “The Innocents: Idealistic Law Students Labor to Free the Wrongly Accused” by Michele Cohen Marill. I think it is remarkable that there are young people who make so much effort in their quests for the truth. The results of their work emphasize the flaws in our criminal justice system as they have proven many people innocent even after they had spent decades in prison. This important work just goes to show that there is always time to admit and prove that someone was falsely accused—unless, of course, they were wrongfully executed. The use of DNA analysis is very methodical and surprisingly effective. In my search for a relevant article, I have chosen “All the Evidence” by Philip Hunter for EMBO Reports as it elaborates on the history of DNA analysis, its various forms (like the analysis of insects found on a dead body), and its drawbacks and benefits. The article also gives many examples, cites several other researchers, and generally seems to be a well-balanced scientific article. It also highlights the controversy between the societal pressure to use DNA analysis and law enforcement’s fear of more mistakes and imperfections being found in their work.
Dickson, B.E. (2006). Effects of Capital Punishment on the Justice System. In R. Burns (Eds.), Critical issues in criminal justice (pp. 127-132). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Lynch, T. (2003). The Case Against Plea Bargaining. Regulation, 26(3-7), 24-27.
Phillips, S. (2010). Police officers’ opinions of the use of unnecessary force by other officers. Police Practice And Research, 11(3), 197-210.
Stuntz, W. (2005). Bordenkircher v. Hayes: The Rise of Plea Bargaining and the Decline of the Rule of Law. SSRN Electronic Journal. Web.