The Issue of Police Violence and Use of Excessive Force

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Use of Force and De-escalation

The use of physical violence is a rather controversial aspect of policing that has a variety of nuances and, thus, requires an in-depth understanding of possible power abuse by authorities. According to Dunham et al. (2020), national and state efforts to collect reliable data on the use of force by the police have been limited. The fact that police officers use force assertively rather than defensively poses a critical issue for policing.

Although there is no specific set of rules helping to control police violence, every use-of-force incidence is subjected to regulations dictated by constitutional law, state legislature, as well as agency policies (Dunham et al., 2020). The Constitution of the United States dictates that “instead of being authorized except when it is prohibited, the exercise of government power that infringes on individual rights is prohibited except when it is authorized” (Dunham et al., 2020, pp. 326-327).

In the Constitution, the use of force is justified if there is an imminent threat to law enforcement, public safety, or officer safety, where an imminent threat is a set of conditions resulting in someone having an ability, opportunity, and intention to inflict harm (Dunham et al., 2020). As for state law, there are notable distinctions between state legislatures even though they often present generalized legal authorizations for police officers to use excessive force (Dunham et al., 2020). Despite having regulations to oversee the use of force by officers, constitutional, state, and agency rules are often misused.

Anyone studying at a police academy has to consider the implications of tactically reckless decision-making as it relates to police violence and the use of excessive force. Officers sometimes fail to use efficient tactical strategies to decrease the need for violence (Dunham et al., 2020). Such unsound choices are often the result of “dealing with suspects inside vehicles, failing to use available cover, and acting too hastily without waiting for backup” (Dunham et al., 2020, p. 348).

Regarding standards in tactical decision-making, a standard of gross negligence may be the most appropriate, according to Dunham et al. (2020). Gross negligence is “a conscious and voluntary disregard of the need to use reasonable care to prevent foreseeable grave injury or harm to persons” (Dunham et al., 2020, p. 357). Based on the aforementioned examination of the issues surrounding errors in tactical decision-making, it is evident that training is a crucial part of preparing officers to analyze all the possible scenarios in policing.

Police officers should be seen, first and foremost, as human-service workers although, unlike other human-service workers, their interactions with civilians are unusually urgent, public, and involuntary, which increases the chance of potential violence. To avoid such an outcome, officers require de-escalation training as a way to learn more about recognizing behavioral cues from citizens. De-escalation is a collection of tactics an officer can use to stabilize the situation and reduce the amount of force used (Dunham et al., 2020). Technological innovations make excessive use of force more likely to occur as it becomes easier and more efficient.

Moreover, American policing as an institution is undergoing a major crisis as police threaten the use of violence and prioritize the application of force (Dunham et al., 2020). Reforms are crucial to stop police militarization and lay the foundation for responsive and democratic policing.

Civil Rights and Cultural Competency

The public image of the police is currently threatened by gross abuse and misuse of stop and frisk (SQF), which is “a tactic involving the brief detention and limited search of a criminal suspect based on particularized suspicion—a lesser standard of proof than probable cause” (Dunham et al., 2020, p. 462). Despite the initial benefits of stop and frisk, it has morphed into an aggressive strategy used by police officers to target minority groups (Dunham et al., 2020).

In addition, SQF has led to numerous violations of civilians’ rights, a rather strained relationship between the police and citizens, as well as a tarnished reputation of law enforcement agencies (Dunham et al., 2020). To ensure there are reforms and improvements in regards to SQF, police organizations need to implement effective procedures for careful personnel selection, training, and supervision.

Another aspect of policing that requires urgent changes is dealing with the mentally ill. Deinstitutionalization of mentally unstable individuals has led to their increased involvement with the police (Dunham et al., 2020). As a result, instead of taking responsibility for people with mental disabilities and protecting them, police officers contribute to the criminalization of such a vulnerable group (Dunham et al., 2020). However, research demonstrates that “training changes officers’ attitudes toward the mentally ill, enhance their knowledge of mental health-related issues, and improves their relationships with mental health professionals” (Dunham et al., 2020, p. 490). Therefore, teaching officers specialized approaches to policing mentally ill individuals can be an effective method to battle the criminalization of people suffering from mental disorders.

There has been a historical failure to bring women and people of color into policing and accept them as invaluable law enforcement agents. Police organizations in the United States must engage in diversification initiatives to put an end to the underrepresentation of females and racial minorities in police departments all over the country. According to Dunham et al. (2020), a good police department is professional (serves and cares for the public), accountable (holds its officers accountable), transparent, and self-monitoring (learns from its mistakes). They are all crucial elements in battling unconstitutional policing and promoting responsive and democratic enforcement of the law.


Dunham, R. G., Alpert, G. P., & McLean, K. D. (2020). Critical issues in policing: Contemporary readings (8th ed.). Waveland Press.

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DemoEssays. "The Issue of Police Violence and Use of Excessive Force." December 24, 2022.