One of the main characteristics that define the work of policemen is their use of force. The law contains special provisions authorizing them to use varied degrees of force in order to influence certain responses from the citizens. Using of force by the police has its advantages and disadvantages. For many years, there has been a debate on whether the police should use force or not on the citizens while fulfilling their duties. This issue has been largely influenced by the fact that there are a lot of outcomes, especially injuries that result from the use of force by the police. Geoffrey P. Alpert, professor of criminology and criminal justice at South Carolina University, conducted research which was funded by National Institute of Justice (NIJ). It concerned the injuries sustained by the police officers and citizens during the use of force incidents. Consequently, it was found that about 17 to 64 percent of the civilians suffer some injuries while ten to twenty percent of the injuries were faced by the police officers during their use of force. While most of the victims suffered from minor injuries, such as bruises and sprains, some cases involved major damages such as bullet wounds, internal injuries, broken bones, and dog bites.
Due to the nature of the work that the police do and the risks involved, there is need to use a certain degree of force. Various suspects possess different characteristics that might leave no choice to the police officer except to use force. Some of these characteristics include gender of the suspect, the age of the suspect, the level of respect the suspect shows to the police officer, and whether he is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. For instance, an encounter with suspects who are mainly male might require an amount of force that could range from verbal to physical in order to obtain the required response. The reason is that men are viewed as relatively more stubborn and less submissive than women. Some suspects, depending on their age, tend to respond appropriately to the advances of a police officer after a certain amount of force has been used on them. Suspects who are older usually show tendencies to demean the police, thus provoking them to apply force. If a police officer perceives a suspect to demean him or her, it results in the use force on the latter. In other cases, the police officers are compelled to behave in this way due to the unruly nature of the suspects who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Being intoxicated, an individual cannot make the right decision, especially in responding to a command from the police officer. She or he might behave in a way that could require the use of force to keep the individual under control (Alpert, 2004).
The situations in which the encounter occurred have always obliged the police officers to use force. The reason is that such factors as existence of weapon, resistance from suspects, possibility of arrest, presence of other police officers and citizens as well as occurrence of a conflict. The encounter between the police and suspect brandishing weapon will prompt the officer to use force in order to avoid injury to the latter, the police themselves or the other parties who might be present. It is an advantage that the use of force is allowed in expeditions, such as house searches, that police plan and execute in pursuit of evidence for the suspected criminals. The reason is that many individuals tend to oppose them and even use force to deny the police access, thus posing a danger to the people involved. It is a human nature that one works best with the people who show their participation in what one is doing. This is also the case when the police encounter suspects. It is easier to work with those who cooperate without much delay. On the other hand, it is very difficult to deal with suspects who refuse to follow the instructions of the police. Those who willingly reject to work with the police are mostly coerced to behave in that way by the use of force. People generally do not want to be arrested; therefore, they often apply any measures to resist it. Such a circumstance forces the police to use force in order to be able to arrest the resisting individuals. A study done by the researchers discovered that approximately fifteen to twenty percent of the arrests entail the use of force. The presence of the other police officers and citizens might create a situation that requires from the police to use force. If, for example, a number of police officers are executing an arrest of several suspects whom they greatly outnumber, the use of force will be unnecessary. But if the arrest involves a high number of suspects, force must be used to contain them. Physical restraint is normally required in circumstances that involve a lot of people to ensure the police operations are not compromised. It is almost a necessity to use force to subdue suspects who are involved in a conflict during an encounter with the police. An individual who is in an immediate conflict with the other one does not usually respond positively to the commands from the police officers and requires a significant amount of force to follow them (Punch, 2011).
The police officers possess some characteristics that often drive them to use force when they have any contact with the citizens. Some of these characteristics include gender, age, the level of education, and the experience of the police officers. Male officers easily resort to the use of force in order to solve crisis with suspects more often than their female counterparts. This sometimes leads to the excessive use of force that can lead to lawsuits. The recent studies have shown that it requires time from the women to think about force as a way to deal with a suspect. At the same time, men use force relatively more often and to a higher degree, which sometimes attracts the attention of their bosses resulting from the complaints of the citizens. Younger police officers also use force more often than the older. This occurs due the various reasons. Older members of the police force are more experienced. They have dealt in the past with similar cases and have several alternatives to handle these encounters. Younger officers tend to prefer using force due to their quick decision making behaviors and relatively less practice to deliberate on their decisions before implementing them. The use of force by the police officer is inversely proportional to his experience and age. In addition, educational background of the police officer will adversely affect his or her decision to use force in an encounter. The level of education directly affects his ability to make the decisions, and using force on a suspect is one of them. Some years ago, before the enacting of the equality rights were effectively enforced in the era of racism and ethnicity, the police officers used to treat the suspects differently based of their race and ethnic background. Those from minority races were more forcibly handled than the ones from the others. For example, Native Americans were more harassed when they encountered the police than the Whites. It is also argued that the police treat people differently according to their status in the society. Wealthy and influential individuals are not forcibly handled, while the ordinary citizens are usually treated with some form of force whenever they interact with the police (Siegel, 2011).
Since there are numerous reasons for the police to use force in public encounters with citizens, there is a number of laws and pieces of legislation, identifying and supporting them in order to avoid lawsuits. The following laws are some of those which give police the powers to use force aimed at maintaining the law and order in the country. Major part of the police powers and the way they should handle suspects are outlined in the codes of practice in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE). They form one of the most important pillars that support the work of the police. Without these laws, policing could have been ridden with lawsuits, resulting from poor legislation. It identifies guidelines that the police should follow while on duty in order to combat crimes as well as protect the rights of the people. PACE aims at identifying level ground for both rights and freedom of the people as well as the powers of the police. Maintaining this balance is the main aim of PACE. The police are lawfully empowered to search an individual who has not been arrested yet, or his vehicle, even not being obliged to arrest or record such an incident beforehand. This search also includes the suspect’s premises with the powers to seize and retain any property found during the search. In addition, section 24 of the PACE contains powers that support the police when they are making arrests as they were amended by section 110 of the Serious Organized Crime and Police Act 2005. The degree of force that the police can use on terrorism detainees, and the laws that stipulate how the suspects are treated and questioned, are also contained in the PACE Codes (Lawrence, 2000).
Section 3 of Criminal Law Act (1967) empowers the police and anyone to use reasonable force, if necessary, in the prevention of crime and in the lawful arrest of offenders, suspects or people whose acts are unlawful. This gives the police authorization to use force to a certain extent in their daily work activities. It gives everyone the mandate to do whatever they see reasonable in order to protect lives and to safeguard the property.
The police also use some of their powers to apply force from the provisions in the self-defense law stipulated in the Common Law, which gives one the right to act in whichever way necessary in order to prevent injury or harm either to him/her or to others. Beckford v R (1988) generally defines the common law and emphasizes that the force that the individual uses to protect lives as well as property must be reasonable.
The police are empowered to use a certain degree of force on individuals as indicated in section two of the Human Rights Act (1998). This Act outlines the exceptions to the right of a person to private life and the circumstances under which a person’s life can be impacted by the use of force. Though the Act criminalizes such actions as torture and involuntary bondage, a reasonable amount of force can be used on someone when it is in the interest of the punishment for a crime she or he has committed, as stipulated by the law. In case there is violence, the law directs the police to use force with the motive of protecting the person from the violence. It also gives directives to the police officers on the level of force to use for the purpose of arresting a suspected criminal or averting the escape of a detained person. Finally, the law specifies the amount of force the police can use for the purpose of suppressing a strike or riot.
In conclusion, clear policies should be used while dealing with crimes. The police use excess force when dealing with criminals hence killing innocent citizens. As explained above, in many situations, the government has failed to implement new working policies which can ensure that police undertake their activities effectively. All stakeholders should consider formula of ensuring that there is effective police training in terms of understanding the new working policy. In the modern world, police play a vital role in protecting the lives of millions of people in the world. It means that the government must allocate huge amount of resources to ensure that the police acquire good training to uplift their skills, in order to be able to exercise their duties effectively. United Nation Security Council should direct new policies which should be used by all nations concerning the force police use in dealing with criminal offences. This will help the police to have proper guideline how execute their force in situation of criminal acts. Finally, the police should be treated as other civil servants concerning the issues of salary payments in order to be able to improve service provision for the people.