The use of force by police officers to make an arrest is one that causes heated debate across the country. If you open the newspaper it seems that police are out of control. There have been high profile police use of deadly force in Ferguson, Long Island, Saint Louis, and other areas. Police historically have been authorized to use force to protect themselves and others, but have the police over stepped their authority? Has the number of incidents of police use of force increased over time? Police departments around the country all have their own respective policies but, are they proper in today’s society? How can the courts and police departments improve to ensure that the appropriate level of force is used? Recently there have been several high profile police use of force that has sparked protests, riots, and a national debate. While most individuals understand that the use of force, sometimes even deadly force is sometimes necessary, not every police officer involved shooting is deemed justified by the courts or the public.
This paper will examine police use of force in making an arrest, with a focus on the use of force in making an arrest for minor or misdemeanor crimes. We will examine the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which addresses searches and seizures, there are two types of seizures/ arrest of an individual what they are and when they apply. When can a police officer can use force to make an arrest, what is the standard of using force and what level of force is appropriate in certain situations? FIXSAASS
The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution places limits on what a state actor, the police can and cannot do without due process of law. The Fourth Amendment provides that “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” CITE http://www.uscourts.gov/educational-resources/get-involved/constitution-activities/fourth-amendment.aspx
The Fourteenth Amendment states that, ” No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” CITE 14thAmend A person who believes that their rights under the Fourteenth Amendment were deprived by a person acting under the color of law can bring a civil action under federal statute 42 U.S.C. Section 1983. CITE 1983
What is a seizure under the Fourth Amendment?
Suppose that a police officer suspects that an individual is committing a crime or about to commit a crime. A police officer cannot seize a person arbitrarily, how does the officer stop or arrest that person according to the Fourth Amendment?
An arrest is a seizure under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and therefore the procedures by which a person is arrested must follow the protections guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment. There are two types of Fourth Amendment seizures of a person, first is a custodial arrest, that is when a person is formally placed in custody and taken to jail. CITE- United States v. Jacobsen 466 U.S. 109 (1984) . The second type of seizure of a person is a field detention also known as an investigative detention. CITE terry v ohio.
In United States v. Mendenhall- CITE 446 U.S. 544 (1980) the court found that a custodial arrest of a person is a seizure of a person under the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment states that “the right of the people to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures”. (wong sun)- 371 U.S. 471 (1963) The Supreme Court held that for a person to be formally arrested the police officers are required to have probable cause or an arrest warrant or the arrest would be unreasonable. (wong sun) Probable cause doesn’t have a bright line definition, the Supreme Court has stated that it depends on the totality of the circumstances in the situation. What the Supreme Court has stated is that “the substance of all the definitions of probable cause is a reasonable ground for belief of guilt”. Illinois v. Gates The belief of guilt must be particularized with respect to the person to be searched or seized. If a police officer has probable cause to believe that an individual has or had committed a crime, the arrest will not violate the Fourth Amendment.
The Supreme Court in Terry v. Ohio set the standard when a police officer can make a temporary field detention or also known as a Terry stop. The facts of Terry v. Ohio are as follows, Officer McFadden, a plain clothes detective observed two suspects who were acting suspiciously, they walked up and down a street while peering into a store. Officer McFadden believed that the suspects were casing the store and he decided to confront the suspects. During the confrontation Officer McFadden grabbed Terry, spun him around and patted his breast pocket where he found a pistol and removed it. A frisk of Terry’s companion also uncovered a pistol. Terry was charged with carrying a concealed weapon. The court in Terry held that it is a reasonable search when an officer performs a temporary seizure and a limited search for weapons on a person that the officer has a reasonable suspicion grounded in specific and articulable facts, that a person they encounter was involved in or is wanted in connection with a completed felony. CITE The court stated that a police officer can stop and frisk a subject if they reasonable suspicion, the court reasoned that because a stop and frisk is not a full search you do not need probably cause.
The Terry court addressed whether a stop and frisk is a seizure under the Fourth Amendment. The court held that a forcible stop and restraint from walking away is a seizure, although it is very limited also that since a stop and frisk is both a search and seizure it must be reasonable. To determine if a search and seizure is reasonable there are two components, the first component is that the search and seizure be reasonable in scope and duration. The second component to determine reasonableness is that there be a valid justification, the justification in Terry was to prevent harm and to find weapons only, there was reasonable suspicion that the subject was armed and dangerous. For a Fourth Amendment seizure to take place, the officer must have the intent to seize that person, it cannot be done accidentally.
What is the appropriate level of force?
If an officer has probable cause to believe that a crime being committed and this person is the person who is responsible, what is the law regarding the level of force a police is allowed to use to seize that suspect?
The common law rule allowed the use of whatever force was necessary to arrest a fleeing felon, the common law rule did not apply to suspect who have violated a misdemeanor crime. Historically all felony crimes were punishable by the death penalty and the use of deadly force was akin to accelerating the penalty if found guilty of violating the law. The common law rule was developed at the time when weapons carried by officer were primitive and commonly involved hand to hand combat. With the development of more advanced weapons, especially firearms an officer could use deadly force from a much greater distance, as a result the Supreme Court has found it necessary to overrule the common law.
In early Supreme Court decisions the court stated that there were two contexts regulating police use of force, one for deadly force and the other for non deadly use of force. The Supreme Court merged these two standards. The Supreme Court in Tennessee v. Garner determined the constitutionality of the use of deadly force to prevent the escape of an unarmed suspect. The facts of Tennessee v. Garner are as follows, on October 3, 1974 Memphis Police officers were dispatched to a “prowler inside call”. When the officers arrived on scene they met a woman, that stated that she heard glass breaking in the home next door. As the police officers investigated the scene they heard a door slam and saw Edward Garner running from the home. Mr. Garner stopped at a six foot tall chain link fence on the back end of the yard, as the officer on scene approached, Mr. Garner began to climb the fence when he was shot in the back of the head by one of the officers. Before opening fire Officer Hymon saw that Mr. Garner did not have any weapons and was reasonably sure that Mr. Garner was unarmed at the time. Officer Hymon acted under the authority of a Tennessee statute and in accordance of a Police Department policy that if a suspect flees or forcibly resists the officer, he or she ” may use any necessary means to effect the arrest.” CITE p.61 After the shooting it discovered that Edward Garner took ten dollars and a purse from the home. Edward Garner’s father sued the police officer and the police department for wrongful death under 42 U.S.C. section 1983 alleging that the shooting violated the fourth, fifth, sixth, eight, and fourteenth amendments of the United States Constitution.
The court began its analysis by defining what a seizure is, the court looked at United States v. Brignoni-Ponce CITE-422 U.S.873, 878, 95 S.Ct, 45 L.Ed.2d 607 (1975) the court stated that when a police officer restrains the freedom on a person to walk away, the officer has seized that person. The court in United States v. Place CITE – 462 U.S. 696 (1983) stated that to determine the constitutionality of a seizure the court must determine its reasonableness, to do so the court must balance the nature and quality of the person’s fourth amendment interest against the importance of the governmental interest. The reasonableness of a seizure depends on not only when a seizure is made but also how its carried out. CITE- Terry v. Ohio 392 U.S. 1 (1968). The court has stated that it is constitutionally unreasonable to use deadly force to prevent the escape of all felony suspects whatever the circumstances. Where the suspect doesn’t does not pose an immediate threat to the officer or others the use of deadly force to make the arrest is unconstitutional, consequentially where the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a threat to the officer or others deadly force would not be constitutionally unreasonable.
Encounters between police and citizens happen quickly and under stress, how should they be reviewed? After Garner the eleventh circuit in Carr v. Tatangelo CITE 338 F.3d 1259 (11th Cir 2003) held that the situation should be reviewed from the point of view of the officer. The 6th circuit in Sigley v. City of Parma Heights CITE 437 F.3d 527 (6th Cir. 2006) held that any disputed facts is an issue for the jury to decide. It is not for the jury to second guess the action of the officer in regard to its reasonableness but should focus on if the officer had probable cause to believe that the suspect posed a threat of serious bodily harm. Probable cause as defined in Brinegar v. United States CITE- 338 U.S. 160,69 S.Ct 1302, 93 L.Ed. 1879 (1949) as “where the facts and circumstances within the officers knowledge’ are sufficiently in themselves to warrant a man of reasonable causation in the belief that an offense has been or is being committed.”CITE ID
What constitutional standard should the court use in determining if a police officer used excessive force in making a seizure? The court in Graham v. Connor CITE 490 U.S. 386 (1989) determined that such claims should be analyzed under the Fourth Amendment’s objective reasonableness standard, without regard to subjective beliefs of the officer. In Graham, a diabetic in the midst of an insulin reaction began acting strangely and an officer arrested him thinking that he was drunk. During the arrest Graham, was thrown against a police car, broke his foot, and injured his wrists, forehead, and shoulders. Using the objective reasonableness analysis the question that needs to answered is whether the officer’s actions were objectively reasonable. The reasonableness of force must be judged from the prospective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than, “with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.” CITE Terry v. Ohio
In Scott v. Harris CITE 550 U.S. 372, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 Harris fled from the police in a high speed car chase which came to an end when Deputy Scott bumped Harris’s vehicle which caused the car to lose control. Harris became a paraplegic as the result of the loss of control and as a result brought a 1983 claim against Deputy Scott claiming that the Deputy’s actions constituted a unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment. The Harris court analyzed the case using the Garner framework, whether the action of the Deputy was objectively reasonable and it did. The Harris court in making its decision the court factors that should be influenced, first that weighting of culpability was appropriate, the suspect’s interests that he has caused versus the danger that the officer seeks to eliminate. Second, in the Harris case, that stopping the pursuit is not required to satisfy the reasonableness inquiry.
The Fourteenth Amendment, Due Process Clause protects individuals from a government official acting under the color of law from depriving an individual of their life or liberty interest.
Police actions to affect an arrest are also subject to the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Due Process clause has been interpreted as having two components, procedural due process and substantive due process. In 1998 the Supreme Court reviewed the case of County of Sacramento v. Lewis CITE 523 U.S. 833, 118 S. Ct. 1708, 140 L.Ed.2d 1043 (1998) where a Sacramento Deputy gave chase to a motorcycle traveling at a high rate of speed. Roughly 1.3 miles into the chase the driver of the motorcycle lost control and the deputy accidentally ran over the passenger. A representative of Lewis, the victim sued the county under section 1983, claiming that Lewis was deprived of his right to life in violation of his substantive due process rights.
The Supreme Court in Collins v. Harker Heights CITE- 503 U.S. 115 (1992) held that substantive due process is violated when an action can be characterized as being arbitrary or conscience shocking (in relation to a constitutional right) or when an official acts to cause harm unrelated to a legitimate objective to arrest the suspect. The Collins court decision has limited liability, stating that the due process clause liability does not apply when anyone is acting with the color of law causes harm. Due process liability has only been applied to deliberate decisions of government officials to deprive a person of life, liberty, or property. CITE – Daniels v. Williams 474 U.S. 327 (1986) In the Lewis case, the deputy did not have the intent to harm the driver or the passenger of the motorcycle, therefore the court held that the plaintiff, the family of Lewis did not a have a section 1983 case against the county.
The Supreme Court in Lewis issued a rule stating that when analyzing Due Process claims, the court stated that, “where a particular amendment provides an explicit textual source of constitutional protection against a particular sort of government behavior, that amendment, not the more generalized notion of substantive due process must be the guide for analyzing these claims.” CITE LEWIS In the Lewis case the court held that the Fourth Amendment did not apply because the Fourth Amendment only applies to seizures and there was no seizure in the Lewis case because the Deputy did not have the intent to seize the passenger of the motor cycle. If an officer intended to seize a suspect and acts in a way to control the fleeing vehicle the Fourth Amendment would apply.
There is a federal criminal statute that limit the amount of force a federal law enforcement officer can use. Federal statute 18 U.S.C. ?? 242 states that, ” Whoever, under color of any law, . . . willfully subjects any person . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States shall be guilty of a crime. CITE 242 title website To convict a federal law enforcement officer under section 242 the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was acting under the color of law, that the official deprived a victim of a right protected by the Constitution, that the official acted will fully and finally that the deprivation resulted in injury or death. CITE 242 title website
Does the nature of the offense determine the amount of force that should be permitted?
The United States categorizes crimes into different categories depending on the severity of the crime. This categorization will determine how the court system will treat a certain case. There are three major categories of crimes in the United States, the first are infractions which are the least serious, next we have misdemeanor offenses, and finally we have felony crimes which are the most serious offenses.
Infractions are the least severe and usually result in a law enforcement officer issuing a ticket, which usually require the individual to pay a fine. Infractions rarely require any jail time. Examples of infractions include traffic tickets, jaywalking, and noise complaints.
Misdemeanor crimes are more serious than infractions. Examples of misdemeanor crimes includes petty theft, public intoxication, disorderly conduct, trespass, and vandalism. People who are convicted of a misdemeanor can receive probation, community service or a jail sentence no longer than a year.
Felony crimes are the most serious types of crimes, and are punishable by prison sentences longer than one year and possibly death. Felonies include murder, burglary, rape, arson, crimes that society views as severe. Many felony crimes involve serious harm or threatened use of harm to victims.
In Ferguson, Missouri, the fatal shooting of teenager Michael Brown by a police officer, Darren Wilson in August 2014 and a grand jury’s decision not to indict Wilson, has continued to trigger protests and riots in the community.
The exact facts of what happened that August day are in dispute, but what is agreed upon is that on August 9,2014 18 year old Michael Brown was shot and killed by Darren Wilson a white Ferguson police officer. Before the encounter with officer Wilson, Michael Brown robbed a convenience store. CITE Officer Wilson while on patrol stopped Brown and Dorian Johnson “because they were walking down the middle of the street blocking traffic.” CITE -find Officer Wilson knew that there was a robbery that occurred in the area but did not know that Michael Brown was the suspect in that robbery. CITE CBSwebsite Dorian Johnson stated that , “that when he (officer Wilson) tried to open his door aggressively, the door ricocheted both off me and Big Mike’s body and closed back on the officer.” CITE CNN Evidence and witness reports showed that there a struggle occurred through the window of the police car. Officer Wilson while being interviewed by investigators on August 10 stated that he was trying to exit his police car when Mr. Brown pushed him back into his vehicle. During the struggle in the vehicle there was a struggle for Officer Wilson’s service pistol and two shots were fired inside the car. CITE NYT Brown and Johnson fled the scene on foot with Officer Wilson pursing them on foot. After a short chase, Brown stopped and charged at Officer Wilson who shot several times and killed Mr. Brown. CITE NEWSWEEK
On August 10th 2014, Officer Wilson was questioned by a detective regarding the shooting of Michael Brown. Officer Brown gave his account of what happened the day of the shooting. Officer Wilson stated that after confronting Michael Brown and Dorian Johnson Brown, “had his body against the door and prevented me from opening it’ His hands were inside on me.. he entered my vehicle with his hands, arms, and his head .. assaulting me.” CITE REPORT page Officer Wilson continued to describe what occurred in his police vehicle, ” he came around he came around with his arm extended, and went like that straight at my face with his…a full swing with his left hand. It was closed. It was in a fist. … He hit me with this part of his hand, just like this across my cheek.” CITE REPORT page Officer Wilson further described that he considered using his mace but decided against it as it would “disable” him along with Mr. Brown and that it would most likely not be effective, Wilson stated that he did not carry a taser, and finally drew his firearm. As Officer Wilson drew his firearm he testified in the interview that he told Mr. Brown to, “Stop I’m going to shoot you is what I ordered him to get on the ground.” He said “You’re too much of a f**kin’ p***y to shoot me” and grabbed my gun. When he grabbed my gun, he twisted it, pointed at me and into my hip, my pelvic area.” CITE REPORT page Officer Wilson fired two shots, one that hit Brown in the arm, Wilson stated that, “He (Brown) paused for a second and then he came back into my vehicle and attempted to hit me multiple times. … and ducked in again his whole body…whole top half of his body came in and tried to hit me again.” CITE REPORT page
After the confrontation in Officer Wilson’s vehicle, Michael Brown proceeded to flee the scene on foot and Wilson pursued. Wilson ran after Brown, at one point Brown stopped and turns around and Wilson who tells Brown to, “get on the ground, get on the ground”, Brown “looked at me, he made like a grunting, like aggravated sound and he starts, he turns and he’s coming back towards me. … his left hand goes in a fist and goes to his side, his right one goes under his shirt in his waistband and he starts running at me.” CITE REPORT page Officer Wilson begins to shoot, “I look down, I remember looking at my sites and firing, all I see is his head and that’s what I shot.” CITE REPORT page Officer Wilson stopped shooting, ” When he fell, he fell on his face” then he, ” knew he stopped, the threat was stopped..” CITE REPORT page
On November 24, 2014 a Grand Jury decided that Officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted for shooting Michael Brown. The decision reached by a St. Louis Grand Jury was announced by the St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch, who stated in a highly publicized press conference that the ‘The physical and scientific evidence examined by the grand jury, combined with the witness statements, supported and substantiated by that physical evidence, tells the accurate and tragic story of what happened.” CITE NPR
On March 4, 2015 the Department of Justice in a 86 page report decided not to file Civil Rights charges against Officer Darren Wilson. The Department of Justice report concluded that the physical evidence and witness statements taken all corroborate Officer Wilson’s account on what happened that terrible day. The DOJ report concluded that Officer Wilson was in reasonable fear of his life when Wilson used his service pistol and fired the shots that killed Michael Brown. The report cleared the Officer Wilson of any wrongdoing but was very critical of the Ferguson Police Department.
*** Analyze this case based on 4th and 14th amend.
In New York, the July death of Eric Garner because of the apparent use of a ‘chokehold’ by an officer has also sparked outrage. On July 17, 2014 undercover police officers observed Eric Garner selling individual untaxed cigarettes, something that he was arrest eight times for doing before. CITE NYDALYNEWS Mr. Garner, a 350 pound man when confronted by two officers began arguing claiming that he was being harassed by the officers. As a police officer began to handcuff Mr. Garner he began to resist and was able to free himself briefly. In a response to Mr. Garner’s actions Officer Pantaleo placed Mr. Garner in what looked to be a chokehold and brought Garner to the ground. During the struggle between the officers and Garner, Mr. Garner can he heard saying, “I can’t breathe.” After a minute or two Mr. Garner became unresponsive and was rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.
On August 1st, 2014 the New York City medical examiner ruled that Mr. Garner’s death was a homicide. The Autopsy showed that the chokehold was the cause of death, citing that, “compression of the neck and chest along with Garner’s positioning on the ground while being restrained by police caused his death.” CITENBC
On September 29th 2014 a Grand Jury was convened and began hearing evidence. CITE WSJ The Staten Island Grand Jury declined to indict Officer Pantaleo, the officer who placed Mr. Garner in the chokehold holding that there was no probable cause to believe that any crime was committed on the part of Officer Pantaleo. CITE WSJ Attorney General Eric Holder on December 3rd 2014 announced that the Justice Department would review the killing of Mr. Garner to determine whether Officer Pantaleo intended to deprive Mr. Garner of his Civil Rights. CITEDOJ a
____________________________ Garner was charged with a misdemeanor count of violating the cigarette and tobacco products tax and posted $1,000 bail, online state court records show.CITE WSJ
*** Analyze this case based on 4th and 14th amend.
Both the Brown and Garner *$(@(#@– add that they were both first suspected of misdemeanor crimes.
Why don’t we see more prosecutions of police officers for using excessive force?
It seems like every time you open a newspaper or read the news online there is a story about police officer using lethal or non lethal excessive force on civilians. A quick Google search for police excessive force incidents brings thousands of news articles from across the country. Some examples of articles XXXXX list some,
There are much less results of news articles of police officers being prosecuted or being convicted of use of lethal or non lethal excessive force (excluding the high profile shootings in Ferguson and Staten Island). A quick search turned up prosecutions XXXX list some.
Why are there so few prosecutions officers for using excessive force to affect an arrest?
Is race a factor whether force will be used in making an arrest?
The statistics on police homicides is incomplete as there is no federal requirement that police departments need to keep records and submit them to any federal agency. Many of the country’s 18,000 police departments CITENUMBER OFPD don’t file any federal reports and of those departments that do, they do not do it consistently. Florida’s police departments have not filed a report since 1997 and the New York Police Department last reported their information in 2007. CITE PROPUBLICA Most of the reports that are submitted are to the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Report came from larger police departments and as a result some of the findings in the report may be inconsistent.
The FBI has been collecting information on homicide victims since the 1970’s and the results show that there is a statistical showing that African Americans were more likely to be killed by a police officer than any other race. The Bureau Of Justice Statistics Arrest-Related Deaths statistics show that a black male is twenty one times more likely to be shot and killed by a police officer than a while male. CITEBJS
ProPublica, a investigative journalist organization looked at data from the FBI Supplementary Homicide Report 1980 to 2012 and found 12,000 reported police homicides. CITE PROPUBLICA From the year 2010 to 2012 there were 1,217 police shootings, African Americans were killed at a rate of 31.17 per million while whites were killed at 1.47 per million. CITE PROPUBLICA
Why is there a discrepancy between the police shootings of whites and blacks? Are white police officers racist? White officers commit more police homicides, but there are more white officers than minority officers. Black officers account for roughly ten percent of all police fatal shootings, of those shootings, seventy eight percent where of black individuals. CITEx2- probublica plus another White officers killed ninety one percent of whites killed by police officers and sixty eight percent of black people killed. CITE
What are the police policies and procedures in using force?
The New York Police Department Policy Handbook prohibits chokeholds. The ban on chokeholds was instituted in 1994 after a police officer placed a suspect, Anthony Baez in a chokehold and accidentally killing him. CITE NYT The New York Police Department Commissioner William J. Bratton, said at a news conference in City Hall that,” ‘As defined in the department’s patrol guide, this would appear to have been a chokehold.” CITE NYT
The police handbook defines a chokehold as, ‘any pressure to the throat or windpipe, which may prevent or hinder breathing or reduce intake of air.’CITE NYT
Officer Pantaleo was on the force for eight years. Pantaleo has been accused of false arrest and violating police procedures in two lawsuits. Both complaints against Pantaleo were by African Americans who claimed that they were falsely arrested. The NYPD settled both complaints and any charges against the individuals were dropped. CITE NYDAILYNEWS
Is there a use of force problem? What needs to change?
The Department of Justice Civil Rights Division on December 4, 2014 issued a report regarding use of force by the Cleveland Ohio Police Department. The Department of Justice was asked to open an investigation by the mayor of Cleveland, a member of U.S. Congress, and several leaders of religious organizations and civil rights groups. The report found that the majority of forced used by the department was reasonable and not in violation of the Fourth Amendment but, what the report did find was that Cleveland Police Department (CPD) did engage in a pattern or practice of using excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The report looked at 600 use of force incidents that occurred between 2010 and 2013. The DOJ used several sources of information including witness interviews, community town hall meetings, interviews of the division’s officers, supervisors, elected city officials, and police union members.
The DOJ investigation found incidents of officers fired their guns at people who did not pose an immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury to officers or others, using guns in a careless and dangerous manner, hitting people on the head with their guns when the force was not justified. The report found that officers used nonlethal force unnecessarily and used excessive force against individuals who were unable to understand or comply with commands because of a language barrier or a mental health condition.
The Department of Justice report regarding use of force by the Cleveland Ohio Police Department concluded that the incidents of excessive force were due to deficiencies in the department policies. The DOJ concluded that the Cleveland Police Department systematically failed to review and investigate incidents of uses of force, did not objectively investigate all allegations of reported misconduct, the department did not provide enough training, supervision, and equipment to perform their jobs correctly. The DOJ recommended the CPD implement and impose the appropriate policies along with a review of their community policing strategies.
The DOJ report recommended that the Cleveland Police Department change its Internal Affairs policy in reviewing use of force incidents. The DOJ report found it troubling that the Department’s investigations appeared to be designed to justify the officer’s actions. The report found that, “A finding of excessive force by the department’s internal disciplinary system was exceedingly rare.” CITE Accordingly the department’s systematic failure prevented the department from timely and effectively analyzing any use of force by an officer of the department.
The Investigation of the Cleveland Police Department was critical of the department’s public relations with the community in which the police are tasked to protect. The failure of the Cleveland Police Department to have effective policies and procedures to review officers use of force interferes with the department’s ability to gain, “the trust of and work the communities whose cooperation the department needs to enforce the law, ensure officer safety, and prevent crime.” CITE Instead of working with Cleveland’s communities, the police department operates in a way that creates distrust and hatred.
Talk about policy problem and how Cleveland never changed bad policies
FURGUSON DOJ REPORT
What reforms should be made to improve the criminal justice system?
There have been calls for reform coming from all parts of the country, from ordinary citizens to the President of the United States. There are several reforms that can help improve transparency, accountability, and help improve how the public views police officers.
Body Worn Cameras-
Technology has evolved over the last decade, cameras have become smaller and the quality of the picture is clearer than it has ever been. Police operate in a planet were anyone with a cell phone camera can record video of a police encounter. Mandating that police officers wear cameras would be beneficial to society and long with the officer as the events of the encounter will be recorded from the perspective of the officer. Use of body worn cameras has many benefits, the camera footage could be useful for documenting evidence, it can prevent and resolve any complaints made by civilians, it can improve police transparency, and make both the officer and citizens accountable for their actions or inactions.
In 2013, the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), and the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office), conducted research on the use of body worn cameras. PERF sent an informal survey to 500 law enforcement agencies nationwide and conducted interviews with police chiefs and other department supervisors. The survey was created to examine nationwide use of body worn cameras, the benefits and problems posed by them. The Survey received responses from 254 departments, from the total 500 surveys sent. Of the surveys returned, 75 percent of the respondents reported that they did not use body worn cameras as of July 2013. CITE Sixty three departments reported that they were using body warn cameras. CITE
One of the questions asked by the PERF survey was regarding any benefits that come from the use of body worn cameras, the answers received were numerous but generally positive. The most common response to the benefits of the cameras was that the cameras improve accountability and transparency. Ron Miller, the chief of police for the Topeka Kansas Police Department when asked about his departments experience with the body worn cameras stated that, “Everyone is on their best behavior when the cameras are running. The officers, the public- everyone”. CITE With the use of video cameras the police departments have been able to become more transparent to the public by releasing video to the media.
In 2012, the police department in Rialto, California, examined whether body cameras would have any impact on the number of complaints against officers. In a one year period the department randomly assigned body cameras to its officers. The results of Rialto’s experiment, there was a 60% reduction in officer use of force incidents following camera assignment and the shifts without cameras experienced twice as many use of force incidents as shifts with cameras. CITE The Rialto study also found that there was an 88% drop in the number of citizen complaints from the year before.
A study conducted in Mesa, Arizona in 2012 also found that body cameras caused a reduction in complaints against officers. The Mesa Police Department assigned 50 officers to wear a body camera over a one year period and assigned a control group of 50 officers who did not wear any cameras. The experiment found that during the first 8 months of the experiments the officers without the cameras had three times more complaints than the officers who wore the camera. CITE
Police use of body cameras should be encouraged, cameras will keep police and citizens accountable, video footage will provide transparency, and it will improve how police officers capture evidence . Statistics show that a police officer who wears a body camera will be less likely to use force and will have less citizen complaints filed against them. There are many privacy issues that must be resolved before body cameras be required for every officer nationwide. After the high profile shooting in Ferguson Missouri President Obama proposed a three year 263 million dollar program that will increase the use of body cameras, along with other training programs. Of the $263 million dollars, $75 million dollars will be used to purchase 50,000 body cameras that will be distributed to police departments nationwide. CITE
Grand Jury System-
The Fifth Amendment requires that the federal legal system uses grand juries for all capital and ‘infamous’ crimes. The Fifth Amendment states, “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury’.” CITE Grand juries are designed to prevent unlawful prosecutions from rouge prosecutors. The grand Jury system is somewhat of a secretive process, most Americans do not know how the process works. The grand jury process is not open to the public or to the media, but there is a reason for these protections. The grand jury system is designed prevent outside influences and to make sure that witness are forthcoming.
High profile grand jury decisions not to indict police officers in Ferguson Missouri and Staten Island New York has many people calling for a change to the grand jury system. Jonathan Lippman, the chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals called the grand jury system ‘a relic of another time’ CITE Should the rules regarding the confidentiality of witness testimony be changed? Any witness testimony during or after the grand jury has delivered a true bill or no true bill as confidential and will not be released. Perhaps if the witness testimony after the grand jury delivers its decision is released in full it would provide transparency. Currently a judge in a grand jury proceeding has a limited role, the judge gives preliminary instructions before the jurors hear the case. CITE NYT ART Should a judge play a larger role? Should a judge be able to ask questions to the witnesses, prevent certain evidence from being admitted, or provide juror instructions before the jury deliberates? What about requiring a jury trial every time a police officer uses deadly force and kills a suspect and skip the grand jury process all together?
Some people have proposed having a special prosecutor examine the cases, the reasoning is that some people think that the District Attorney is too closely associated with the respective Police Department and that relationship influences their decision not to prosecute. If a special prosecutor is appointed the appearance of a bias would not exist.
It is clear that the vast majority of police officers and police departments act appropriately, but unfortunately some departments need to reform. The constitutional issues regarding seizures and the appropriate use of force are clearly established and do not appear to be the issue.
. Based on the reaction of communities in Ferguson and Staten Island who
...(download the rest of the essay above)