What Is Police Brutality?


Police brutality is a term that no one likes to hear. If you ever see it associated with policing, it usually has something to do with the news. To define the term, it means excessive force has been used by the police to apprehend another person. It can be both physical and verbal as psychological intimidation is another form of police brutality.

This form of misconduct is just one negative act that has been performed by police officers. Other forms of misconduct include intimidation, false arrest, racial profiling, police corruption, sexual abuse and political repression.

There Is A Fine Line For Police Conduct

If you’ve ever watched a television series were police officers were trying to apprehend a person, you probably understand how the need for force comes into play. If someone is running away from a police officer and doesn’t want to get caught, that cop has got to physically take them down.

Most jurisdictions will allow their police officers to use the appropriate amount of force that is necessary to arrest a person that is resisting arrest. Beyond that, a police officer is considered to be using too much force and committing police brutality.

Case By Case Consideration

Every time a police officer and assailant confront each other, it’s a unique situation. A close look at the circumstances surrounding each case needs to be considered to determine if the force used was too excessive, cruel, brutal or savage.

Real police brutality occurs when an individual police officer gets too carried away with his verbal or physical actions and uses unacceptable forms of violence against a citizen.

Police Brutality Cases

One of the most high-profile cases of police brutality came in 1991 when Rodney King was physically beaten by police officers from the Los Angeles area. It was tied in with racial overtones and a video showing four officers striking King with batons and their fists. All four officers went to court and were found guilty for using excessive force and assault with a deadly weapon.

Another police brutality incident occurred in 2007 at the Vancouver International Airport. Four police officers from Canada used tazers in an excessive manner to take down Robert Dziekanski. He died at the scene. This case drug on for over nine years. One aspect that came out of the incident was the lack of impartiality used by police officers when investigating themselves.

Who Investigates?

Most jurisdictions use independent agencies to scrutinize police departments and their conduct, and they usually hire retired police officers. However, these independent agencies have also had problems with being impartial.

Citizen-based groups have also been formed to scrutinize police organizations when misconduct occurs. One of these groups, Copwatch has been around since 1990. They monitor police organizations in both the United States and Canada.

Fortunately, the majority of police officers use an adequate amount of force when conducting their jobs. It’s the few individuals who let their tempers flare when they are working that lets things get out of hand.