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The Social Dynamics Of The Police Use Of Force

1477 words - 6 pages

When it comes to the criminal justice system, legal rulings only provide a systematic method of dealing with the problem of crime and, especially, the problem surrounding the police use of force. In Graham vs. Conner, for example, the courts established the four-factor test to evaluate police use of excessive force but left other, underlying social and moral dilemmas untouched. Furthermore, the influence money has in negotiating punishment via lawyers and bail, have made the courts a perfect playing field for the political and social elite to rule. Both have contributed to the inability for the legal dealings of coercive force to address some of the moral and social implications the use of force contains. To understand and tackle these other issues inherent in the use of coercive force, we must examine the police institution itself. The eroding and almost nonexistent social relationship between the police and the community contributes most to the problem surrounding the police use of force. In order for a better relationship to develop, the public perception of the police as a legitimate source of authority needs to be established. The loss of police legitimacy makes the increasing use of force inevitable since citizens are less willing to voluntary comply. Considering the amount of power and discretion they have, the first step to establishing legitimacy is turning to the officer selection process. When it comes to almost anything, even education, selection is more competitive as the expectations of that job increases. The qualifications and standards for entering a community college vastly differ than those required for a prestigious university. Since the police are entrusted with a great amount of power and a tremendous job that is essential to maintaining order and protecting citizens, why should their selectiveness be any less than that of, for example, Stanford University? Since the court system is unable to intervene in cases involving officer and citizen social relations, and since they have proved to be easily politically manipulated by lawyers and monetary bail, the police institution and its selection process must be examined and evaluated in order to address the social dilemma of the police use of force.
The political and social elite can manipulate the legal system easily. Oftentimes, punishments ruled by the court consist of monetary penalization or bail. Thus it is easy for those high up on the social ladder to escape the consequences of illegal actions. However, for those that come from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds, and who make us a majority of arrests, bail is rarely an option— they end up serving their full time in the jail cell (Metchik, 82). This makes the rebellious attitudes toward law enforcement and resistance of arrest more prominent among these proletariat groups. For either they try to resist going to jail with a small hope of getting away or at least being handcuffed after putting up a fight, or they go quietly...

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