What Happens When the Police Go Too Far?

I grew up thinking of the police as “the good guys” – the hero’s we can turn to when the “bad guys” are causing trouble. As I get older, I realize that the world is not that simple. I realize that police officers are people too. Like the rest of us, most of them are good, decent, hardworking and well-intentioned individuals. But also, like the rest of us, human traits such as anger, impatience, bad judgment, greed, ego and sometimes even cruelty can cause law enforcement officers to do bad things.

Lets face it, police officers have a very difficult and stressful job. They have to know the law very well and be able to apply it on the street in an instant. They often encounter undesirable people who may be intoxicated, unruly or just plain evil. They are constantly scrutinized after the fact by lawyers, the courts and the media. On top of all that, they’re lives are potentially at stake whenever they respond to a call or make a traffic stop. Such circumstances are enough to make anyone develop a nasty disposition.

Add to this that the “bad guys” seem to be getting bolder and more dangerous. Police officers do face dangerous criminals who have no regard for authority. Many officers unfortunately lose their lives every year while doing their job.

These circumstances have all lead to increased training for law enforcement officers on how to maintain control over the subjects they encounter. Officers have been given broad permission to use weapons such as Tasers and Pepper Spray to immobilize unruly individuals. The concern is that these circumstances appear to be leading to a more accepted and increasing use of force that is arguably inappropriate and excessive.

The easiest thing for the police to do is to assume that all the people they encounter are potentially dangerous criminals that must be kept under total control at all times. This seems to be the underlying premise of the training and policies of the agencies that they work for. As such, officers often resort to the use of force on any person who is not immediately complying with their commands.

However, most members of the public are also good, decent, hardworking and well-intentioned people. It is not right when a decent person is involved in a minor incident with the police and ends up getting pepper sprayed, or shocked with a taser if they don’t understand a command or move quickly enough.

The consequences to an individual who encounters an officer who is overly aggressive are often devastating. Not only do they suffer the physical harm of the violent force used on them by the officer, but they are then arrested so as to arguably justify the misconduct of that officer. The arrestee is then prosecuted and may face jail time.

The officer may escape accountability for the misconduct because the complainant is now just an accused “criminal.” Complaints made by the arrestee are often disregarded by the officer’s superiors who take the position that the officer was just doing what was necessary to deal with a “criminal.”

Perhaps more sophisticated training is needed to teach officers how to be more capable of discerning between a truly dangerous person and a person who is just being a nuisance. Officers should learn how to diffuse tension rather than just resort to violence. Is this humanly possible? I think so. There are many excellent officers who know how to control real criminals with force, while they are still able to treat decent citizens appropriately even when they act up.

If you or anyone you know is being accused of a crime such as Resisting Arrest, Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer, or Disorderly Conduct that stems from circumstances like those described in this article, you should contact an attorney immediately. The Orlando criminal attorneys at Longwell Lawyers are here to help.

Categories: Criminal Law, Articles