My Views on Lethal Use of Force. 2
How to Inform Officers on How to Balance Individual Rights, Probable Cause, and the Need to Protect the Public 3
How to Counteract the Problem of Mass Shootings. 4
Strategies with Which to Rebuild Pubic Trust Towards Law-Enforcement Agencies. 5
How to Mitigate the Problem of Wrongful Conviction. 6
Policy White Paper
My Views on Lethal Use of Force
Given that police officers have the principal responsibility to uphold the law, and more importantly, to indiscriminately protect the lives of all members of the society, it is undisputed that they should refrain from using any amount of force that is unjustified whenever they are executing their professional mandate. Although the use of force by law-enforcing agencies is virtually inevitable and even permitted by law (Alpert & Dunham, 2004), a study by Watkin (2004) emphasizes that police officer should use force exclusively in unavoidable circumstances, and must not exceed the amount that is necessary to achieve the legitimate objectives. Moreover, even in circumstances where the use of force is unavoidable such as when the suspect poses a significant threat to a police officer, that is, when the officer and other members of the public are at high risk serious bodily injury or death, the law clearly postulates that he/she ought to use force in a manner that minimizes damage and/or injury to the suspect.
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In addition, police officers are trained and often have an upper hand over criminals. Therefore, they (officers) should always focus on respecting and preserving human life in all circumstances, and that implies that they should avoid using lethal force as much as possible. Also, in situations where the matter has gone out of hand, it is necessary for them to ensure medical aid is given to the injured people at the crime scene as soon as possible in order to preserve as many lives as possible. Hence, I believe that while the use lethal force could be necessary in specific circumstances such as when the criminal is fully armed and ready to cause severe injury to or death of officers and other people, officers must only use force that is necessary to put the situation under control while preserving life by all means possible.
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How to Inform Officers on How to Balance Individual Rights, Probable Cause, and the Need to Protect the Public
According to Zeidman (2004), the main responsibility of police officers is to protect the public, including lives and property. Nonetheless, this aspect of officers’ mandate usually comes with significant challenges such as violence from perpetrators of crimes, resistance to arrests, and retaliations from people who believe they have been mistreated by officers based on social, racial, and religious factors. In such situations, officers are justified to use the amount of force that is necessary to mitigate a criminal incident, effect an arrest, or protect themselves and other people from harm (MacDonald, Kaminski & Smith, 2009). However, it must be emphasized while executing their duties, police officers must respect the rights of other people. Therefore, while protecting the public, they must ensure that their actions respect people’s individual rights including their right to life, security, freedom from discrimination, and equal protection under the law. In order to achieve this, officers should embrace appropriate causes of action that guarantee the restoration of safety within communities while simultaneously respecting the rights of individuals.
Accordingly, the main strategy that I will use to inform officers about how to balance individual rights, probable cause, and the need to protect the public is regular professional workshops. Through them, officers will get to learn and update their knowledge about how to execute their duties in accordance with the law. Moreover, officers will be taught by professionals in the legal fraternity as well as by experienced criminal justice specialists on how to perform their duties under the law. This will enhance their overall knowhow on how to balance public service, bribable cause of action, and individual rights as applied in their line of duty.
How to Counteract the Problem of Mass Shootings
One of the strategies that I think should be implemented in order to counteract mass shootings entails regulating the ownership and keeping of firearms in society. While it is obvious that members of society should not be denied the right to own and keep firearms for self-defense, it is imperative that those who can potentially perpetrate mass shootings are not allowed to own and keep firearms under any circumstances. Hence, the law-enforcing agency should implement a strategy that ensures regular yet thorough background checks for all owners of firearms. These checks should ensure that all people with a history of mental illness, violent crimes, domestic violence, suicidal ideation, short temper, and carelessness are ultimately denied the right to own and keep firearms. Moreover, by subjecting all gun-owners to the process at least on a quarterly basis, law-enforcement agencies will be able to retrieve all firearms that were wrongfully assigned to underserved people and/or firearms whose owners initially qualified to carry them at the time of purchase but whose recent actions have disqualified them from continued possession of the weapons (Metzl & MacLeish, 2015).
The second strategy that I would use to mitigate the problem of mass shootings is to improve trust between law-enforcing agencies and the public by ensuring equitable use of the law, implementing community policing, and minimizing wrongful convictions. Usually, security threats in society arise mainly from misunderstanding and hostility between the police force and the public. Members of the public often know people in their midst who pose the most serious security threats. Hence, by enhancing public trust in the law-enforcing agencies, it is justifiably arguable that the public will be more ready and willing to work in collaboration with the police to identify all gun-owners who are likely to perpetrate heinous crimes such as mass shootings and to report them to the police department for actions to be taken against them in due time.
Strategies with Which to Rebuild Pubic Trust Towards Law-Enforcement Agencies
I do not believe that all officers should be recruited from and assigned to work in communities where they originally belong in order to enhance public trust in the law-enforcement agencies. However, as Tyler and Huo (2002) asserted, one of the main strategies that should be adopted to enhance public trust in the law-enforcement agencies is the implementation of community policing systems. Through community policing, officers (who may not necessarily come from the communities into which they serve) will directly interact with local residents in a friendly and objective manner. They will attend local security meetings with residents and participate in providing security solutions to them. Also, under this approach, officers will be encouraged to embrace the use of dialogue and other out-of-court conflict resolution strategies of to resolve disputes among residents in their areas of jurisdiction. Furthermore, community policing will encourage the least possible use of force in executing the mandate of law-enforcement agencies, and this will undoubtedly reduce the level of hostility between the public and officers. Also, the strategy will provide members of the public with a platform on which to make their grievances known to police officers working in their communities, and this will eventually reduce incidences excessive use of force and discriminative implementation of the law. Based on this explanation, it is evident that community policing encourages the development of friendly relationships between officers and members of the public, consequently improving public trust towards law-enforcement agencies.
How to Mitigate the Problem of Wrongful Conviction
One of the main strategies that can be implemented to reduce wrongful convictions is the implementation of the body-worn camera policy. Through it, all police officers will have to use high-definition body-worn cameras whenever they are on official duty. The cameras are able to capture footage of events that occur at the scene of the crime where the officers are present both at night and during the day. This footage can be used to identify perpetrators of crimes during investigations, and to provide the prosecutor with reliable evidence that can be used in the court of law to ensure accurate prosecution and conviction of the offenders. Thus, the body-worn cameras can play a vital role in curbing the prevalence of wrongful convictions since they provide evidence with which to not only rightfully convict a suspect of a given crime but also to vindicate a suspect who has been wrongfully accused of and/or prosecuted for a given crime (Kampfe, 2015).
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Another strategy through which to minimize the prevalence of wrongful convictions entails encouraging vigilance from the prosecution department as well as the judiciary. This can be achieved by compelling prosecutors to conduct thorough investigations in all cases in order to come up with accurate, reliable, and justifiable evidence with which to ensure prosecution and conviction of suspects. Moreover, increased vigilance in the judiciary implies that all suspects stand a high chance of being granted the right to hire private attorneys or be assigned a public attorney by the state (especially in situations where they cannot afford private attorneys) in order to effectively defend themselves against charges pressed against them in the court of law. By so doing, defendants will be able to argue out their cases in the court of law in a fair and legally-competent manner, a factor that will eventually reduce the possibility of wrongful convictions due to ignorance of the law.
I believe in the rule of law and that police officers have the chief mandate to maintain law and order. Thus, they must execute their responsibilities within the provisions of the law. This implies that should only use force in unavoidable circumstances and that the amount of force used should exclusively be equal to the level that is necessary to achieve the legitimate objectives of officers according to the law. I also believe that regular training is an effective strategy through which officers seek to stay up-to-date with the law. Moreover, it can contribute enormously in enhancing their professional performance particularly by improving their know-how in terms of the execution of responsibilities under the law. I also believe that community policing is the best strategy through which to enhance public trust towards the law-enforcing agencies. Lastly, the implementation of police body-worn cameras policy as well as improving vigilance in the prosecution department and the judiciary are the three best strategies for mitigating wrongful convictions.
Alpert, G. P. & Dunham, R. G. (2004). Understanding police use of force: Officers, suspects, and reciprocity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kampfe, K. (2015). Police-worn body cameras: Balancing privacy and accountability through state and police department action. Ohio State Law Journal, 76, 1153.
MacDonald, J. M., Kaminski, R. J. & Smith, M. R. (2009). The effect of less-lethal weapons on injuries in police use-of-force events. American journal of public health, 99(12), 2268-2274.
Metzl, J. M. & MacLeish, K. T. (2015). Mental illness, mass shootings, and the politics of American firearms. American Journal of Public Health, 105(2), 240-249.
Tyler, T. R. & Huo, Y. (2002). Trust in the law: Encouraging public cooperation with the police and courts through. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.
Watkin, K. (2004). Controlling the use of force: A role for human rights norms in contemporary armed conflict. American Journal of International Law, 98(1), 1-34.
Zeidman, S. (2004). Policing the police: The role of the courts and the prosecution. Fordham Urban. Law Journal, 32, 315.