Public Response to Police Misconduct

Public Response to Police Misconduct

Police as a law enforcement body has the same important mission in any state, i.e. to provide for security of population and fight various crimes. However, personal subjective and objective factors may force police to behave in an aggressive way and cause hostile reactions of the public. This term paper will discuss pros and cons of the way the public replies to police attacks and the strategies of attacks adopted by police to defend themselves.

Riots and Legal Issues as a Public Response to Police Misconduct

Generalization is not common for discussing the issues of police misconduct. The majority of officers honestly performs their functions and treats people with respect. However, some law enforcement representatives can behave in an illegal way. Such cases cause specific public responses. The US public successfully fights for their rights to be aware of illegal behavior of police and prevent it:

Police misconduct records are open to the public in at least 27 states, according to the Committee on Open Government. In some, such as Florida, members of the public can request internal affairs investigations as soon as they’re concluded (Police misconduct. (Peddie & Playford, 2013, para. 52)

Burrough has analyzed the current public reaction to verified or possible police misconduct. He has stated that it is not the same as it was in the 1970s, when black people were ready to kill police officers for the death of Michael Brown. Now, if people want to express their protest, they organize demonstrations or riots. These are peaceful gatherings with some visual materials and placards, demanding certain actions from the government. A march of black people, requiring more accountability of police and racial equality after the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore may serve as a good example of a public response. “The real change, though, is that most activists today no longer view violence as a productive means of protest” (Burrough, 2015, para. 12). The reason of this is the fact that in order to attract the public’s attention, a person can just apply to mass media and express the own views. Moreover, a police-public relationship has become more sophisticated. The better part of issues can be solved without any aggression. (Burrough, 2015). One more example of the public response to police misconduct may be the case, when people apply to social organizations or governmental institutions with their complaints and suspicions seeking for help. They do it through official applications. Their actions lead to some peaceful legal consequences for such dishonest officers. Thus, in 2009, “The Massachusetts Department of Public Health suspended the license of Hamilton’s police-run ambulance service after an investigation revealed that a majority of the town’s officers participated in a scheme to falsify emergency medical technician training and certification records” (Scaramella, Cox, & McCamey, 2011, p. 251). The Massachusetts Case vividly demonstrates one of those mentioned sophisticated types of the police-public relationship, when public has a chance to verify, whether the law enforcement bodies function properly. Thus, riots and marches as well as public applying to official institutions for assistance are two proved public responses to police illegal actions and misconduct.

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Police Methods to Fight Public Aggression

It is logic that police observes and has to fight with the public’s reaction to any hostile and aggressive actions of some officers. The most unpleasant aspect of such a feedback is that the majority of officers, even those, who perform their duties well, have to apply certain strategies of defense and attack to avoid anarchical solutions of various issues. Thus, Scaramella, Cox, and McCamey (2011) mention that because of expanding the duties of police and changing their individual views on the law enforcement profession, in general, their strategies and policies have been modified. Nowadays, they apply to community-based policing that is founded on a friendly attitude to the public and community partnership (Scaramella, Cox, & McCamey, 2011). That is for sure that these community-based policing is not aimed at aggression. However, in certain circumstances, the police have to use some attack techniques to calm people down. Special trainings for police officers teach them to protect themselves physically in a case of being attacked. These are the skills that a policeman should constantly develop. Police defense and attack techniques are similar in a certain way. The policeman is aimed at protecting himself or herself and others and not attacking. Police have to use defense strategies, if they deal with a riot or aggressive crowd of people. These strategies are usual tricks from the course of crowd psychology. Thus, the policeman should stay calm and alert, when watching the crowd. He or she should not express the emotions and react to rude behavior. The research has showed that the behavior of crowd depends on the police reactions. If people see those policemen are calm and ready for discussions, they behave quietly themselves. Working in a team and showing a high professional level is also very important, when dealing with the crowd. Managing a riot usually has an unpredictable result (Rodgers, 2006). However, police should have some basic planning of the most effective actions, i.e. “Law enforcement authorities should plan policies that reduce the physical and emotional stress of riot duty (Rodgers, 2006, p. 190). One of the most controversial police practices of potential self-defense and attack is stop and frisk (SQF).It is “the common police practice of patting down a stopped suspect’s outer clothing, so long as the police officer possesses a reasonable and articulable suspicion both that criminal activity is afoot and that the person with whom the officer was dealing is armed and dangerous” (Mears, 2014, p. 335). It is called controversial as it is not just one of the usual post-evidence police methods. This practice is aimed at preventing a crime. In spite of this, police scientists at once started asking questions about when the policeman’s suspicion can be called reasonable and whether some ethnical issues are involved in the practice. The SQF has proved to be most efficient in certain areas with a high crime level inhabited by minorities. Those people, who reject the efficiency of the technique, state that police officers should not use SQF to stop innocent people as a percentage of the prevented crime is low. These groups may perceive SQF as an attack strategy (Mears, 2014). Thus, except physical force applied by police in the case of emergency, SQF can be a productive practice of a police attack, as well as psychological tricks can serve them for self-defense.

Pros and Cons of Public and Police Reactions to Aggression

My ideas concerning the discussed topic can be expressed in defining the pros and cons of each strategy used by the police or public to defend their interests. In my opinion, people have the right to express their wishes in a form of peaceful demonstrations and marches. The greatest plus of this method is that individuals will be heard and their desires considered. However, the question is that such demonstrations should be friendly towards others and the surroundings, not leaving destructions and rubbish. The last ecological aspect can be a drawback of such demonstrations. When applying to governmental bodies for verifying the police professional level, persons should have enough reasonable grounds to do it. This method may turn out to be quite effective. However, its disadvantage is that people’s initiative can interfere with the work of those officers, who honestly perform their duties. The actions of the police performed in case of individuals rioting are reasonable and based on psychological concepts. However, the major minus of them is that the psychology of crowd can be quite spontaneous; and law enforcement representative will have to change their behavior and be more aggressive. Therefore, planning does not always work for such cases. SQF has always been a controversial issue. Naturally that ethnical aspects and low productivity rate can be its disadvantages. However, this method helps to decrease the crime rate in certain areas and assists police in performing their duties. Thus, all police and public defense as well as attack methods have their pros and cons. The most important thing for these methods is to be in the limits of legitimacy.

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How Police-Public Relationship Can Be Improved

A professional level of the police is greatly respected by the public. That is why some general improvements for the police activities can be the well-developed police trainings in all aspects, a system of benefits and increased salaries, as well as the proper equipment for officers to perform their duties (Scaramella, Cox, &McCamey, 2011). Considering the methods of attack and defense used by the law enforcement bodies and the public, the only model of improvement appropriate for them is to accurately observe the legislation and base any actions on reasonable and honest desires to live in a democratic society without criminals. In order to modernize the SQF method, police departments can elaborate special programs that will explain the reasons of stopping and searching an individual. Before organizing a riot, people should also examine the legislation in this aspect and learn how to do it correctly. Therefore, regardless of the mentioned methods productivity, there is still a chance to improve them.


To conclude, it is important to state that the public and police will always try to establish a partnership relationship nowadays. Public manifestations, psychological techniques used by the police, and the SQF are causing numerous discussions. In order for the police and public to coexist peacefully, officers should be taken as community representatives, equal to people, surrounding them. In such a case the police and public will treat each other with respect. Law enforcement will function productively, applying numerous techniques.

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