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Why do police officers use excessive force?

Police officers are often lauded as heroes and protectors of their communities. In most cases, such characterizations are accurate, but in some, it could not be further from the truth. South Carolina has certainly seen this to be true. According to The Post and Courier, an officer was fired last year for using excessive force. It is worth questioning: why do police officers use excessive force?

There is no single reason to attribute to all of these offenses, but there are patterns that emerge in such cases of abuse. In identifying these common causes, perhaps communities can fight against them and reinstate the reputation of police that citizens and precincts alike would like to see upheld.

Prejudice and discrimination

An increased focus on biases within police work has revealed something that many already knew to be true: officers often treat minorities and other marginalized groups differently. In the worst cases, this may involve the use of excessive force that would not otherwise be applied. Unfortunately, the color of one’s skin can elicit a violent response from police if an officer is prejudiced or discriminatory.

Fear or insecurity

In other cases, a police officer may be legitimately afraid of the suspect they are dealing with. This might trigger insecurity that then motivates an attack. Although an officer may feel truly scared, fear alone is not a justification for use of excessive force. On the contrary, an officer should respond by attempting to diffuse rather than escalate the situation.

Toxic environment

Reports indicate that in some departments encourage the use of excessive force and reward officers for engaging in violent behavior against suspects. This unacceptable environment unsurprisingly fosters attacks that can have deadly consequences. Police officers should maintain their commitment to protecting and serving, but too often, this takes a backseat to biases, fears or pressures to act violently.

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