Police use of force has been an issue in our society for as long as there have been police. Even today, police officers are constantly faced with decisions of whether to use force as a means of compliance of a subject. However, today’s police officers differ from yesterday’s officers regarding the use of force; through departmental policies, officers today are guided as to when and what types of force are necessary when dealing with subjects.
As you can see, certain actions of individuals warrant different types of force used by police officers. The only problem with this guideline is just that: it is only a guideline. Because officers are given so much discretion on the street, applying these standards depends on a number of variables including departmental policy, his/her physical capabilities, perception, training, experience, and special circumstances. Moreover, because officers are often unsupervised, departments have no real way of knowing the amount of force their officers are utilizing on the street. One department did however, uncover one officer’s excessive use of force.
The above video portrays a man in a Kmart store suspected of shoplifting being held by security. You can see a Denver Police Officer walk into the room. The man, who was already handcuffed at this point, is recuffed by the officer. Suddenly the officer shoves the handcuffed suspect up against the wall, pinches the pressure points in the suspect’s neck, pushes his face up against the wall, and says something to him. He proceeds to grab the back of his head by his hair and slams him on the ground and sits on him. All the while, the suspect is still handcuffed and the Kmart security guards are watching this.
The incident occurred on Aug. 4, 2007 but was seen by police for the first time on May 27, 2011 after an “anonymous complainant” gave it to police. According to the Denver Post, Officer Guzman filed no report of this incident and “can’t remember it” (denverpost.com). After an investigation by Internal Affairs, Officer Guzman was suspended for four days and reprimanded for not submitting a report.
Do you think that was a fair punishment considering the officer’s conduct? In my opinion, it was not. Let’s analyze this incident using the above Use of Force Continuum. According to the continuum, the amount of force used on the suspect would be the second tier up from the bottom of the continuum. The officer placed his hands around the suspects neck at two pressure points and subsequently took down the suspect. To warrant that type of behavior, the suspect would have had to have been pulling away or refusing to move dead weight. At no point in the “interrogation” did the suspect give the security guards or officers a hard time. While we do not know what was said, it is apparent that the suspect was compliant in that he allowed both the security guards and officer to place handcuffs on him. The mere fact that he was handcuffed showed the situation was “under control” and no amount of force was needed to take him into custody.
Contrary to these observations, David Bruno, a lawyer for the police union said the amount of force the officer used was within department guidelines. What do you think? Click here to check out the full article on the Denver Post website.