Police Use of Force and Violence

Due to the nature of the work, police officers are afforded a considerable measure of discretion. Officers are confronted with a variety of dangerous scenarios that need them to react fast yet responsibly. They have the capacity to infringe on any citizen’s right to freedom, and they must make effective use of that authority. The authority of officers to determine whether to use force or fatal damage is one of the main concerns with the presence of such discretion. The boundary between what is required and what is excessive is thin. In this paper, to provide detailed understanding of the use of force, the mechanics behind such decision-making and perception of the institution will be taken into consideration. The use of force is unquestionably important in policing; nonetheless, the authority should be exercised with utmost caution. The excessive use of force by the law enforcement may project hostile environment for the local communities while lenient behavior may threaten the life of the officer.

The use of force by officers is a contentious topic that has tarnished the institution. Recent occurrences, such as the death of African Americans and the cruel treatment of minorities, have brought the public’s attention to the police department’s violent history. People may now use their cell phones to record incidents of aggression committed by police officers, raising awareness of the problem. The use of violence by law enforcement personnel is not extensively recorded. Indeed, the United States Commission on Civil Rights revealed that the lack of a complete record on police use of force makes it difficult to determine the extent to which the negative practice is prevalent. According to the Washington Post’s research, there were 989 occurrences of the police force in 2020, among which 179 Hispanics, 223 blacks, and 459 whites (Hough, 2021). Victims of police brutality are disproportionately from racial minorities.

From one point of view, police use of force is what is known as an administrative evil. According to Hough (2021), administrative evil emerges when public employees carry out their tasks and functions without realizing they harm the public. Those that injure others via administrative evil do it in an unethical manner. In this scenario, public officials, including police officers, engage in thoughtless behavior without realizing how their acts damage others. More compartmentalization leads to thoughtless behavior, which in most cases encourages the use of force. Because the individuals that hire the police are able to disguise the evil, the police are ignorant that their acts are damaging. When dealing with black offenders, even black cops are inclined to employ lethal force and suffer 2.5 times more often from police brutality (Peeples, 2020). Therefore, the perception of police violence as an administrative evil is valid.

It is crucial to analyze the impact of contextual elements in comprehending police use of force. During each contact, the officer will assess the circumstances and decide whether or not to use force. An officer may follow the decision to approach the suspect with force, but most officers do not use violence despite the legal authority provided. The officer’s perception will be influenced by their physical and cognitive responses to ambient inputs, which will be filtered by their training and expertise (Hough, 2021). In most circumstances, a police’s lenient attitude towards the suspect increases the danger of personal or public harm. An officer’s physiological ability to respond to an unarmed individual will almost always result in damage or undesirable outcomes. Experiments have shown that there is a latency in decision-making when a police officer faces an armed suspect. Perception errors can lead to the misuse or excessive application of violence.

Nevertheless, there are no strict guidelines for every situation where the utilization of force by police could be standardized. Although the application of force is considered to be the last resort, the degree of freedom in decision-making complicates the consideration of necessity. Only the amount of force required to mediate a situation, make an arrest, or defend themselves or others from danger should be used by law enforcement officials (National Institute of Justice, 2020). However, these scenarios could be interpreted broadly and often require a contextual understanding of the situation at hand. The continuum under which the force application is considered by police guides the decision-making process, but the critical moment of choosing the appropriate approach may delay the necessary response. The purpose of a police officer is to reestablish control as quickly as feasible while still safeguarding the neighborhood; hence more definitive violent methods are often taken in dealing with the suspect. Although quite often, such decisions could be interpreted as an abuse of authority. At the same time, they fall under the necessary actions required by the officers to protect the community.

However, certain scenarios provide enough contextual information to justify the application of force. For example, an armed conflict could be mitigated with the application of lethal force, while crimes involving minors should often be confronted with non-lethal actions that do not infringe on the rights or health of juveniles. However, it does not mean that application of lethal force cannot be considered because lenient approach to juveniles may result in death of the officer (Lowe, 2019). The intentions of the suspect should always be analyzed by the officer, and given that the signs recognized by the enforcer are justified, appropriate actions should be followed.

Nevertheless, in relation to minorities, the data suggests a biased approach to the resolution of conflicts. In my opinion, the increased reporting of institutionalized bias towards minorities suggests, the necessity to redevelop the guidelines or form a new set of standards to mitigate situations involving minorities. Police use of force is often valid, but media portrayal emphasizes individual cases that demoralize the image of the institution. This suggests the restructuration of police and media relationship to create a larger degree of transparency that will demonstrate justification for the actions taken. Otherwise, the institution will continue to be perceived as administrative evil as officers will continue to overstep their boundaries without realizing the excessiveness of their behavior on duty.


Hough, R. (2021). Administrative evil and use of deadly force in law enforcement. University West Florida

Lowe, K. (2019). A case study of police use of force on juveniles in a southeastern police department. Master’s Theses. 660.

National Institute of Justice. (2020). Overview of police use of Force.

Peeples, L. (2020). What the data say about police brutality and racial bias – and which reforms might work. Nature News.

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