Police Use of Force

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Authors: Mark Shores and Karen Evans
Date: Winter 2019
From: Reference & User Services Quarterly(Vol. 59, Issue 2)
Publisher: American Library Association
Document Type: Recommended readings
Length: 2,964 words
Lexile Measure: 1120L

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High-profile news stories about excessive use of police force, often leading to a person's death, have filled our news feeds and become a hot-button issue. Karen Evans's column for this months' Alert Collector highlights some of the major books on this topic that will flesh out your collection, whether you serve a criminal justice program, students needing the best sources for a pros and cons essay, or a clientele wanting the best resources to help them understand this complex issue. Evans is the librarian for the School of Criminology and Security Studies at Indiana State University. She holds a graduate degree in criminology and criminal justice, and serves as the editor for the criminal justice section of Resources for College Libraries.

Eric Garner died on July 17, 2014; Brendon Glenn died on May 5, 2015; Walter Scott died on April 4, 2015; Philando Castile died on July 6, 2016; and Freddie Gray died on April 12, 2015. All deaths were deemed to be the result of excessive police force. What is excessive use of force by police officers? The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) defines excessive force as "the application of an amount and/or frequency of force greater than that required to compel compliance from a (willing or unwilling) subject." (1) The National Institute of Justice, part of the United States Department of Justice, says that "the use of force by law enforcement officers becomes necessary and is permitted under specific circumstances, such as self-defense or in defense of another individual or group." (2) Although definitions of excessive use of force vary by law enforcement agencies, the thread running through most of them is that the use of excessive force by a police officer is the use of too much force to make a civilian comply with an officer's orders.

The use of force of any type is based on agency policies, the situation, and the experience of the officer. Police departments have policies on the use of force, usually with stringent guidelines for how and when officers use force to encourage a person to conform to an officer's demands. While officers should know and always adhere to their agency's policies, news reports over the last few years have shown that is not always the case. It should be noted that force to a certain degree is allowed by police agencies to ensure the safety of the police officer, civilians, and the suspect. Force becomes excessive when it exceeds what is needed to control a situation. How do officers determine the amount of force needed in a situation? Many law enforcement agencies have a Use-of-Force Continuum (UFC) to guide their officers in acceptable use of force and under what circumstances. Not all UFC's are the same: some agencies have fewer levels of force and others more, some agencies label their levels of force differently. The point of the UFC is to ensure police officers know the levels of force available to them and under what circumstances levels of...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A619403186