Above the Law. Police and the Excessive Use of Force by Jerome H Skolnick

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By Jerome H Skolnick

The now-famous videotape of the thrashing of Rodney King brought about a countrywide outcry opposed to police violence. Skolnick and Fyfe, of the nation's most sensible specialists on legislation enforcement, use the incident to introduce a revealing old research of such violence and the level of its survival in legislations enforcement this present day.

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As anybody who has ever called a cop knows, police intervention is grounded in a round-the-clock capacity to take decisive action in handling all kinds of emergencies and to employ force where it is needed. ”15 The question remains, however, as to how much force is justified and in what situations. Certainly, force is sometimes appropriate—that’s why cops carry batons and guns. Police should not be labeled “brutal” simply because they employ forceful measures. Taken alone, a charge of brutality should not be regarded as evidence of guilt.

Ventura County is home to many law enforcement officers. Only 6 potential jurors were black; only 2 percent of the Ventura County population is black. Four jurors were members of the National Rifle Association. Another was a registered Republican and a former shore patrolman. The prosecutor’s most promising jurors were Anna Whiting, a fifty-four-year-old printer from a working-class street near the Ventura oil fields, and Virginia Loya, a forty-year-old hospital housekeeper and the jury’s only Hispanic.

Instead, like King, fleeing motorists typically are troubled young men with bad driving records whose ability to reason has been altered by drugs or alcohol. But regardless of how relatively minor the violations that lead to their flight, fleeing motorists commit a cardinal sin against the police: instead of submitting immediately, they challenge the police and attempt to escape their pursuer’s authority. In so doing, in the eyes of police officers accustomed to motorists and other citizens who not only submit immediately to police authority but even check their speedometers in the mere presence of police cars, fleeing motorists become prime candidates for painful lessons at the ends of police nightsticks.

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