Use of Force in the City Of Baltimore
Baltimore police officers have the responsibility of protecting the city’s residents and visitors. While on duty, the officers are supposed to uphold the sanity of human life and respect value of every person and seeking peaceful resolutions (Baltimore Police Department, 2018). However, in the course of their duties, some officers exercise the excessive use of force which is not according to the law. When such incidences take place, the officers are investigated by the internal audit division where evidence from video surveillance, medical records, and any other available evidence is used to determine whether the officer did use excessive force. Nevertheless, the officers are required to use force objectively reasonable to safely resolve an incident while they exercise caution to protect other officers and the lives of the citizens. With such deliberations, the focal point revolves around circumstances and which the officers can use force and how the use of force helps in resolving situations.
The Rationale for the Use of Force
In the busy city of Baltimore, there are different activities that go on daily including business operations and criminal activities. When police officers are called or alarmed to make an arrest of some criminals, they are required to act swiftly to ensure that they make an arrest. According to Moskos (2009), in the process, some criminals may decide not to give in to the officers’ orders, forcing the officers to use force. Some criminals decide to shoot at the officers, forcing them to shoot back at them. In such a situation, the police use force so that they can protect their lives and those of the residents. Criminals that run away using cars are chased after by the officers until they are intercepted.
Conversely, the officers can shoot at suspects escaping from them but this is only warranted for is the officers believe that the suspect is a threat to the security of the residents and that the suspect possesses an illegal firearm or explosives. A violent suspect escaping from a scene of the crime is also subject to shooting by the officers if he refuses to surrender (Baltimore Police Department, 2018). The officers can only make that decision after ascertaining that the criminal actually did commit a violent crime. In situations where the suspect resists arrest and fights back at the officers, the officers can use pepper spray to curb the behavior so that they can easily arrest the criminal.
There have also been arguments on whether police officers are allowed to conduct a home search and the grounds under which the search is considered the illegal and excessive use of force when searching. The law under the Fourth Amendment stipulates that the officers should obtain permission from a court of law to legally search individuals, cars, and property in their effort to seize evidence for a possible act of a criminal activity. However, if the police decide to conduct a search without permission from the court of law, the victim is entitled to refuse the officers from searching them or their property. If the police decide to use force in such a situation, they are subject to investigation and disciplinary action by the internal audit division (Pollock, 2016). In fact, the law stipulates that the evidence obtained illegally cannot be admissible in a court of law. On the other hand, if the officers have permission from the court of law to search persons or property, they can use force if the owner refuses them from searching the property.
In some situations, police officers obtain a warrant of arrest from the court with specific instructions of the place and time the search should take place. Therefore, if the warrant states that the search should be conducted at the backyard of a house and between 8am-5pm, the officers are restricted to conducting the search at the said location and time (Klinger, 2013). More often than not, officers receive ruthless resistance by people who understand the law when they do not abide by the terms of the warrant. They unknowingly engage in the use of force, something that creates the conflict between them and the suspects.
However, there are other times when a warrant to perform a search is not required. If there is a reasonable probable cause, the officers can perform a search without a warrant of arrest. For instance, if the police are chasing a suspect and it happens that the suspect escapes in the backyard of a house where the officers later hear some gunshots, the officers are allowed to search the area. Moskos (2009) noted that, if the owner refuses the officers from entering the premise for search, the officers are allowed to use force to search for the suspect from the location. However, such incidences occur when the officers have without reasonable doubt that the suspect is actually armed and dangerous. Therefore, they have to use force so that they can secure their lives and those of the people around the crime scene. In other situations, if individuals voluntarily allow the search by the police without being coerced or tricked to do so, the police can perform a search without a warrant of arrest. In such a situation, the officers cannot use force.
Demonstrations have been common in many cities in the U.S and the world in general. However, protestors are supposed to be protected by the officers when conducting protests as long as the protests are peaceful. However, the police are allowed to intervene and stop demonstrations that are violent and disrupts running of businesses. If the protestors refuse to follow guidelines by the officers especially when restricting them from entering some places, the officers can use force to disperse the protestors (Pollock, 2016). The commonly known way of dispersing such protestors is by the use of teargas canisters. If the protestors become violent or start looting businesses, the officers are allowed to use force.
There have been controversies on the amount of force an officer can use when making an arrest. This is heightened by the issue of discrimination by the police when making arrests. Some citizens’ groups that feel that they are discriminated by the police have in most cases opposed the way they are handled by police. For instance, there have been many cases of protest by African Americans who claim that police officers use excessive force when arresting them (Klinger, 2013). There have even been reported cases of suspects killed by the officers even when they do not have firearms. They argue that the police often overstep the bounds of necessity.
An example of excessive use of force by the officers is when a suspect surrenders but the officer continue to chokehold the suspects. For instance, if the officers patrolling a street spots a suspect snatching a wallet from a pedestrian then he runs away, the officers chase and catches him but the suspect tries to flee himself and in the process hits the officer. The office can use chokehold to take control of the suspect. However, if the officer continues to use the chokehold for a minute until the suspect passes out, then the officer can be argued to have used excessive force.
There have been heated debates about the circumstances under which police officers can use force in the city of Baltimore. Although there are regulations provided for by the Baltimore police department on how and when police can use force, there have been incidences where the members of the public have claimed that the officers use excessive force. Some minority groups believe that the police use excessive force on them even when they do not pose any threat to the police and the citizens. The law stipulates circumstances under which the officers can be subjected to a disciplinary action. The internal audit division is mandated to deal with reported cases of illegal or excessive use of force. However, the police use force so that they can protect their lives and those of the residents. An armed suspect running away from the officers can be sot by the officers to protect them and the people around the crime scene. A fleeing violent suspect can be sot by the office to protect other people from facing the wrath of the suspect. In a situation where the suspect resists arrest, the officers can use pepper spray to tame him.
Baltimore Police Department (2018). Understanding Use of Force. Retrieved from: https://www.baltimorepolice.org/transparency/understanding-use-of-force
Pollock, J. (2016). Ethical Dilemmas and Decisions in Criminal Justice. Boston MA: Cengage Learning.
Moskos, P. (2009). Cop in the hood: My year policing Baltimore's eastern district. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Klinger, D. (2013). Into the kill zone: A cop's eye view of deadly force. San Francisco, Calif: Jossey-Bass.
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