Criminal Justice Term Paper
| please only use sources from books. please I don’t want any grammar mistakes. I need it to be professional. |
|please I want it to be about the deadly force in police work and <br /> specifically the United States police and please feel free to write any <br /> examples that support the topic like cases that happened. I know its <br /> wide but please choose aside from this topic and write about it. <br /> thanks|
Deadly Force in the United States
Today, there is a public outcry over the increased use of deadly force by police officers across the United States. This outcry has in many cases cased caused police departments to impose restrictions on the use of deadly force. Despite efforts to control this kind of force, police officers continue to be confronted by a dilemma on how to reconcile administrative policy with practical “ground-level” situations (Conser, Paynich, Gingerich&Gingerich, 2011). Police routinely encounter heavily armed suspects who are not only uncooperative but are willing to kill or injure them as well as innocent citizens in order to escape arrest. In such situations, the officers are allowed to use deadly force.
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Numerous efforts have been made to outlaw the shooting of suspects of petty crimes such as burglary as long as they are not armed with deadly weapons. However, police officers may still use moral judgment and situational factors to make a decision to shoot the suspects with a view to immobilize them. The use of deadly force is normally influenced heavily by the philosophies, policies, and expectations being promoted by police chiefs at the organizational level (Fyfe, 1982). It also tends to be influenced by the administrative policy that has been formally laid down by the police department.
The increased use of deadly force may also be a reflection of increased community violence. In the United States, racial relations play a critical role in the behavior of police officers. In some parts of the country, the use of deadly force has been known to trigger heightened racial tensions among different local communities. In fact, racial disparities in the US may be said to have emerged as important determinants of the level of the use of deadly force. However, this is an area of research that should be subjected to objective analysis and scrutiny. Nevertheless, the emerging trend of violence involving police and citizens is an indication of systematic failure in the area of administrative policy. The aim of this paper is to investigate how failure in administrative policy has led to an increase in the use of deadly force by police in the United States. The paper is based on the thesis that reforms on administrative policy regarding the use of deadly force by police can help to strike a balance between the risks posed to police officers and the danger of killing innocent civilians.
Recent developments in the United States have triggered a fierce debate on the use of deadly force by law enforcement officers. A major concern among many Americans is that police officers are increasingly using force to oppress social minorities, particularly those of the lower classes. Police officers stand accused of being overly aggressive species in the way they handle suspects who belong to racial minority groups. The reality of this situation in American today is that there are many police officers who are busy looking at the slightest opportunity to use needlessly forceful methods of arresting suspects. This is a complex problem that needs to be viewed from different dimensions, including racial relations, police culture, administrative policy, and changes in the level of violence in society.
One way to determine the seriousness of the deadly-force problem is to examine evidence on the behavior of police in situations where the unfolding events triggered the decision to use deadly force. This is a difficult undertaking because it is virtually impossible to come across different situations where police officers were faced with exactly similar challenges. If such situations were plausible, it would be easier for a researcher to make a judgment on which police officer abused discretion to use of deadly force and which one did not.
One may argue that the police use of deadly force is an infrequent phenomenon (Worden, 1996). Whether frequent or not, some incidences of police brutality are reported while others go unreported. Those that capture the attention of the public are likely to trigger protests and demonstrations. In this case, deadly force may involve severe restraints, a weapon, or a weaponless tactic. In many cases, police use force pushing and shoving suspects while making arrests. Such measures are necessary if the suspect is uncooperative or is resisting arrest.
From the point of view of police administration, incidences of the police use of weapons such as pepper spray are predictable because they are governed by existing policies. This is because police officers are trained on the progressive use of force along a continuum. The policy clearly stipulates that officers should use the least possible amount of force required to achieve their objectives. The kinds of actions by police that arouse a lot of concern from the public, such as severe beatings, fatal shootings, chokeholds that lead to death, are not typical of circumstances where police are required to use force. In other words, they do not fall in the category of normal police practices as far as strategies to achieve specific objectives are concerned. To gain insight into the frequency with which such incidents occur, researchers should pay attention to different categories of data, including police arrest statistics, observations of police officers’ behavior, and surveys. Reports about public encounters with police officers can also shed light on the problem of the use of deadly force.
A major problem with existing findings of the excessive use of force by police officers is that they trigger questions relating to proportionality. This means that there are many gray areas where it is difficult for one to make a decision on whether a police officer acted in the right manner. Moreover, it may be instances where situational factors arise that require police officers to act in ways that are not comprehensively covered in administrative policy.
In many cases, police resort to the use of force when they are dealing with individuals who are acting under the influence of drugs or are mentally ill (Frydl&Skogan, 2004). However, this does not mean that most of the cases in which police officers have been involved in brutal acts against the public involved people who were under the influence of drugs. It is imperative for empirical research to be conducted on how incidences involving such people compared to those that involve people who are not intoxicated. Similarly, the conventional claim within police departments across the country that a small number of police officers are involved in a disproportionately high number of extreme-use-of-force situations is yet to be scrutinized through research.
It is difficult to determine whether police officers are justified to use deadly force. The use of such a kind of force no doubt differs from one situation to the other. In fact, this is one area of research where one should expect to encounter the most serious challenges in the process of looking for research evidence or evaluating available evidence. At some point, police officers may be expected to use deadly force. No one except the police officer who experienced the situation on the ground can tell whether it was indeed necessary for such kind of force to be used. In other words, the level of risk of harm that police officers face while conducting their business of arresting suspects may be difficult for many people to comprehend. The lives of these law enforcement officers are as important as those of any other citizen.
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Unfortunately, it is also possible for police officers to abuse their discretion regarding the use of deadly force since they are aware that no action is likely to be taken against them. On 17 July 2014, Eric Garner, an African American from Staten Island, was stopped by police officers on suspicion of selling illegal cigarettes within the Tompkinsville neighborhood. A verbal confrontation with the police officers ensued, and Garner was evidently uncooperative. The police officers resorted to the use of force, apparently involving an illegal chokehold. The officers handcuffed Garner, who promptly became unconscious. In a video clip taken by a bystander, Garner could be heard shouting “I can’t breathe” several times before getting seizures and ultimately becoming unconscious. He was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
Going by the evidence available in the video clip, it seems that the police officers arresting Garner used excessive force, which led to his death. This view is shared by thousands of protestors across the United States who reacted angrily to a grand jury decision not to indict Daniel Pantaleo, a white, the NYPD officer who executed the apparent chokehold on Garner. Other than demonstrating the existence of racial tensions in America, the protests provided a platform through which the public could express their frustration on what they viewed as excessive use of force by law enforcement agencies. Unless the NYPD provides evidence showing that the police officers were justified in using excessive force, many Americans will remain distrustful of the police. The images of police officers abusing their powers while arresting an unarmed suspect who did not pose any meaningful threat to their safety will remain etched in the minds of many Americans for a long time.
It may be incorrect to argue that cases such as Eric Garner’s are few and far between. On the contrary, an equally important counterargument would be that Garner’s case is just one among many similar cases that never captured the attention of the American public because no video evidence was provided. The best way to examine this argument is to view it in the context of the holistic examination of the state of racial relations in America today. Racial relations in America continued to worsen after another incident in Fergusson, Missouri in which Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old African American, was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a white police officer. This incident triggered unrest in Fergusson because of the residents’ belief that Brown had already surrendered to the officers. Long-running racial tensions that the Fergusson is widely known for also contributed to the persistence of the unrest. A new wave of unrest erupted when, like in the case of Eric Garner, a grand jury failed to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who killed Michael Brown.
The cases of Eric Garner and Michael Brown shed a lot of light on the need for the police departments to carry out an overhaul of their administrative policies in order to make it harder for police officers to justify their use of deadly force. This is exactly the same sentiment that the Attorney General of Missouri expressed following the shooting of Michael Brown. In the Attorney General’s view, one statute in Missouri gives police officers in Missouri more leeway to use deadly force than in most other states. In fact, this was one of the reasons why it was difficult to prosecute Darren Wilson for the use of deadly force.
President Obama has suggested an even more aggressive change in administrative policy involving the installation of police body cameras. According to Obama, body cameras provide an excellent way of improving relations between the police and the public by promoting a sense of accountability and transparency. Police departments have already started embracing the technology, with a federal body-camera budget of $75 million already proposed by the president and the mayor of New York announcing that police officers in New York would soon begin wearing them.
Current administrative policy on the operations of police officers offers a detailed explanation on the importance of arming police officers. Police officers carry arms in to enable them to coerce recalcitrant individuals to obey the law. In some cases, the use of weapons by the officers tends to have lethal consequences. The potential for using lethal force is an integral component of police operations. In fact, it is difficult to appreciate the role of the police in law enforcement without acknowledging the latitude the law understandably gives them to be able to use deadly force whenever the need arises.
Police departments are equipped with deadly weapons as a way of empowering them in their duty to protect citizens. There are many instances where the use of force is necessary for the safety of the public. Whenever violators of the law unleash violence towards the public and the police, the latter have a responsibility to stay on top of things by using force. For instance, police officers may use deadly force against the violators if they pose an imminent threat to the lives of the police officers or citizens within the community. However, such use of force must be used on reasonable grounds, and this is where administrative policy becomes a critical factor. Many of the problems arising from the abuse of the powers conferred upon police officers today arise from administrative failures on the part of the agencies responsible for overseeing police operations.
During training, police officers are educated on how to use an amount of force that is proportional to the level of threat posed to them and to the public (More, 1985). Emphasis is on the need to accomplish out their goals in a manner that protects the legitimacy of police operations. Police officers should ideally be seen to participate in the work of providing protection in coordination with the community. After all, police are an integral part of the communities they seek to protect. The only difference between them and the rest of the members of the community is that the latter cede certain powers the police for the sake of promoting public safety in an efficient manner. For example, police officers have a right to deprive persons of their life, freedom and the pursuit of pleasure at a short notice depending on the threat that they pose to public safety. Without the services that police offer, the safety of citizens would be in jeopardy. Similarly, the police may find it impossible to do their work without support from the community.
In light of this background check relating to the principles of policing, there are three dimensions through which debate on the use of deadly force by police officers can frame. The first is the humanitarian dimension, whereby concerns are raised regarding the capability by the police to inflict lethal harm on citizens. The second one is the philosophical dimension, whereby the police face a dilemma of injuring some of the citizens in the community as a way of offering protection to the entire community. Thirdly, the political dimension is also important. In this regard, it is ironic that the work of the police sets them apart from society in terms of authority and responsibility, yet they are an integral part of that society. This means that when a few rogue police officers abuse their power and their actions are tolerated by the public, then such actions may be said to have been perpetrated by the citizenry, albeit indirectly.
In recent years, the federal government has embraced the policy of community policing. The popularity of this policy has continued to increase against the backdrop of the various financial incentives that the governments provide to police officers. In community policing, the community is required to play an important role in promoting security by acting as “co-producers” in the process of maintaining law and order. In different communities, attitudes towards communities vary. These differences may arise from variations in community attributes as well as differences in the way authorities at the local level introduce the policy to the citizens. This may explain why some communities insist on restricting the use of force by police while others want the status quo to remain.
Regardless of the view that a community takes in regards to community policing, emphasis should always be on increasing the level of responsiveness and accountability in areas such as the use of deadly force. For the level of accountability to be increased, police must be willing to share information on the progress being made in efforts to deal with crime and insecurity. Unfortunately, federal and state authorities have not been successful in sharing key information and contributing regularly to the debate on what needs to change in the realm of community policing. Consequently, citizens become weary of trying unsuccessfully to drive change by highlighting areas where law enforcement agencies use force in a manner that causes more harm good to the community.
The federal government has also embraced the policy of the so-called “aggressive” policing to deal with high crime levels. In this policy, enforcement agencies have been operating under strict instructions to intensify enforcement in situations where a threat is posed to law and order as well as the quality of life of citizens. Today, the far-reaching effects of aggressive policing are evident in the non-nonsense law enforcement strategies being applied across the country. The main problem with this approach is that it may create a police culture that exaggerates petty offenses, leading to a rapid increase in the use of force. As the use of force increases, the likelihood of lethal consequences also increases. There may be an element of truth in this argument when one examines the circumstances in which Eric Garner and Michael Brown were killed. In both cases, the amount of force that police used was disproportionately higher than the threat that they posed to the police officers and the public.
In 1994, Congress expressed concerns about the tendency by police to use excessive force and even enacted a law to curb this practice. Under this law, the Department of Justice was authorized to take legal action against police agencies whenever they use force in a manner that violates individuals’ rights. Although there were other issues that the law legislated against, the fact that prominence was accorded to the issue of misuse of force reflects the growing magnitude of the problem in America. Two decades after this legislative effort, the debate on the use of deadly force rages on with no end in sight.
The Department of Justice has already exercised its powers several to deal with errant police agencies. In one such case, the Department of Justice arrived at the decision that a police department had become notorious for its excessive use of force and instructed it to introduce wide-ranging reforms that included the documentation of its use of force as well as the implementation of early warning systems aimed at detecting possible abuses. Following the implementation of those reforms, the police department made remarkable progress in addressing the problem. This demonstrates that administrative policy changes can indeed bring about improvements in the way officers use force.
In many cases, concerns regarding the use of force tend to attract a lot of attention from the media. Some of the reported incidents often remain unconfirmed, leading to overgeneralization about the level of police brutality. The impression may be that police across the country have gotten out of control. However, this may be far from the truth; indeed, it may be nothing more than a case of a few rotten apples among many good ones. Moreover, inaccurate reports about how police use force bring into perspective the serious need for research aimed at identifying the true state of knowledge as far as police activities across the country are concerned.
A major problem being encountered during research efforts is that research findings tend to be contradictory. In other instances, researchers are normally called upon to interpret those findings in certain contexts in order to relate them to real-life situations. Another problem is that the information that has been acquired regarding police operations is rather sketchy. These challenges may be attributed to a failure in the area of administrative police. A culture of information sharing between police agencies and the public is lacking. The actions of the Department of Justice demonstrated that police departments can indeed provide valuable information on abuse of powers by law enforcement officers if they are compelled to do so. The best thing to do would be to introduce an administrative policy that requires all policing agencies to share information on the conduct of their officers with the public for scrutiny and for purposes of scientific research.
Administrative policy on the use of force can be an effective tool for controlling discretion relating to the use of deadly force by police. However, police departments should not neglect the important role that personal philosophies play in the decisions that police officers regarding the amount of force to use. Administrative rulemaking has been proven to be an ingenious invention that modern governments have employed successfully to achieve the goal of efficiency.
In the past, the administrative policy has been used successfully to address various issues relating to the administration of justice such as sentencing practices, charge bargaining, and pretrial detention (Alpert & Dunham, 2004). It has also been used in various jurisdictions to control the discretion of police officers in terms of their field behavior in numerous areas including high-speed pursuits, handling of distress calls in domestic violence cases, and even the use of deadly force(Alpert & Dunham, 2004). Unfortunately, more can be done in the US in terms of the way the latter issue is being addressed through administrative policy. The decision by the government to introduce body cameras in the wake of renewed tensions between the public and police over the use of deadly force reveals a case of a knee-jerk reaction to a policy issue that requires a well-thought-out, holistic approach.
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A holistic approach is indeed needed because the use of deadly force revolves around three important variables: situational, organizational, and environmental. These variables can influence the way police behave whether or not changes in administrative policy have been introduced. For instance, the administrative changes should be rolled at the same pace with corresponding changes in the internal and external working environments of the police. For example, the high level of distrust for police officers may discourage them from adhering strictly to new policy changes. The police officers’ argument may be that after all, citizens have already confidence in the willingness by the police to tone down on their brutal ways of forcing recalcitrant individuals to be cooperative. External environmental factors such as the danger police face and crime rates may also influence police behavior.
Administrative policy reform falls in the realm of the internal working environment of the police.It entails giving police officers a certain degree of license to use deadly force. Other than administrative police, this license may also be given through peer group norms or the philosophy of the police chief. Research shows that if properly enforced, the internal environment in which police work, can be used as a tool for controlling the behavior of police officers (Walker, Spohn, &DeLone, 2011; Gaines &Kappeler, 2011). This means that proper implementation of appropriate administration policy reforms is all that America needs today to reign on rogue police officers who use more force than is necessary to deal with offenders.
To be effective, policy reforms should focus on the decision-making process of police officers rather than a prescriptive approach explaining how officers should behave in specific situations. In this case, police officers should be ready to encounter non-elective and elective shooting scenarios (Milton, Halleck, Lardner &Abrecht, 1977). In non-elective shooting police officers use deadly force to offer protection against the threat of imminent death or serious injury(Milton, Halleck, Lardner &Abrecht, 1977). Such a scenario dictates the use of deadly force by an officer. At this point, the effect of the working environments on the police officer’s decision may be outweighed by the consideration of the impending threat of loss of life or serious injury on the part of the police officer or innocent civilians. However, decisions relating to the use of deadly force become more elective as the level of danger posed to the police officer starts to decrease(Milton, Halleck, Lardner &Abrecht, 1977). In that case, situational factors become less important while working environments take center stage.
The cases of Eric Garner and Michael Brown essentially involved elective encounters. The police officers involved did not face any imminent threat of serious injury or loss of life. At no point did the police officers involved in the killing of the two Americans indicate that the suspects carried weapons and that they intended to use them against the officers. Thus, situational factors were not at play; this means that the officers ought to have relied on the internal working environments, which restrains them from using more force than is necessary. By recommending the use of body cameras, President Obama seems to be giving the officers involved the benefit of the doubt. Efforts to avoid the benefit of the doubt constitute only one element of reforms that should be done within the realm of administrative policy; an equally important element is the philosophy of police chiefs in relation to issues such as race relations. Police chiefs who harbor negative racial attitudes towards African Americans are likely to influence their officers to portray the same attitudes whenever they go about their business of maintaining law and order in a community.
Administrative policy reforms aimed at controlling police deadly force should seek to establish a balance between the need to protect police officers from being killed or injured by armed citizens on the one hand and the duty to protect citizens from being shot erroneously by police on the other. Establishing and maintaining such a balance is a daunting task. This is because police operate under the influence of not just administrative policy but also social forces, philosophical convictions of chiefs, psychological characteristics, and situational factors. This multiplicity of factors greatly influence the effectiveness of police operations in terms of how deadly force is used.
The role of personality profile should not be neglected in efforts to tackle the problem of deadly force within police departments. Analysis of personality profiles of police officers who have shot and killed suspects several times should be compared with those officers who have rarely fired a shot, let alone killing a suspect. Many police departments oppose the idea of keeping records of the number of shots fired and the number of deaths arising from police shootings. They feel that this may discourage diligent officers from executing their mandate of protecting citizens for fear of being branded “trigger-happy”. This is just the flip side of the situation, which should be handled through administrative policy. The positive side of a personality profile is that it can enable police departments to know more about the impact of personality on the tendency to use deadly force.
Some officers become overly emotional during armed confrontations; they let emotions to cloud their moral judgment, leading to the needless firing of shots that ultimately kill offenders in situations where less-lethal means could easily have been used to immobilize and arrest them. Personality profiling provides a platform through which officers who portray personality-related deficiencies can be retrained. For example, in the wake of the widespread public uproar against Daniel Pantaleo, the New York police officer who executed an illegal chokehold that killed Eric Garner, it emerged that two other alleged victims of his unorthodox ways of enforcing the law had on separate occasions filed lawsuits against him, claiming that their rights were violated during the arrest. One complainant claimed that Pantaleo stripped him naked in public ostensibly to search for contraband. It may be important for the police department in New York to investigate those claims, which, if found to be true, would be an indication of the need to retrain Daniel Pantaleo on how to handle uncooperative suspects without necessarily stripping them down or killing them.
At the same time, the stepping up of efforts to control errant police officers should not be made to look like everybody is against police work. As Scharf& Binder (1983) point out, there is an interrelationship between the acts that police commit against citizens and the acts that citizens commit against the police. After all, police officers are an integral part of the communities where they carry out the role of maintaining law and order. Social forces ought to be put into consideration during efforts by police administrators to come up with new policies. For such policies to bring about meaningful social change, they should be supported by the Department of Justice as well as the executive and legislative arms of government. It is a good thing that President Obama has expressed his willingness to seek the approval of Congress for the $75 million body camera budget. Whereas this is a step in the right direction, American citizens should not be made to feel like they have been left behind in the implementation of this policy. Wherever possible, they should be enlightened on its importance as well as ways of making it a success.
The administrative policy also needs to be changed to reflecting the changing world in which police seek to maintain law and order. Failure to adapting to the changing times will make police work irrelevant to the needs of society. Police officers should understand that seemingly minor confrontation may lead to nationwide protests if they are caught on camera and broadcast to a national audience. This may lead to serious consequences for the police department involved if the suspect on whom excessive force was used happens to die like in the case of Eric Garner. Whenever police hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons, the public gets the perception that the men and women in uniform are not doing their work in a professional manner. More profoundly, important questions may begin to be raised regarding the quality of training that police officers are subjected to in police academies.
Fortunately, administrators in the field of policing already have an idea of whether to begin in the implementation of reforms. To begin with, issues, where the process of enforcement may involve resistance from suspects, are relatively well known. For example, suspects of alcohol- and drug-related offenses are likely to offer some resistance but are less likely to assault the officer. In contrast, suspects of offenses relating to administrative issues as well as traffic and property offenses are unlikely to offer resistance to police. However, police officers responding to violent-crime calls are highly likely to encounter resistance in which suspects use guns. On the other hand, there is a tendency for suspects of domestic violence or those who are physically impaired/mentally ill to attempt to use blunt objects and cutting instruments against officers. Information on such issues should be put into consideration when reforming administrative policy on the use of deadly force.
By relying on information that is already available in relation to previous cases of deadly-force scenarios, administrators can gain a better ground-level perspective on the challenges police officers face in their endeavor to measure the level of resistance offered by suspects. Balancing this level of resistance against a certain amount of force calls for a considerable degree of experience on how to handle suspects exhibiting different behaviors, personality traits, and intentions. Towards this end, the introduction of body cameras may offer important insight, particularly to officers with little or no experience on dealing with complex, high-intensity, civilian violence situations. However, the effectiveness of such a policy depends on how well it is implemented. The officers must be willing to use their cameras well so that the information that they capture can be used to train new officers on how to deal with similar situations in the future. Such efforts can form the foundation for a continuous process of establishing universally accepted “best practices” that are acceptable to both police and citizens.
The problem of the use of deadly force by police in the United States has created a major rift in relations between police and citizens. This rift of civilian distrust for police needs to be bridged through multifaceted efforts to reform the administrative policy that controls the way police officers use force. The recent cases in which two unarmed citizens, Eric Garner and Michael Brown were killed by police officers have cast the limelight on the problem of misuse of force by law enforcement officers. Whereas police officers have a duty to protect their own lives as well as those of innocent civilians, they should never use more force than is necessary to immobilize and arrest the suspect. Unfortunately, it seems that this is precisely what happened in the cases of Garner and Brown.
This paper confirms the thesis that reforming the administrative policy on the use of deadly force by police is the right way to go in efforts to strike a balance between the risks posed to police officers and the danger of killing innocent civilians. To be effective, administrative policy reforms should focus on the decision-making process of police officers. It should also be devoid of prescriptive tendencies in which police chiefs dictate how officers should behave in specific situations.
It is important for administrators to establish a system in which various critical decision factors are relied upon to come up with “best practices” relating to the use of deadly force. Some of these include non-elective versus elective situations, the influence of the philosophical beliefs of police chiefs, internal and external working environment, and organizational dynamics. Lastly, policing administrators need to establish databases containing personality profiles of police officers and their behavior in situations requiring the use of force. Such information can be used as a basis for identifying police officers who should be subjected to further training on how to use force while enforcing the law. In conclusion, administrative policy reform on the use of deadly force is a multifaceted endeavor in which police, citizens, and all arms of government should get involved.
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Frydl, K. &Skogan, W. (2004). Fairness and Effectiveness in Policing: The Evidence. New York, NY: National Academy of Sciences.
Fyfe, J. (1982). Readings on police use of deadly force. Rockville, MD: National Institute of Justice.
Gaines, L. &Kappeler, V. (2011). Policing in America. Waltham, MA: Anderson Publishing.
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Walker, S., Spohn, C. &DeLone, M. (2011). The color of justice: Race, ethnicity, and crime in America.Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.
Worden, R. (1996). The causes of police brutality: Theory and evidence on police use of force. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
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