Excess use of force by US police ‘leading to death’ - GulfToday

Excess use of force by US police ‘leading to death’

Representational image.

Representational image.

American police officers killed people through not following best practices of restraint in using force while overcoming suspects. An ongoing investigation by the American news agency, Associated Press, along with Howard Centers of Investigative Journalism and FRONTLINE (Public Broadcasting System, PBS) spanning the period between 2012 and 2021 showed that in 45 per cent of 1046 deaths, restraint was not shown, and it resulted in the death of the suspects.

The method used by the police is to hold down the person with face down and apply force on the back, which makes it impossible for the man held to breathe and lead to his death. Many a time, as in the 2020 instance of George Floyd, the man being overcome would say he cannot breathe, but the police would not let go. This continues even after the suspect has been handcuffed. And when the cases went to courts, the verdict came in favour of the police officers using excess force.

The AP investigation which involved pouring through thousands of pages of police records and hours of video recordings showed that in a large number of cases which resulted in death, the police officers did not follow the rules regarding restrained use of physical force. The general argument given in defence of the offending officers that in the United States there are no national rules of engagement for the police as each state has its own police force and each state follows its own rules. The best practices manual sometimes does not reach down to the police on the ground. The investigation had also found that in many cases the police held back evidence from the courts and did not share it. The officers were always acquitted, even when the family members of the victim appealing the case had evidence in their favour. There are instances that after judicial acquittal, the police and the family of the victim would reach a private settlement for compensation.

It is also the case that most of the suspects of unintended use of excess force by the police are African Americans, drug addicts and those habitually prone to violence. And there are instances when such people posed a danger to the police as well as people around them. But the fact that the police are not taught how to overcome them physically without causing their death remains the norm. And though it is well known that it is the use of excess force that is the cause of death of the suspect, no inquiry is made to convict officers responsible for it. American policing has never been above board, especially when it came to dealing with African Americans and other ethnic minorities, including Latinos. There have been instances of police shooting a man to death when he was running away and the fugitive had no gun on him.

There are four ways in which the police cause death of the suspect who is sought to be overcome physically. The first is the pinning the face down. A 1995 Justice Department advises that as soon as the pinned down person is handcuffed, the weight should be taken off his back. The AP investigation found that of the 1,036 cases, 740 had had died because of the pinning a person face down longer it was needed led to death.

The other reason for deaths of suspects is the use of stun guns or Tasers. The Police Research Executive Forum warns against excessive use of stun guns, as it could lead to death of people with heart disease. In one case in New Mexico, the police fired the stun gun 15 times at a 34-year-old person. And the fourth cause of death was the continued use of force even after a person has been handcuffed, which is clearly against the best practice norm.


Related articles