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Sera Nilsson
Position Paper
English 2010
Collin Hull
March 9, 2015

Changing the Publics Perspective towards Police Officers


Recently in the news we have been hearing about all the bad cops shooting citizens in
cold blood, discriminating against certain people, and being overly aggressive. Citizens have
recently cried out for respect and protection from police officers, rather than being afraid of
them. The police want the public to realize they are not the bad guys. In recent discussions of
police brutality, a controversial issue has been are the police doing their jobs correctly. One the
one hand, some argue that police officers are not doing their job correctly, being too aggressive
and taking advantage of their title. On the other hand, however, some believe that police officers
are doing their jobs correctly, are protecting us and its the publics fault for breaking the law. I
suggest the way to change the publics perspective towards police officers is to shine the light on
more good cops then bad cops. The media does an excellent job of making all police officers
seem bad, when reality is that not all police officers are bad, the media just likes to only show the
bad cops. Another suggestion is to have police officers to attend training courses every few
months. Throughout this essay I will elaborate on the different viewpoints from the public and
elaborate more on my solution on changing the publics perspective towards police officers.

Police Officers Are Doing Their Job Wrong

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Figure 1 Just because you wear a badge or have a higher title than others doesn't give you any extra rights.

The public believes that the police departments are run by police officers who dont do
their jobs correctly. Lets take a look at some examples. The Human Rights Watch, an
international organization that monitors abuse of human rights, states that
Police brutality is pervasive in the United States because police are granted the
power to use deadly force and face little accountability for their actions. Police
abuse remains one of the most serious and divisive human rights violations in the
United States. The excessive use of force by police officers, including unjustified
shootings, severe beatings, fatal chockings, and rough treatment, persists because
overwhelming barriers to accountability make it possible for officers who commit
human rights violations to escape due punishment and often to repeat offenses.
(19)
In the book Police Brutality: Opposing Viewpoints gives an example of aggressive
behavior on the polices part is given. June of 1995, in Oakland, we have the case Aaron
Williams.
Williams died while in the custody of San Francisco police officers after officers
subdued him and sprayed him with pepper spray. Williams was a burglary
suspect and was bound with wrist and ankle cuffs. According to a witness
Williams was hit and kicked after he was restrained. Departmental rules were

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apparently broke after the police officers repeatedly sprayed Williams with pepper
spray, Williams appeared to be high on drugs at the time, and officers did not
monitor his breathing as required. (23)
One of the officers who was involved in this incident had reportedly been the subject of as many
as thirty-five complaints while working for the police department. However nothing was done to
these officers. In the Book The Everything Guide to Careers in Law Enforcement, by Paul D.
Bagley, he stated that people who are quick to anger or who display overaggressive behavior
towards others, signs of racial or ethnic prejudice, a predisposition for or against one gender, or
appear as though an ulterior motive exists behind their desire to gain a law enforcement position
are often eliminated from consideration to become a police officer. Press and citizens
questioned why this officer was even hired, if he had such anger problems. It is still questioned
today why some officers were ever hired if they had any of these qualities. In the book Police
Brutality: Opposing Viewpoints, the multiple authors refer to these police officers as problem
officers or bad cops which means officers who either have significant records of abuse or
significant records of complaints from the public, and who thus should receive special
monitoring, training, and counseling to counter the heightening risk that they will be involved in
some future incidents of misconduct or brutality.
Another recent controversy citizens feel that this statement can relate to was the fatal
shooting of a dog named Geist in the state of Utah. Sean Kendalls 2-year-old Weimeraner, Geist,
was killed by an officer who entered the mans backyard during the search for a missing 3-yearold boy. The 110-pound pooch approached the unidentified officer in an aggressive manner and
the officer, shot the dog. The missing boy was found at his home asleep about 30 minutes later.
The officer was not charged for anything, even though the public felt he should have been
charged for something because he shot the dog for no reason. The public was outraged stating

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that the officer should be charged, and should receive the same punishment that any other citizen
would have received.
Because of the many incidents where police
officers have gone too far, it has changed the publics
perspective towards police officers negatively. Police
officers have lost respect from citizens. Citizens have
also held protests against police officers and have
started riots as well.

The Police Are Doing Their Job Right


Some police do sometimes go overboard,
however I believe that most of the time they are doing
their jobs right and taking the necessary precautions to
stop a criminal or suspect. Jennifer Gibbs, James Ruiz,
and Sarah Klapper all students at Pennsylvania State
University, who all took criminal justice courses and
conducted research on the dangers of a police

Figure 2 Protester at the Justice for


Geist Rally at the Salt Lake City
Police Station.

officers job, states in their article Police officer is often the first job people think of when
theyre considering careers in criminal justice. But this job definitely isnt for everyone. And, if
you think you know what the job is all about from watching TV shows, prepare to be
disappointed. Often times, police work can be very dangerous, there is not one on the job that is
the same, and there is no such thing as a routine day at work. According to the textbook Criminal
Justice by Gaines/Miller we learn Police officers learn early in their career that nothing about
their job is routine, police officers face the threat of physical harm every day (73). Police
officers have to deal with a lot in just one days work, whether it is a drug bust, a murder scene,
or just a traffic violation. With police officers having to go through such dangerous work every

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day on the job, this raises the question, Are police officers being too brutal or are they just
following protocol, and doing whatever is needed to detain a suspect, in order to keep the
citizens and themselves safe, away from drugs, murder, theft and all other crimes that people are
committing? Take a look back at the book Police Brutality: Opposing Viewpoints, the Human
Rights Watch states
We recognize that police officers, like other people, will make mistakes when they are
under pressure to make split-second decisions regarding the use of force. Even the best
recruiting, training, and command oversight will not result in flawless behavior on the
part of all officers. Furthermore, we recognize that policing in the United States is a
dangerous job. During 1996, 116 officers died while on duty nationwide (119).
Recently in the past few years police officers have died left and right. The numbers are
increasing dramatically. Now more than ever police officers are becoming confused on what the
public wants. Do they want to live in safe towns or dangerous towns? Police officers risk their
lives every day to make sure that drug attacks/traffickers, DUI offenders, gang members, and
everyone else who is breaking the law is off the streets and away from the public to keep them
safe. But lately all we hear about in the news is that police officers arent doing their jobs right
that they are treating the public brutal, arresting people they shouldnt, etc.
Jay James, a Dallas Texas police officer was being investigated after he shot at but missed
a suspect who was waving a gun stating Im out there sweating bullets, my hearts going 95
miles per hour and some guy is sitting in an air-conditioned office telling me what I shouldve
done. A police officer may do something in their own way that we dont understand. At times
its hard to understand what is going through a police officers mind. For example a recent issue
is that police officers are just using guns to detain suspects, rather than using a nightstick, taser,
or other means of detainment. But unless youre in that police officers position you dont know

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how you would handle a situation. Also at times detaining a suspect can be difficult, and you
must use necessary force.
The public needs to realize that not all police officers are not bad. Like seen in Figure 3.
The media also needs to realize that if they keep portraying all the police officers to be bad, then
the backlash between police and the public is going to get worse. There may be one day were
the police are over powered by the public because of the backlash, then what? The majority of
police officers do their jobs correctly and sacrifice their lives every day to protect us, they are
kind, and willing to help, and often times put others before themselves. I feel one of the biggest
problems with how the public views the police is that the public think they know everything and
if they see some type of physical abuse they jump to conclusion rather than knowing the whole
story, resulting in the problem always being the police officers fault. If we dont change the
publics negative perspective towards police
officers it could lead to several
different rights, people getting hurt,

Figure 3 A child at a protest with a sign that


states free hugs. A police officer took the
initiative to take the child up on the offer.

and the collapse to the law system.

How do we get the Public to


Trust Police Officers?
My solution to changing the publics
perspective towards police officers is to have
police officers attend training classes every few
months. These training courses will consist of
reviewing the laws, different tactics of arrest, how

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to profile a suspect that may be mentally unstable and knowing when you should and should not
shoot.

Figure 4 Police Officers taking training courses.


One training course that will be required will be a profiling course. Judith Orloff, a
psychiatrist, intuitive healer, and NY Times bestselling author states
As a psychiatrist my job is to read people, not just what they say, but who they
are. Interpreting verbal and nonverbal cues, I want to see past their masks into the
real person. Logic alone wont tell you the whole story about anybody. You must
surrender to other vital forms of information so that you can learn to read the
important non-verbal intuitive cues that people give off. To do this, you must also
be willing to surrender any preconceptions, or emotional baggage such as old
resentments or ego clashes, that stop you from seeing someone clearly. The key is
to remain objective and receive information neutrally without distorting it.
Judith Orloff suggest the some technique to profile someone is to Observe Body Language, Pay
Attention to Appearance, Notice Posture, Watch For Physical Movements, Interpret Facial

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Expression, Listen, Sense Emotional Energy, Watch peoples eyes, Notice the feel of a
handshake, hug, and touch, and Listen for Peoples Tone of Voice.
Another training course that will be required is the proper way to make an arrest. According to
Police Law Enforcement Magazine, the 5 Fundamentals of Making an Arrest are
Immobilize, Control, Handcuffing, Search, Transport.
These are only a few examples of training courses that police officers will be required to
take. Not only will this make the public feel safer knowing that police officers are properly
trained, but it will also give the police the knowledge on how to handle their suspect, and also
give them more protection in when coming in contact with a suspect.

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Work Cited
Bagley, Paul D. The Everything Guide to Careers in Law Enforcement: A Complete Handbook
to an Exciting and Rewarding Life of Service. Avon, Mass.: Adams Media, 2007. Print.
Briggs, Steven M., and Joan Friedman. Criminology for Dummies. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley, 2009.
Print.
Cothran, Helen. Police Brutality: Opposing Viewpoints. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven, 2001. Print.
"FOP - Due Process Rights for Law Enforcement Officers." FOP - Due Process Rights for Law
Enforcement Officers. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2015.
<http://www.fop.net/legislative/issues/leobr/>.
Gibbs, Jennifer C., James Ruiz, and Sarah Anne Klapper-Lehman. "Police Officers Killed On
Duty: Replicating And Extending A Unique Look At Officer Deaths." International
Of Police Science & Management 16.4 (2014): 277-287. Academic Search

Journal

Premier. Web. 10 Feb.

2015.
Miller, and Gaines. Criminal Justice. 6th ed. 2011. Print.
Orloff, Judith. "Three Techniques to Read People." Psychology Today. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Mar.
2015.
"5 Fundamentals of Making an Arrest." Police: The Law Enforcement Magazine, n.d. Web. 09
Mar. 2015.

Image Citations
Figure 1. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web.
Figure 3. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web.
Figure 4. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web.
Nilsson, Sera. Figure 2. 2014. Salt Lake City.