This is the original post (you do not need to respond to this, this is just to give guidance on what we were discussing) : In March of 1991 the nation was captivated by a video of police officers in Los Angeles, California as they were attempting to arrest Rodney King. Several officers were involved after King initially evaded police and led them on a chase that started on Interstate 210, covered more than 10 miles and exceeded speeds of 80 MPH through residential streets, ending when officers were able to block King and his two passengers at an intersection. A man (George Holliday) who lived nearby, filmed the encounter and offered it to police before providing it to a local television station when the police were not interested in seeing the video. This case was one of the earliest examples of modern surveillance, where incidents involving the police are recorded with video cameras and more recently, cell phones.
Police use of force is perhaps the most polarizing issue within the field of criminal justice today. Few actions are more difficult than having maybe five seconds to make a potentially life-threatening decision and then having that action scrutinized by others for weeks or months. Some departments employ a use of force continuum while others make use of other methods to assist officers in making decisions to elevate the amount of force necessary to make an arrest. Most police officers like to know they have backup available if needed. Does it always help? Does it make things worse at times? Does having additional officers present change the way one may interact with a subject? Consider the case of Eric Garner from 2014; often when multiple officers are attempting to subdue a suspect, one may not know when the suspect is resisting and when another officer is exerting force. Are the cell phone videos of bystanders sufficient to provide an accurate and adequate perspective? Typically, those videos do not begin until after the crisis has already started, potentially missing key events.
According to Black (1976), police are more likely to use force based on the attributes of the concerned parties. This sociological theory of law prescribes that police are least likely to take corrective action against lower status persons, particularly minorities and the poor, when the accusers are also of lower status. Similarly, they are more likely to take action against lower status persons whose accusers are of a higher status. Your text introduces the concept of deindividuation in chapter 10. Used primarily to explain group behavior, it may also have implications with police officers in certain crisis situations. In Festinger’s (1952) seminal work, he argued that deindividuation occurs when individuals immerse themselves in the group to the point of losing some sense of self, becoming anonymous and doing things they would not likely do if alone. Closely related to contagion, also discussed in your text, this may help to explain what happens in crisis events such as the one discussed above.
Consider the case of Amadou Diallo as you address the discussion thread this week.
- Do you think deindividuation or contagion applied to the case of Rodney King and/or Diallo? Did responding officers act in accordance with accepted use of force standards?
- What is the responsibility of police leadership when their officers are accused of excessive use of force?
- Take a definitive position and defend it with evidence from the literature.
1. Pack-In the case of both Rodney King and Diallo, I presume that deindividuation was most definitely apparent. Whether or not the officers acted in accordance with the accepted use of force standards can be a controversial topic. There are many that feel that they most certainly did not, while there are also some that have an understanding of the officers mindset and reasoning. Regardless of how one feels toward the cases, I think that it is safe to postulate that deindividuation was a factor in both predicaments. According to Vilanova et al. (2017), “Deindividuation may be described as the situation in which individuals act in groups and do not see themselves as individuals, thereby facilitating antinormative behavior” (p.1). When it comes to dealing with issues that result from deindividuation, excessive use of force may be one of those topics. Bibu & Ghanim (2018) states “In recent years, the discussion of the challenge faced by public representatives and public sector managers to act according to criteria of accountability and transparency has been intensifying. It is now clear that transparency and accountability are among the main levers of public policy in the twenty-first century. Using these levers can promote accountability and reporting towards citizens; improve efficiency and productivity of key government services by way of comparison and information-based supervision; could change social relations by empowering individuals and communities; could enhance economic growth” (p.298). Transparency and accountability are vital when it comes to any sort of action taken by law enforcement due to excessive use of force. Leadership is crucial when it comes to a situation where excessive use of force is apparent. Incorporating characteristics such as accountability and transparency aline with effective leadership ability. I think when looking at police use of force and the issue that it can entail, one must consider one big aspect of each and every scenario, officers are people just like everyone else. There have most certainly been a fair amount of mistakes made over the years that I think could have been avoided with more in depth studies on theories such as the sociological theory of law and the topic of deindividuation. I presume that further research into topics such as these would allow better policies and guidelines to be implemented. It is important that as a Christian, we are always seeking wisdom and allowing for God’s guidance in our lives. James 1:5 reads, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”
Bibu, N., & Ghanim, B. (2018). Accountability, Taking Responsibility and Protection of Minorities and their Influence on the Police Organization Performance. Revista De Management Comparat International, 19(3), 298-305. http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.liberty.edu/10.24818/RMCI.2018.3.298
James 1:5 (KJV). (2021). Bible Gateway. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=James…
Vilanova, F., Francielle, M. B., Costa, Â. B., & Koller, S. H. (2017). Deindividuation: From Le Bon to the social identity model of deindividuation effects. Cogent Psychology, 4(1)http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.liberty.edu/10.1080/2331…
2. Salinas- According to Harmening (2014), individuation happens when single partakers include themselves into a unit or group to the point where they lose themselves within the group’s identity. Individuals will usually pick up attitudes, characteristics, and beliefs they would not normally partake in outside the group setting. The unit will, over time, reach a state called the collective mind. This happens when the individual(s) will start acting on the group setting’s newly perceived beliefs and attitudes and conform. Having set aside their self-control, the emotions of the unit will spread at an alarming rate. This occurrence is called contagion. The unit can now be viewed as uncontrollable.
In the case of Amadou Diallo, the four officers involved in the shooting seemed as though they had a sense of fear-driven panic. In their minds, they perceived a threat, which in turn woke their sense of survival and instincts. Their perceived threat of the imaginary gun catapulted shootings that then became contagious shootings. In this specific case, deindividuation took place to a certain extent and for specific reasons. The police officers took on fear and panic once faced with a perceived threat, thus thrusting them into shooting. It just so happens they did it all at once after the first shot (contagious) to protect themselves and the group instinctively. According to Vilanova (2017), “Despite being composed of people who tend to exhibit automated behavior, every crowd has a conductor. The conductor plays a decisive role through his will, around which the opinion of the crowd is formed and identified.” In situations like contagious shooting because of fear-driven panic, the conductor could very well be the first shooter of the group, which in turn becomes deadly for any suspect.
In the case of Rodney King, he was beaten by a group of police officers from Los Angeles Police Department in 1991. The incident was caught on videotape, which then was released to the public via news broadcast. This beating by police officers sparked what is now known as the L.A. riots. Watson (2019) stated that about 92 percent of L.A. residents who viewed the released King tapes thought the officers used disproportionate force. Indeed, the severity of the beating seemed utterly unnecessary. The officers acted as a group that showcased deindividuation which resulted from an anger-driven panic. Usually, anger-driven panic stems from individuals from the opposing verdict; this is what caused the L.A. riots that resulted from this exact case. The officers are considered a unit or group, so they can also be subject to panic. After leading officers on a high-speed chase, while being under the influence, this may have sparked this type of panic within the officers, creating anger towards King. Thus, the unethical beating. This scenario includes anger-driven panic, which resulted in deindividuation, and during the ruckus included contagion-which spreads quickly because of elevated emotions (Harmening, 2014). There is a point in the confrontation where King is on the ground on his stomach. This an easy position to be put into handcuffs and arrested. Regardless, the officers continued beating King, still clearly intoxicated. This situation was full of emotions and chaos; the police officers decided to continue feeding the situation rather than de-escalating it and putting it to an end.
The use of force should be decided depending on the situation. Also, considering the rate and way the situation escalates and match it with the required force. According to Mourtgos (2020), it is nearly impossible to expect a law enforcement officer not to use force when deeming it necessary in any given situation. When apprehending and arresting suspects, it does become violent. A few examples of this can include breaking up fights, making arrests due to drugs, or even defending themselves. So, violence is a given when it comes to this line of work. The officers in the Diallo case deemed their use of force necessary due to their perception at that exact moment. It is difficult to judge the actions taken by officers in that circumstance when your life and others around you are at risk.
Furthermore, it is easy to judge when you are outside looking in, without not living a single day of your life in those positions where drastic and quick decisions need to be made. In the case of King, I do believe excessive use of force was expressed. As far as the case with Diallo, the officers acted on their perception of the situation. Their first instinct was to react accordingly to someone pulling out a weapon, especially after a chase where the subject was non-compliant, to begin. As far as the case with King, the use of force was excessive. This case is not acting per any accepted standards and uncalled. When officers are accused of excessive use, leadership should apply procedural justice training; this will reduce complaints and any force misuse.
When things seem to be getting out of hand, we must remember to use perseverance and be patient with these types of confrontations and situations. Trying to stay true to God and do good. Galatians 6:9 proclaims, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (King James Bible, 1769/2017).
Harmening, W. M. (2014). Crisis intervention: the criminal justice response to chaos, mayhem, and disorder. Pearson.
King James Bible. (2017). King James Bible Online. https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/ (Original work published 1769)
Mourtgos, S. M., & Adams, I. T. (2020). Assessing public perceptions of police use-of-force: Legal reasonableness and community standards. Justice Quarterly, 37(5), 869-899. https://doi.org/10.1080/07418825.2019.1679864
Vilanova, F., Beria, F. M., Costa, Â. B., & Koller, S. H. (2017). Deindividuation: From le bon to the social identity model of deindividuation effects. Cogent Psychology, 4(1), 1308104. https://doi.org/10.1080/23311908.2017.1308104
Watson, R. (2019). In the wakes of rodney king: Militant evidence and media activism in the age of viral black death. The Velvet Light Trap, 84(84), 34-49. https://doi.org/10.7560/VLT8404