Police corruption, misconduct, and brutality are common terms that have been used to describe police officers and their activities. In most cases, officers have possibly used extra force in apprehending suspects, and to the extremes, most of these have ended up badly. Pointedly, it is worth mentioning that police service is governed by ethics that determines how officers should behave in the course of administering justice (Barker, 2006). However, in some situations, officers operate contrary to expectations thereby lowering ethical standards, which in return affect their ability to administer justice. It has been revealed that officers in the streets often tend to misuse their power and authority, which has instigated lots of reactions on police brutality, misconduct, and thereby nurturing impunity (Barker, 2006). There is need to conduct more training, improve the structure of police system in order to eradicate such vices that border on police ethics.
Analysis of the Case
Law enforcement officers are often faced with challenging situations such as dealing with violent suspects, drug smugglers, and human traffickers among other complex scenarios. Such situations require different response mechanisms depending on the presented scenario, and police officers are required to apply what they learned in training and what they gathered through experience in service. In this case, two California police officers were witnessed beating a homeless man with mental disorder to the extent of being unconscious during one of the many arrests conducted in American streets. They were ultimately arrested, stood trial, but were acquitted on grounds that they operated based on police training and effective dealing with the suspect in a tense situation.
The verdict of the case was announced after two days of deliberations and set emotional debates on police right to use force and how to deal with people with mental illnesses. Moreover, it elicited nationwide conversation on how well to train officers to effectively deal with such people. According to the arguments presented by the defense team, Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli acted based on their professional training in dealing with Kelly in the summer night in 2011 (Barber, 2014). The prosecution had contended that such an assertion would threaten life of the vulnerable population, and this would set the precedent of dealing ruthlessly with people with mental problems. It is reported that the officers were acquitted of second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, and excessive use of force (Barber, 2014). The ordeal was instigated by the lack of understanding on the side of Thomas because he did not follow police instructions turning the situation violent and making the police beat him to the unconscious state before dying in a local hospital five days later. According to the court, the two police officers acted based on their training on how to handle tense situations (Barber, 2014).
I totally agree with the jury’s verdict, and my assertion is anchored on ethical justification in using excessive force. When new police officers enter the service, they are not well endowed with the experience of dealing with different challenges that they face in their everyday execution of daily responsibilities. However, they are given overwhelming power and authority to use force appropriately in trying to deal with suspects and criminals. On the contrary, several factors come into play when police officers execute their responsibilities and include subculture and peer pressure. Most officers tend to uphold positive image as they try to protect or work in a way that supports common good in societies accomplishing this by eliminating dangerous criminals from the streets.
The actions of police officers are reinforced by utilitarian ethical theory that argues that the end often justifies the purpose, which means that police officers act in ways that will ensure common good to the people; and this to the extreme may lead to physical elimination of trouble makers. Decision to use force is based on a number of situations and individual factors as well as moral and social reasoning by police officers. It has been revealed that proper ethical reasoning must take into account a number of ethical dilemmas presented by a given situation. It is reported that the officers involved in the case used power and authority that they had in order to serve a common good (Wood, 2014). It was ethically right for the police officers to use excessive force because Kelly was mentally unstable and violent, and he could potentially harm the general public. However, a lot remains to be learned from the case including how police can increase surveillance in monitory police activity and how to effectively deal with persons with mental illnesses in the administration of criminal justice.
Despite police officers having powers and authority to use excessive force in dealing with suspects and criminals, it is important for the police department to move swiftly and conduct training on how to deal with persons with mental illnesses. There should be a link between police officers and the communities they serve by establishing review boards that determine how officers act or violate departmental policies.
Barber E. (2014). Kelly Thomas case: Why police were acquitted in killing of homeless man. The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved from http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/USA- Update/2014/0114/Kelly-Thomas-case-why-police-were-acquitted-in-killing-of- homeless-man-video
Barker, T. (2006). Police ethics: Crisis in law enforcement. Springfield, IL: Charles C Thomas.
Wood T. (2014). Impacts of Kelly Thomas case go far beyond jury’s verdict. Voice of OC.
Retrieved from http://voiceofoc.org/2014/01/impacts-of-kelly-thomas-case-go-far- beyond-jurys-verdict/