Demystifying Crime and Criminal Justice Chapter 17: The Myth That Police Use of Force Is Widespread I. The Myth a. In American society there is a widespread belief that police use of physical force is common. b. Gullup 39 in 1991 and 31 in 2005 of adults believe that there is police brutality in their area. c. Lopez Livingston indicates that belief in the prevalence of police brutality follows racial lines: 21 of Whites, 47 percent of Hispanics, and 48 of Blacks have just some or very little confidence the police will not use excessive force with suspects. d. In reality, police use of physical force is rare and police use of deadly force, with firearms, for example, is even rarer. e. Police use of force is defined as any physical and coercive touching, grabbing, hitting or striking, or using a forearm or a conducted energy device. f. Use verbal commands and the mere presence of an officer in their use of force continuum. g. The legitimate and legal application of force, as well as excessive and illegal use of force, is included in this definition. The latter is often termed police brutality. II. The Kernel of Truth a. Police are the only institution or individuals given the general right to use coercive force by the state within the states domestic territory. b. It is important to understand what is necessary, and what is excessive. The amount of force necessary to reach a lawful goal is reasonable force. However, when the use of force is no longer used to reach a lawful goal but instead is applied to punish an individual, it becomes excessive. c. Many of our attitudes and beliefs are acquired from the media, our family, and friends. d. The media focuses on rare and unique events because these types of news and entertainments stories intrigue the public. But by focusing on rare events, the media gives the impression that such events are common. a) Media widely reports homicides and violent crime > overemphasis on homicide levels leads the general public to overestimate the number of homicides. 15 of college students estimated that there were more than 1 million homicides, when there was actually 15,000. b) The media also focuses on graphic examples of police brutality and violence, and thus the public tends to overestimate the prevalence of police use of force. III. The Truths or Facts a. The studies indicate that police use of force is exceedingly and statistically rare. b. 1.5 of all citizen contact with the police in 2003 resulted in use of force by the police.