Download PDF by Jerome H Skolnick: Above the Law. Police and the Excessive Use of Force

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By Jerome H Skolnick

The now-famous videotape of the thrashing of Rodney King brought about a countrywide outcry opposed to police violence. Skolnick and Fyfe, of the nation's best specialists on legislation enforcement, use the incident to introduce a revealing historic research of such violence and the level of its survival in legislation enforcement this present day.

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Mike Rothmiller, a former LAPD detective, recently told the story of his life in the department to writer Ivan G. Goldman. He describes a department where racism and spying were accepted and often even encouraged. So was lying on police reports: Again and again Rothmiller watched cops decide for themselves who was guilty, and then weave a spell over the arrest report to make it match their perceptions. Most of the arrest reports he encountered were doctored in some way—facts deleted or invented.

When brutality is alleged, good chiefs investigate thoroughly and objectively. When brutality is found, examples are made of those who committed it, those who failed to stop it, and those who covered it up. When brutality remains undiscovered in a well-run police department, it is because a few officers have managed to keep the incident a deep, dark secret. But there is no secretiveness in the Rodney G. King videotape. Officers and citizens alike could and did watch the beating. Officers—including a supervisor and, apparently, a watch commander—could joke about it in computer conversations they knew were being recorded.

It is, in part, related to the nature of the difficult challenges faced by the police in our urban centers. ”14 Clearly, more and deeper questions need to be raised about the nature of police violence, its centrality to the role of the police, and its prevalence. Obviously, it is nothing new. Part of the paradox of policing is that police are supposed to use necessary force. As anybody who has ever called a cop knows, police intervention is grounded in a round-the-clock capacity to take decisive action in handling all kinds of emergencies and to employ force where it is needed.

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