Bell was unarmed, yet the officers fired more than 50 shots into his car” (2007, p. 46). Following a grand jury investigation of the incident, three of the five detectives who were involved were charged for the shooting (Mayer, 2007). According to Mayer, “The incident is reminiscent of a similar situation in New York in 1999, in which a West African street vendor, Amadou Diallo, was killed when police shot at him 41 times. Diallo was also unarmed” (2007, p. 46). The fact that these events occurred almost a decade apart and were unrelated was not the primary focus of the media coverage that attended them, and it is reasonable to assume that sensationalized media coverage of these and other instances of police brutality simply reinforce the perception in the minds of the American public that the police are out of control.
All of this is not to say, of course, that police officers never engage in acts of brutality and the use of excessive force, but it is to say that little attention is paid to the millions of police-citizen encounters that take place every year in the United States where law enforcement authorities would be justified in using force — even deadly force — but refrain from doing so at their own personal risk based on their high regard for citizens rights and the sanctity of human life. This precise point is made by Elicker (2008) who emphasizes that the statistics bear out just how restrained the police departments across the country are in their use of force at all. According to Elicker, “Despite the way mass media presents the subject of police brutality, the occurrences of police use of force cases are not all that common” (2008, p. 33).
Citing the results of a 1999 study sponsored by the United States Department of Justice based on the statistics from more than seven thousand arrests made by six different law enforcement agencies in urban settings wherein statistics had been collected concerning the use of force by and against police officers, Elicker reports that, “There were only 52 cases (or .
07%) where police officers used weapons in the arrest. The use of weapons includes stick, knife, handgun, chemical agent, rifle/shotgun, motor vehicle, canine, and other” (2008, p. 34). The results of the Department of Justice study also showed that police officers used one or a combination of weaponless tactics to effect the arrest in 15.8% of the cases (Elicker, 2008). According to Elicker, “Weaponless tactics include grabbing, arm twisting, wrestling, pushing/shoving, hitting, kicking, biting/scratching, use of pressure hold, carotid hold, control hold, and other tactics. Grabbing was, by a vast margin, the most used weaponless tactic (12.7% or 954 cases), followed by arm twisting (3.7% or 281 cases), and wrestling (3.1% or 233 cases)” (2008, p. 34).
While some observers might suggest that there is no place in modern law enforcement for “biting/scratching” or the other weaponless tactics used by the police in the Department of Justice study, the fact that they were used at all when other, more harmful methods were readily available makes it clear that even when their lives are on the line, police officers can and do resort to using their training and discipline rather than simply pulling out a gun and shooting a criminal suspect. In this regard, Elicker concludes that, “To some, these statistics could be shocking. They.