With a badge comes a lot of power. With that power comes the potential for abuse.
Along with the power of the police also comes a significant degree of respect and honor from the public. People understand the sacrifices made by officers everyday in the line of duty.
Perhaps this is why, to a certain extent, police officers accused of killing are so often acquitted. Judges and juries often give them the benefit of the doubt. They trust that their judgment in using deadly force is practiced with restraint and professionalism.
The latest case involving police abuse of power is that of former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle’s and an unarmed civilian, shot in the back while restrained on the ground of the Oakland train platform.
Mehserle’s case is ongoing but brings up an interesting albeit frightening phenomena in our justice system. Why, so often, are the police allowed to use force beyond what is necessary?
We can’t always know what happens during those tense moments when a police officer decides such force is necessary. Likewise, we can’t know the stress they are under when they determine if they must act to protect themselves or someone else.
As this article from the San Francisco Chronicle points out, more than 350 people die at the hands of the police every year in this country. Very few are prosecuted and of those that face charges, a tiny fraction is actually convicted of wrongdoing.
The stress of risking your life everyday in the line of duty must be unnerving. As a civilian, however, your contact with the police can be quite stressful as well. Even if you know you have done nothing wrong, it is often scary to face questioning by the police, knowing the power that they have.
If you made a mistake and are confronted by the police, the best thing to do is listen to them and determine their intent. If you are arrested, speak to an attorney as soon as possible. That’s what defense attorneys are for, to assist you in determining the best course of action when facing criminal charges.
In most cases, resisting or trying to get away will only end in further criminal charges and could even end in disaster.