Society employs police officers to protect citizens by enforcing the law. Police officers are professionally trained to get and keep people and situations under control. When a person challenges police authority, the police have the power to physically restrain, to use force when necessary, and to deprive him/her of personal freedom.
Officers spend many hours learning how to use their bodies and police equipment. They are taught armed and unarmed methods of self-protection, pursuit and capture of suspects, and how to confront and control individuals and crowds. They learn how to use their baton, handcuffs, even their vehicle to maintain control over a situation. They learn how to use their service weapons. As recruits they must meet physical fitness standards. Many continue to hone their bodies and develop greater strength and abilities. They continue to learn new ways to control physical confrontations and to disarm attackers when they have no weapons other than their hands. Police officers are taught how to control the level of physical force they use. They learn to match control tactics to the level of suspect resistance. When someone refuses to comply with an order, the officer determines what level of force is needed to make the person submit.
Some officers think that they are entitled to wield their police authority and power at home the way they do on the job. These abusive officers use their professional skills against their own spouses and children.
Police officers establish their authority through their appearance. Their uniform, badge and gun are the symbols of power that set them apart from others. The mere presence of an officer intimidates people. (Ask people how they react when they see a patrol car driving behind them.) Officers learn that body language has the power to intimidate and manipulate people. Simply moving or standing a certain way, or getting in someone's space can elicit trust or fear. Police are also trained to use their voice to gain control of people. Different tones of voice convey increasing levels of control: from a polite request, to an order, to an ultimatum or a threat. As with body language, a voice can solicit trust or inspire fear.
Abusive police officers use professional tactics of power and control in their intimate relationships. Not all abuse is physical violence. Lying, isolation, interrogation, surveillance and weapons are also used. The Power and Control Wheel also shows how officers misuse their police training.
Much of police work involves investigation, questioning suspects, and obtaining confessions. Officers learn how to get people to cooperate with them and to give them information. They learn how to vary their interrogation styles, from friendly persuasions, to emotional manipulation, to brutal interrogations. Police are able to get information about people by running license plates, accessing court records, or requesting confidential information. Investigating officers learn how to use high-tech equipment such as hidden cameras, voice activated recording devices, and vehicle tracking devices to do surveillance. When officers do undercover work they have to be skilled in deceiving people. Like chameleons, they have to blend into whatever environment they are investigating. Many officers say rules and regulations hinder their performance on the job. Procedures sometimes get in the way. Officers are always permitted to exercise their own discretion in responding to any situation or individual. They have to gain and maintain informants, be able to lie convincingly, and quickly gain people's trust.Back to top
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