Most of us have seen the videotape of police officers savagely beating Rodney King. But how typical was this behavior? The Rodney King incident is not representative of most police officers around the country. Television shows, newscasts, and written media exacerbate the problem when they do not focus on the criminal as the root of the problem. "[C]urrent images of the police are drawn largely from television programs bearing little resemblance to reality" (Delattre 29). Police brutality is a matter of serious concern, but it is not as prevalent as the media would have us believe. Police brutality is not a national crisis.
Rodney King has become synonymous with police brutality. But what is police brutality? Bornstein states that "[p]olice brutality is the use of excessive force by police officers" (39). Most police are trained to use only the minimum amount of force necessary to control a given situation.
The decision to use force is often made on a split second basis usually under difficult circumstances. The boundaries between justified and excessive force can sometimes be blurred under these circumstances. Under one set of circumstances, a particular action might be considered justified, but under differing circumstances, the same action might be considered brutality.
Most cops do not like to hurt people; "...cops sometimes use unnecessary force. They also use extraordinary restraint" (Sulc 80). Many police officers feel anguish after using fully justified force; few take pleasure in it. There are great strains on individual police officers: competing responsibilities, values, temptations, fears, and expectations. Police officers are called on to be patient mediators, skilled therapists, effective admonishers, daring crime fighters, obedient members of paramilitary agencies, etc.
In the midst of these requirements is the violence inherent in police work. Police officers often witness women battered by husbands and boyfriends,