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Police in a Violent Society

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 54 Issue: 1 Dated: (January 1985) Pages: 1-7
JG Stratton; J R Snibbe; K Bayless
Date Published
7 pages
Because of the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill, the stress produced by economic pressures, and the epidemic use of hallucinogenic drugs, the police must cope with many disturbed and violent individuals; consequently, police should be trained in managing violent persons and in using more nonlethal weapons.
Common perceptions of police work are based on the media's portrayal of the police, and it frequently shows officers meeting violence with violence. Actually, out of an estimated 1 billion police-citizen contacts a year, approximately 300 people are killed by the police. Various factors have increased the number of violent people at large in the community. Large numbers of distressed persons have been released from institutions and now are on the streets. Prison overcrowding has led to early release of dangerous criminals. Because of cutbacks in psychiatric care, the police are providing basic mental health services to society's rejects. The use of PCP has increased the explosively violent and unpredictable situations that police must manage. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (California) has a stringent policy for officer use of deadly force, so officers must rely on nonlethal alternatives to cope with violence. Officers are trained in conflict resolution, handling mentally ill and PCP users, and defusing potentially violent situations. The department has investigated several nonlethal devices, but only three have passed testing satisfactorily: the capture net, a 10-foot by 14-foot nylon mesh net that envelopes the suspect and then is pulled taut with drawstrings; the immobilizer, which consists of a pair of 6-foot nylon poles with a strong chain interlaced between them and is used to trap and immobilize the suspect, and the taser, a handgun-type device that fires two dart-like electrodes into the subject, temporarily immobilizing him. Photographs and five references are included.