Law enforcement is currently under intense scrutiny, and no discussion of policing practices is complete without addressing use of force. The recent narrative surrounding law enforcement use of force is fueled by several factors, including negative portrayals by the media and the challenges posed by social media platforms. In today’s digital age, citizens have the ability to record officers in the performance of their duties and post videos to a number of social media websites where the videos can go “viral” within a matter of minutes. This instant access to recordings of real-world interactions between law enforcement and the community members they serve has enabled a larger segment of the population to engage in the discussions surrounding use of force.
However, this information can be taken out of context or misunderstood, as many members of the public are not familiar with the laws and policies that guide law enforcement use of force. Most of them also do not fully comprehend the human dynamics that are in play during any use-of-force incident. These factors have the potential to result in erroneous conclusions on whether the use of force was legal and justified. This lack of understanding, combined with several recent high-profile incidents where citizens’ video captured officers employing unwarranted and excessive force, has made the context within which the public views new incidents of force toxic.