Sample Criminal Justice Essay Paper on A Literature Review of Police Brutality and Media Review

A Literature Review of Police Brutality and Media

The prevalence of police brutality in the recent years has become a social concern globally. In the U.S., for instance, brutality and extreme cases of corruption and discriminatory practices in the police force became widespreadin the 20th century onwards. In the 1960s, the issue was exacerbated by the heightened civil rights advocacy and media intensively covered cases of racist police brutality against minorities. The involvement of media raised awareness on the issue of police misconduct and shaped the attitude of the public towards the law enforcers. Since the minorities were at the center of police cruelty, white Americans hardly paid attention to the subject. However, major incidents, such as Rodney King’s in 199, shifted the entire nation’s attention to the problem. The video of white police officers mercilessly beating Rodney, a Black motorist, woke the society to the graveness of the matter. The incident elicitedanger among all the American citizens and made police brutality a more tangible and critical concern in society. since then, the topic has become one of the most contested social issues.

Field observers have identified various incidents of the use of excessive force by the police. For example, law enforcement officers have been reported to assault citizens physically instead of arrestingthem, even in the absence of resistance to arrest. Other instances brutality includes assaulting suspects even when other measures of subduing themcan be used and failure to ceaseusingforce even after subduing asuspect. The subject hasalso attracted scholarly attention, with intense research conducted through diverse approaches.

The first article, “Examining Officer and Citizen Accounts of Police Use-of-Force Incidents,” investigates perceptions and behaviors associated to police brutality. The authors, Rojek et al., utilize literature accounts of police-citizen interactions, including the use-of-force reports from the South Carolina Sherriff’s Department, which containedincidents recorded in six weeks(2012). They also interviewed police officers and citizens after each use-of-force incident was reported. They found that the two groups told accounts of the incidents differently. While officers claimed that their actions were reasonable, citizens expressed a strong disapproval, terming the actions inappropriate. While officers insisted that forceful actions were necessary to exercise their authority, citizens expressed concerns of the police behaviors being a safety threat to the public. The study contributes to the existing knowledge of why the public is continuously losing trust in the police.

The second article, “The Role of Entertainment Media in Perceptions of Police Use of Force”, examined the role ofcrime TV shows on police brutality perceptions. Klahm IV and Donovan (2015) conducted analyses of different entire seasons of The Mentalist, Criminal Minds, and NCIS. They collected demographic data of victims and the nature of crimes committed. Variables such as use of force, perceptions regarding use-of-force incidents, the frequency of police misconduct, and the necessity of use of force were also measured. Surprisingly, while the news media has instigated negative perceptions of the police regarding the use of violence, the study indicated that the viewers of crime dramas had positive attitudes towards the law enforcement practice. The authors attributed the unexpected results to the how police officers are portrayed in the TV shows. Crime dramas usually depictthe police as intelligent solution providers who rarely make mistakes (Klahm IV & Donovan, 2015). Furthermore, while scenes involving the use of force were prevalent in these productions, the force us usually depicted as necessary since it is applied on aggressive offenders. The study contributes to the ongoing research on the influence of media on perceptions of criminal justice.

The third article “Police, Violence, Use of Force Policies, and Public Health” examines how use-of-force policies incentivize and disincentives police misconduct. Obasogie& Newman (2017) reveal that most policies provide limited guidance on how and when to use the force. An effective policy should include the required force and resistance levels. They also concluded that these policies neglect substantive protections of victims beyond the bare minimum and other significant qualities, such as medical aid, officer intervention, and reporting (Obasogie& Newman, 2017).These limitations of use-of-force guidelines contribute greatly to police misconduct. The researchers also mentioned how factors such as race and social class influence police brutality in that the law enforcement officers target the vulnerable communities. These finding can help bring reforms to the criminal justice department, particularly use-of-force policies.

The fourth article is “Wearing body cameras increases assaults against officers and does not reduce police use of force: Results from a global multi-site experiment” by Ariel al. (2016). The research investigated if body-worn videos (BWVs)reduce cases of excessive force by the police as well as violence against policemen. The study utilized a prospective meta-analysis of multi-national trials from 10 discrete tests. The researchers measured the use of force by police and assaults against police officers. The results of the research indicated that BWVs had no effect on police brutality but increased the frequency of assaults against the officers (Ariel et al., 2016). These findings suggest that the implementation of BWVs should be reconsidered. The implications also apply toother fields that use of BWVs.

Lastly, the research, “Training Method to Improve Police Use of Force Decision Making: A Randomized Controlled Trial” aimed to test a training method to enhance use-of-force decision making in the police force. Andersen &Gustafsberg (2016) hypothesized that psychological and physiological stress can greatly impact policemen’s responses during critical incidents. Therefore,they examined the effect of controlling psychological and physiological stress on police misconduct. The researchers employed a randomized controlled pilot study whereby officers were trained to apply specialized techniques that help them to manage stressful critical conditions. Participants were invited basing on age, physiological characteristics, and years of experience. The study indicated that the intervention method had a positive outcome on physiological control, overall performance, situational awareness, and use of force. The approach can be applied in the police force to reduce incidents of police brutality.


Race and Gender

Race and social class have featured prominently in the debates of police brutality. Black people and other minorities have been at the receiving end of the issue for long as reflected by the higher numbers minorities who are illegally killed by the police compared to that of the white people. Rojek et al. reveals that some of the interviewees raised concerns of race and gender as a risk factor of police brutality (2012).

Flawed Use-of-force Policies

The ineffectiveness of the criminal justice policies has also been attributed to the increasing cases of police brutality. Obasogie& Newman (2017) found out that most use-of-force guidelines do not provide a clear explanation on the degree of force or resistance that warrants the use of force. These rules also lack policy measures on the protection of victims beyond the bare minimum force. Lastly, the policies do not address important factors such as medical aid for victims and officer intervention.

Police Brutality and the Media    

The media plays a significant role in shaping attitudes on police brutality. Research has consistently found a link between the media and negative perception of the public on the police. However, Klahm IV & Donovan (2015) concluded that crime dramas have no negative effect on the perceptions of police brutality.

The systematic review analyzed five research articles with distinct approaches on the subject of police brutality. It was revealed that police officers and citizens recount incidents of police brutality differently. While officers justify the actions, the citizens strongly disapprove the practice. A study on the media perceptions found out that entertainment media like crime dramas do not instill negative attitudes towards the police. This is because police officers in movies are mostly depicted as heroes. Another research demonstrated how the flawed use-of-force policies contribute to police brutality while the other indicated that BWVs do not reduce cases of police violence. The devices instead increase assault against the police. The last study showed the positive outcome of interventions on the management of psychological and physiological stress on police officers during critical incidents. Moreover, race and gender also emerged as a risk factor of police brutality. Strategies like reforms in the policies of use of force can help to reduce the prevalence of excessive force by the police. Interventions on how to handle psychological and physiological stress during critical conditions can also help officers to improve how to handle offenders. Since the research revealed that BWVs do not serve their primary purpose of reducing incidents of police violence and excessive use of force, the implementation of these devices should be reconsidered.


Andersen, J.P. &Gustafsberg, H. (2016, April 7). A Training Method to Improve Police Use of Force Decision Making: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Sage Open, 6(2).Retrieved from

Ariel, B., Sutherland, A., Henstock, D., Young, J., Sykes, J, Megicks, S. & Henderson, R. (2016, May 16). Wearing body cameras increases assaults against officers and does not reduce police use of force: Results from a global multi-site experiment. European Journal of Criminology, 13(6), 744-755.Retrieved from

Klahm IV, C. & Donovan, K. (2015, Dec). The Role of Entertainment Media in Perceptions of Police Use of Force.Criminal Justice Behavior, 42(12), 1261-81. Retrieved from

Obasogie, K.O. & Newman, Z. (2017). Police Violence, Use of Force Policies, and Public Health. American Journal of Law & Medicine, 43, 279-95.DOI: 10.1177/0098858817723665

Rojek, J., Alpert, G. & Smith, H.P. (2012, March). Examining Officer Citizen Accounts of Police Use-of-Force Incidents.Crime & Delinquency.DOI: 10.1177/0011128710386206