Police officers are supposed to serve and protect; but what happens when they abuse this power and engage in police misconduct?
A Texas cop made headlines after a 93-year-old woman was pronounced dead in her home due to a deadly shooting. Pearlie Golden, a 93-year-old woman who was recently turned down by the Department of Vehicle & Motors (DMV) for renewing her license, was very angry. Because she had no valid driver's license her nephew refused to let her use his car. Pearlie became hostile and found her deceased husband's gun. Family members grew concerned and contacted the police for help. According to reports from her family members, she took the gun and fired it twice on the ground. Police Office Stephen Stem arrived on the scene and, after Pearlie refused to drop her weapon, he fired at her 4 times. Pearlie sustained fatal injuries to her chest and arm and was pronounced dead soon after. The shooting resulted in an outrage by the community and 100 people protested outside of the Mayor's office demanding Stem's arrest. Stem was initially placed on an administrative leave before being fired from the police department. Interestingly, this shooting was not his first offense. Back in December of 2012, Stem shot and killed a 28-year-old man after arriving at a scene where there was a gunfight at a local apartment complex. After this shooting, he received no disciplinary actions. Stem now faces a grand jury indictment for the death of Pearlie.
Types of Police Misconduct
Police misconduct occurs when a police officer engages in conduct that goes beyond the scope of the official duties as a police officer. Examples of police misconduct include:
According to a study conducted by the Cato Institute's National Police Misconduct Reporting Project in 2010, approximately 4,861 reports of police misconduct were reported nationwide. Of all of these reports of police misconduct, excessive force was the highest ranked type of misconduct.
One of the duties of a police officer is to diffuse a precarious situation and to restrain an armed suspect. However with the growing popularity of technology and videotaping capabilities of smart phones, it is not uncommon to find clips on YouTube of police officers who go above and beyond to beat a suspect or engage in other questionable activities. Although there is no specific definition for excessive force, it can be described as the use of force that is greater than what a reasonable and prudent police officer would use under the same circumstances. Obviously there are times when a police officer must use force to restrain a combative suspect, however the waters become muddy when the extent of the force is viewed as unnecessary and results in the death. Since police officers have a broad power to carry out their duties, citizens must rely on the Constitution and other laws to limit how far a police officer can go to enforce the law.