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residents alleged excessive force was used when they were arrested. The police division officially cleared the officer of any wrongdoing.29
In 1980 a black motorist, arrested for disorderly conduct, driving without
a license and resisting arrest, alleged that the arresting officer used excessive force. The officer was cleared by the police division of any
wrongdoing. The same officer was involved in a shooting incident in 1977
which left the black suspect dead. He was cleared by the police division of any wrongdoing in that episode.
A north side Omaha man, charged in 1980 with use of terroristic threats,
brought suit in mid-1981 against six Omaha police officers for excessive use
of force. The charges against the plaintiff were dismissed. The police
31 reported that two of the officers accused were injured in the incident.
32 The case is still in the discovery stage.
While written policies on escalation of force will not end confrontations between police and the minority community, the policies may decrease the allegations of use of excessive force when those confrontations occur.
In Model Rules for Law Enforcement Officers, A Manual on Police
Discretion, copyrighted in 1974 by the International Association of Chiefs of
Police, model rules governing escalating use of force are indicated.
Whenever a police officer finds it necessary to use nondeadly force to achieve a lawful police objective, it shall be incumbent upon that officer to exhaust every reasonable means of employing the least (original emphasis] amount of force to effect the purpose before escalating to the next, more forceful method. However, nothing in this rule shall be interpreted to mean that an officer is required to engage in prolonged hand-to-hand combat or struggle rather than resort to that method which will most quickly and safely bring the arrestee under control.33
The lowest, least drastic method of a police officer using force would be physical strength and skill (holding, throwing, restraining, pushing, pulling...) Physical prowess is a reasonable method of overcoming the resistance of a person who is unarmed or simply failing to abide by the officer's lawful command to submit.
There are few situations where an officer should resort to any force greater than physical prowess.
Chemical mace should be used only if physical strength and skill are ineffective or impractical.
In instances where physical strength and skill or mace are ineffective or their use might constitute a danger to the officer or a third party, the officer is justified in using the baton or sap to overcome resistance and to end the conflict.
The application of the baton is considered the most drastic form of nondeadly force. It must be used judiciously and only if lesser methods have failed or their use would be impractical.34 As a basic rule, firearms should be utilized only (original emphasis) in self-defense or in defense of another against death or grievous bodily harm.35
1. National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals,
Police (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1973), p. 18.
2. U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Who Is Guarding the Guardians? (October 1981), p. 37.
3. Paul Takagi, "A Garrison State in a 'Democratic Society,' " Crime and
Social Justice, (Summer 1974), p. 30, note 1. The issue of police shootings
is surveyed in John S. Goldkamp, "Minorities as Victims of Police Shootings: Interpretations of Racial Disproportionatlity and Police Use of Deadly Force," The Justice System Journal, Vol. II, Issue 2 (Winter 1976), pp. 169-83. 4. Model Penal Code, sec. 1307(2)(b)(i)(IV)(Proposed Official Draft, 1962).
5. Neb. Rev. Stat. sec. 28-834, 1972.
6. Omaha World-Herald, Jan. 29, 1974.
7. Omaha World-Herald, June 14, 1974.
8. Omaha World-Herald, June 12, 1974.
9. Omaha World-Herald, June 10, 1974.
10. Landrum v. Moats, No. 77-1656, (8th Cir. May 30, 1978).
11. Landrum v. Moats, No. 75-0-440, (D. Neb. Feb. 8, 1979).
12. Omaha World-Herald, June 1, 1976.
13. Omaha World-Herald, June 8, 1976.
14. Omaha World-Herald, Jan. 25, 1977 and Sept. 24, 1979.
15. Data supplied by Omaha Police Division, on file at CSRO. 16. Omaha World-Herald, Sept. 21, 1979; Sept. 24, 1979.
17. Data provided by the Omaha Police Division, on file at CSRO.
18. Omaha World-Herald, Oct. 18, 1981.
19. Omaha World-Herald, Feb. 24, 1982.
20. Omaha Police Manual, Vol. I, Pers. 2-3, p. 2, March 1981.
21. Omaha Police Manual, Vol. I, Pers. 2-2, p. 2 (Rev.) Sept. 1975.
22. Neb. Rev. Stat. sec. 28-839, 1972.
23. Jack Swanson, interview in Omaha, Dec. 9, 1981.
24. George Ernce, interview in Omaha, Dec. 10, 1981.
25. A.B. Hogan, interview in Omaha, May 27, 1981.
26. Clyde Christian, telephone interview, Nov. 12, 1981.
27. Wilda Stephenson, telephone interview, Nov. 17, 1981.
28. Wayne Tyndall, telephone interview, Nov. 5, 1981.
29. Omaha World-Herald, Aug. 22, 1977; Oct. 26, 1977.
30. Omaha World-Herald, Oct. 23, 1980; Oct. 25, 1980; Oct. 27, 1980.
31. Omaha World-Herald, July 15, 1981.
32. Tappan v. Coufal, No. 81-0-0367 (D. Neb. July 14, 1981).
33. Model Rules for Law Enforcement Officers, A Manual on Police Discretion (IACP, 1974), pp. 138-39.
34. Ibid., pp. 140-42.
35. Ibid., p. 143.
The information collected by the Advisory Committee and others indicates a
profound disparity in perception of police activity.
Past Comununity Attitudes
Minority complaints about police behavior and hostility to the police have
a long history. The earliest reports of it in the files of the Omaha Public
Library date back to 1965.
In October 1965 Homer C. Floyd, executive director of the city human
relations board, reported that "tremendous hostility" against the police was developing among the black residents of northside Omaha. 1 A list of
grievances was developed by the Northside Police-Community Relations Council
whose members included Ernest Chambers, William Mitchell, Mrs. Robert Gibson,
Rev. Wilkinson Harper and George Crenshaw. These focused on lack of police
courtesy toward blacks--referring to them as "nigger", "boy", "gal"; arrests
without apparent justification; use of force as a result of verbal abuse or to
obtain information or to punish a suspected offender; random searches without
apparent cause; harassment by the vice squad; harassment and intimidation of
children on the streets; placement of radar in places that interfere with
private businesses; failure to process complaints; failure to respond to calls
for assistance from the black community; and, failure to respond to citizen
2 requests for information about arrests. The police division either stated
these accusations were not justified or offered a legal explanation for the practice.3
In July 1966, the views of the black community again became of interest to
the media in the aftermath of a weekend of civil unrest.
Many concerns were
cited as causing the riots. Demands presented to the city by blacks after the riot included "a change in police attitudes."14