The word ‘assault’ on its own describes a range of violent acts that people encounter which threat and demean them. There however exists controversy of meaning because the traditional use of the word has been used to denote physical violence. According to Roebuck (2014), assault is an incident where one inflicts injury on another, whether physical, emotional or psychological. He adds that an assault challenges ones safety, health and well being. In relations to assaults against the police, this paper is of the view that the assaults are on the rise. A report, among many by the FBI, shows that in the year 2011, 54,774 officers got assaulted while performing their duty (FBI statistics, 2012). It is evident that this is an alarming number and that there are several felonious deaths that are still being reported. In summary, the study will use a survey methodology, using questionnaires to understand the situation and address the issues being discussed. Five police posts and 100 police officers will be used in the survey.
Statement of the problem
For several years, police officers have been viewed as individuals who are supposed to offer protection and safety to the people. Little attention has been paid to what the officers’ experience while working on their line of duty. It is until recent that few literatures have emerged acknowledging the fact that police staff experience assault that may be worse compared to other organizations. As a matter of fact, this occupation is exposed to high rates of violence as compare to other occupations (Bragason, n.d). As law enforcement officers, the police encounter various risks that range from physical injury that on most occasions is obtained from assault which sometimes leads to death. While working, they face death threats from criminals, intentional injury especially in pursuit of victims and death. Bragason (n.d) notes that their work is dangerous because they deal with individual’s criminals and those serving serious sentences who feel that they got nothing to lose and therefore, resort to harming the officers. Various studies usually focus on lethal assaults involving weapons and are lacking in the minor everyday injuries such as a broken bone. The study will focus on assaults on a broader sense, paying attention even to the minor incidents in the effort to minimize the gap that exists in literature. It will also pay attention to the frequency of occurrence which will also be used to show how serious the issue is.
Purpose of the study
The major aim of this study is to highlight the types of assaults that the officers face and show how they have risen in the past few years. It will also focus on the frequency of assaults be it in form of threats while paying attention to those extended to their families.
Police assaults are on the rise
The frequency of assaults against the police has remained constant over the years.
The variables in this study is that assault on the officers differ according to the tasks that one is doing, the population they are exposed to and their position in the post. It is worth noting that those in lower ranks, those in the field tracking crimes and those in places with high poverty and unemployment are exposed to more assault.
The study will take the form of a survey. It will be a qualitative study that will contain both structured and unstructured questions. Such type of questions will allow the researcher to get the intended answers while at the same time giving respondents a way of expressing their thoughts further. Questionnaires were chosen because they allow the respondent to gather data from many respondents and are easy to administer. The questionnaire will comprise of fifteen questions which will be divided into three parts. The first part will gather personal data such as gender, age and position in the department. The second part will have questions in relation to whether they have been assaulted, the kind of assault, its frequency and its consequences. The final part will be to give their reflection on the assaults and state if there has been an increase or not. It will also collect their opinions on the involvement of family and how the assaults The questions will be related to the frequency of the assaults, their intensity in terms of consequences, threats to individuals and those extended to family and their view to ascertain whether the assaults re on the increase or not. Upon receiving consent to participate in the study, the questionnaires will be distributed to the respondents.
On a broader sense, the study will focus on harassment in police offices. It will narrow down to gather data from five police posts, 50 police officers. Purposeful sampling methodology will be used in order to get answers only from those intended which will be useful in creating reliability in the study. Those eligible will be officers that have worked in their posts for five years because they are able to note the changes that have taken place, if the situation has worsened or not. The sample population will also comprise those officers in administrative and management posts who will be able to give reports on the assault cases that they have handled.
Assault, whether lethal or nonlethal, physical or emotional has been observed to be on the rise among the police. According to Bragason (n.d), exposure to certain assault or degree depends on the tasks or the job that one engages in. He states that among the tasks with higher level of assault include offering services, caring for those in distress, controlling people and ensuring that law and order is sustained. The police perform a big number of the above named tasks making them to be at a higher risk. In the current world, technology has increased crime that exposes the police to several forms of assault especially when performing their tasks. A study by Myrstol (2013), states that in the past five years, 70 of police officers reported to have been assaulted in Alaska. The author argues that officers face more assaults while performing their duties as compared to the time that they are off duty. The current situations that expose them to assault include traffic pursuits, responding to public disorder, attempted arrests, when investigating someone or responding to a disturbing call. According to Bragason (n.d), the major type of assaults take the form of threats, followed by mild bruises, then large bruises, severe fractures and injuries and finally physical disability and death. In regard to the location, it was found out that most assaults and threats occurred at the police posts. However, an FBI report of 2011 shows that a large number of officers were assaulted when responding to disturbance calls. The paper therefore, argues that the degree of assault depends on the location and the type of weapons the assailants have. It suggests that assaults that are usually higher in the police stations are minor such as threats and minor bruises. On the other hand, those performed during response calls involves major injuries to the police officers.
Richard (2011), points that over the last ten years, a lot of violent crimes have been witnessed that lead to an increased number assaults on the police. Not only has the assault towards the police increased in the US but a similar trend has been witnessed in New Zealand from the year 1999-2009. He relates the increase in the number of assaults with the increase in population and the number of people being sworn as police officers. Richard (2011) argues that the increased numbers on both cases means that there are lots of interactions among the police with a higher number of people that exposes them to higher risk of assault. According to him, the officer is highly assaulted in the public places. The paper links this finding with that of the FBI report (2012) because they support each other. Another reason that has made assault to be on the rise is the higher number of people who take alcohol making them pervasive and violent when they are being handled. Richard (2011) also argues that bans on criminal offenses and liquor made the victims to be antisocial and as a result, the police officer suffers assault.
Assaults have also increased due to recent calls for campaigns for increased awareness towards violent activities (Assaults on Police, n.d). Such campaigns require that the police officers be present to educate the public that makes them vulnerable to the assaults. The study also supports the work of Richard (2011) by stating that increased legislations in the present world have made the public to be more hostile to the police which are another form of assault. A changed perception towards the police has also contributed to the increased in assaults in the recent past. The author argues that many people have become disrespectful towards the police. They lack that fear of law and view them as just any other persons. The study concurs with the idea by stating that people are viewing police officers as middle and low class people who only enjoy the goodwill of the society. Lowering them to such a class has made most of them to be disrespected to the extent of being physically assaulted. Myrstol (2013) also suggests that assault has increased due to higher poverty levels and number of unemployed people who resort to violence to obtain what they want.
In conclusion, the paper suggests that increased assaults can be reduced not by exposing offenders to harsh situations but by having a strong relation with the public. A strong community relation will enhance police respect hence reduce assaults against the police officers.
Assaults on police: Rethinking crime and punishment (n.d). Retrieved from www.rethinking.org
Bragason, O. (n.d).Assaults against police officers: A self-report study among Icelandic police officers (pdf) 21,101
FBI releases 2011 statistics on law enforcement officers killed and assaulted. National Press Releases (2012).324-3691
Myrstol, B. (2013). Assaults committed against Alaska police Officers. Alaska Justice Statistical analysis Center Fact Sheet. Retrieved, www.justice.uaa.alaska.edu.
Richard, J. (2011). Predicting officer physical assaults at domestic assault calls. Journal of Family Violence. 26(3). 163-169.
Roebuck, J., (2014). Judicial review of conviction for simple assault where charge alleges assault by beating. Journal of Criminal Justice. 78(4)283-285