Police Contact

Criminal laws written by Local, State, and Federal entities determine and write laws that are   specifically used to direct who are approached by Police Officers. These interactions   are a critical and highly complex process surrounded by intense debate and scrutiny. So too is the development of an institution designed to ensure that such laws are followed by police to a point of limiting the civil rights of young people. Limitations or parameters must be set defining the extent of police power granted to this institution to enforce laws. Perhaps Bittner (1970) provides the clearest contemporary description of the rise of policing as one of the last institutional structures of democratic governments to contain law and keep the peace.. Bittner argues that relinquishing to the police the right to use coercive actions goes against middle class values of achieving peace by peaceful means. This is the basis of all contact with people of interest, especially when contacting young people .
However, there are instances when only a forceful police action can maintain or restore peace, so the police are
given the right to use force. The police are faced with a paradox: to stop violence the police may sometimes need to resort to violence (Sherman, 1980a). Although coercive police tactics are viewed as an evil, they are a necessary evil nonetheless. In 1931 the National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement (Wickersham Commission) brought national attention to the issue of police violence in the form of brutality for the first time. The commission published the Report on Lawlessness in Law Enforcement that characterized “third degree” police tactics as a major institutional problem (National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement, 1931). Over twenty years later, Westley (1953) was one of the first scholars to study the police and their views toward the application of force. He discovered that officers rely on force because they view it as an effective means to...