When police officers react to a situation, it happens in a split second. They make quick decisions that can have a lasting impact. For instance, if the police react too aggressively, the situation could escalate to one of stark police brutality. When considering the engagement after the fact, even the officer may agree that it was not the right course of action.
So, what factors influence the way that they react to any given encounter with a suspect? For better or worse, some of the key factors are:
- What type of offense they believe the suspect committed
- The race, gender, age and social class of the suspect
- The suspect’s demeanor and the way that they act during the meeting
- The relationship between any potential victims and the suspect
- How many police officers respond to the call and arrive at the scene
- The actions and attitudes of those other officers
- Whether or not the encounter is visible to the public
- What type of evidence the officers have at the scene
- The type of neighborhood the officers are in at the time of the engagement
Officers may not stop and consider all of these factors intentionally, but they all play a role at the subconscious level. They change how the officer feels and how they think they need to react. This is when things like personal bias can play into the situation, perhaps making an officer respond irrationally or take things much too far.
If you find yourself victimized in one of these encounters, remember that police officers are not above the law and you do have legal rights.