The Comprehensive Approach to Studying Police Brutality

Posted: March 16, 2013 by tysonnesdoly in Uncategorized
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I propose to conduct an in depth study into the nature and prevalence of “Police Brutality” in BC. Police brutality can be defined as any amount of force, whether that is physical or verbal, in excess of what is required to obtain a resolution in the performance of a police officer’s duties. This phenomenon is becoming increasingly visible in media and social networking due to the expansion of video technology, thus increasing the importance and value of an investment into such a study. The video below is a recent and very popular insight into police brutality in Kelowna, BC, and demonstrates the need for more empirical data.


Multiple groups have made it their personal mission to monitor and publicize police actions in an effort to promote accountability, such as this one.Image

I propose using simple diversified surveys, individual interviews, and departmental statistics to compile a comprehensive overview of British Columbia’s police use of force. By encapsulating the ‘best of both worlds,’ this study would be able to provide the information necessary for change. One of the issues with currently available studies is the lack of variety in the focus group. Studies such as “Police Ethics and Integrity: Breaking the Blue Code of Silence” (Westmarland, 2005), provide insight into the police perceptions of brutality but does nothing for the public perception. This study also relied heavily on the voluntary involvement of officers. My program of research will cover every possible point of reference to provide the clearest insight into police abuse of authority. I will include every level of socio-economics in a given community by administering the survey in these areas. I believe conducting surveys in a fixed location limits the representation of other socio-economic groups that may have very different interpretations and experiences with the police and their use of force. Also, the success rate of surveys answered would be far greater by going door to door in communities rather than in public centres such as a mall, where individuals may be in a ‘rush’ to complete their errands. By going door to door, the community will have a greater feeling of respect and appreciation, for someone is taking the time to hear what they have to say. Also, having these surveys in multiple languages will allow for ethnic groups, who may not participate in the public centres, an opportunity to share their perspective and input, and thus, more effectively represent the multi-cultural society policed. The survey will comprise of between 5 to 10 questions that should take less than 2 minutes to complete, unless, the individual chooses to spend more time elaborating. Some essential questions would be:

1)      How would you define Police Brutality?

2)      How many times have you witnessed/ experienced Police Brutality?

3)      What events led to the level of force used?

4)      Did you report the event?

5)      How confident are you of the police? 1 (not at all) to 5 (very)

When it comes to the application of the survey to police officers, I propose to create a relationship with the police department administration that would convince them that it is in their best interest to assist in the survey by instructing all officers to participate. Every survey would remain anonymous in hopes of obtaining factual information. By doing this, the ‘voluntary’ aspect is removed, and the opportunity of gaining a greater volume of surveys is increased dramatically. Among the essential questions would be question 1 through 4 of the citizen questionnaire, obviously, directed towards the officer’s personal involvement in the event. Also, questions pertaining to the reasoning behind the actions in question and how the officer responded themselves.

In conclusion, this proposed study is a simple, yet effective initiative to discover the nature and prevalence of police brutality in BC. No other study has been conducted that covers the wide variety of sources as this study proposes. Once the surveys have been analyzed, more focused interview questions can be formed to gain a greater understanding of the causes of police brutality. In order for the public to build a relationship of trust with the police, and the police with the public, these studies must be considered. For it is because of studies like this, that treat individuals as valued citizens, that promote the successful change needed to regain the prestige of our police and country.


Westmarland, Louise (2005). Police ethics and integrity: breaking the blue code of silence. Policing and Society, 15(2), pp. 145–165.

  1. Mike Larsen says:

    Interesting post. Where are you getting your definition of police brutality?

    Your proposed program of research is compelling, in part because it demonstrates a mixed-method style that allows for the triangulation of research findings. In other words, it draws on several information sources to form a complex picture of police brutality that includes both quantitative and qualitative elements.

    Your survey is interesting. The idea has a lot of merit. I think that implementing this survey would encounter a few challenges, though. First, although surveys are intended to allow for comparison and the evaluation of trends, this survey is based on a subjective assessment of what police brutality is. Because this is a subjective question, it limits your ability to compile the results of multiple survey response. For example, one person may define police brutality as ‘unjustifiable police violence that hospitalizes the victim’ and another as ‘any unjustifiable use of force by police’. Although these responses are similar, there is an element of ‘apples and oranges’ at work.

    This is by no means a deal-breaker for your research proposal. Indeed, one of your first findings would likely be that ‘police brutality’ is a complex and contested concept.

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