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Police Killings, Michael Brown & fitness for duty

Will the public see justice for this police killing?
Will the public see justice for this police killing? Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The police are under fire for killing another teenager, Michael Brown who was walking down the street unarmed; and yet again America is outraged. What makes police killing justifiable? In this article we will explore some common traits associated, with the mentality of a killer. Do some police officers share traits with serial killers and psychopaths or are they justified when someone like Michael Brown gets killed?

Law enforcement procedures require a certain amount of safety both for the officers and the public; but why do some police officers go overboard? If you consider the danger involved during a volatile crowd control situation then it's understandable that the police are on edge. The adrenaline is flowing, people are running every which way, its chaos, so when one shot is fired more follow and someone gets killed. Society must understand the fact that the police put themselves in constant danger, so of course they are on guard constantly.

Could a police officer’s environment increase the odds they will become less sensitive to the safety of others? Someone suffering from undiagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder may be extremely jumpy; so firing their weapon during duress is understandable. According to the DSM-IV diagnostic’s manual, the symptoms for PTSD include increased anxiety, heightened startle response, flashbacks, and obsessive thoughts (PTSD, 2014). When considering the danger involved, we may just have to say that police killings are justifiable if you consider the heat of the moment.

On the other hand, an officer who harbors antisocial behaviors may be more prone to commit acts of violence during the line of duty. According to the DSM-IV a person with antisocial personality disorder which is also known as both psychopathic and Sociopathic personality disorder will have a continuing disregard for the rights of others (Antisocial, 2014). This type of person will be deceitful, lack remorse and will fail to consider the consequences for their actions (Antisocial, 2014). The Sociopathic person will also be irritable, prone to physical assaults and will lack empathy towards others (Antisocial, 2014). Some police officers have shown to have developed similar attitudes as seen in the many police corruptions cases in the past years.

When an officer is accused of killing an innocent person or teenager like Michael Brown they will be put under investigation and will most likely have to undergo a Fitness for Duty Evaluation to determine what, and if any impairments make it difficult for them to perform their duties (Fischler, et. al, 2011). The acting psychologist performing the evaluation will test the officer’s emotional and personality functioning, as well as determine if any symptoms of mental illness are present (Fischler, et. al, 2011). In the case where the officer is lying, the tests used during the exam are set up to detect it so the results come back invalid. The problem with a person who is a sociopath is that they are deceitful and will often plan ahead to know what symptoms to fake and answer the questions just right; but few actually get away with it.

The most important thing we need to do when a tragedy like the killing of a teenager like Michael Brown happens is to give the public a chance to see both sides. Yes many police officer’s in Santa Ana and elsewhere may feel threatened by a tall and strong African male. Yes many officers may racially profile and harbor a certain bias towards the criminal element; but they do have a job to do no matter what the circumstances. Yes it is tragic and people are outraged yet again by another police killing, but we have to believe that once order is restored in Ferguson that justice will be served. To respond with violence, will only invite more violence. What are your thoughts on this controversial subject?

References:

Antisocial Personality (2014). Antisocial personality disorder AllPsych Online. Retrieved from http://allpsych.com/disorders/personality/antisocial.html

Fischler, G., McElroy, H., Miller, L. Sax-Clifford, S., Steward, C. & Zelig, M. (2011). The role of psychological Fitness for Duty Evaluations in law enforcement The Police Chief Retrieved from http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?fuseaction=display_arch&article_id=2449&issue_id=82011

PTSD (2014). Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. AllPsych Online. Retrieved from http://allpsych.com/disorders/anxiety/ptsd.html