Dirty Harry And Police Brutality Essay, Research Paper
In class we defined force as use of power, energy and strength, and we said that it was an occupational requirement for police. We defined violence as the rapid intensive use of force and it could be good, legal and legitimate in some circumstances for police officers. We defined brutality as illegal, illegitimate, inappropriate or excessive use of force, and that brutality could be physical or psychological.
In terms of policing a definition of brutality must include use of physical force. In class we stated that brutality involved inappropriate or excessive use of force. More exactly we stated that force involved the use of power, energy and strength all of which are physical elements. In the brutality questionnaire that we completed for class, incidents that I found most brutal involved some unreasonably harsh physical violence. One incident that demonstrates the most brutality is the following:
“A child was kid-napped and ransom was paid which effected the child’s release. The child had been somewhat battered. The suspect is approached by the police but he does not surrender even after warning shots are fired into the air. He is finally shot and wounded in the stomach by one of the officers. He had a long criminal record but at his trial he was found not guilty when his defense proved that he could not have committed the crime, to the jury’s satisfaction.” (Brutality questionnaire)
This incident is highly brutal because it was not stated that the suspect had any weapon on his person, or that he was in any way a threat to the arresting police officer. I don’t see any appropriate reason why the officer should have used that kind of force to subdue the suspect. The article stated that the suspect was approached by the officer, the suspect was not sneaking up on the officer. It looks to me like the officer felt he needed to avenge the injuries that the kid-napped child had received. The police officer was not justified in his actions toward the suspect, as he was not in any personal danger as far as the incident states. Therefore, he should not have shot the suspect and his actions were in fact brutal in terms of how we defined brutality in this class.
The movie Dirty Harry featured a police officer who relies on violence and brutality to get the bad guy. Some critics, at the time of the film’s release and for some time afterward, said that Harry was “excessively violent,” racist, and even cruel. I personally would define “excessively violent” as use of extreme force that is not necessary in order to accomplish a certain end given a particular situation. The use of violence becomes excessive when the victim or police officer is no longer in danger, and the officer continues to use force even after a suspect has been subdued. Dirty Harry was excessively violent by the standards for films at the time of its release. However I don’t feel that the film is excessively violent by the standards of the film-making industry and audiences of today. Recently released films such as Saving Private Ryan and Fight Club were much more violent because of the use of physical force that they portrayed.
Harry provoked the wounded bank robber at the beginning of the film in a similar manner to how he provoked Scorpio to draw his gun at the end of the film. He uses the same line, after firing a few shots, he reminds the criminal that his gun only has the capacity to hold six shots. He asks the criminal if he has fired all six or only five shots as he holds his gun pointed at him. He tells the criminal that he should ask himself “do I feel lucky?”then Harry says “well do ya punk?” In the earlier incident Harry has in fact fired all six shots already before he pulls the trigger again and scares the bank robber. In the later incident with Scorpio, Harry goes through the same routine but this time he does in fact have another shot left and he shoots the serial killer.
Was Harry a racist? Siegal, the film’s director was correct in his claim that Harry certainly was a racist. Early in the film, Harry gets a new partner who happens to be a Mexican-American. Chico asks how Harry feels about Mexicans, Harry says to another police officer “tell him.” He tells Chico that Harry “doesn’t play any favorites… he hates everybody.” This is clear evidence that Harry is a racist.
Cruelty is “willfully causing pain or distress to others” according to Webster’s Dictionary. I define cruelty as deliberately causing the pain or suffering of another person. Harry was a cruel person while he was tracking and catching his suspect, Scorpio. His cruelty was justified however because the evidence proved that Scorpio was, in fact, the killer who had been ravaging the city of San Francisco.
The movie Dirty Harry fits in with Klockars’ article “The Dirty Harry Problem,” as Harry is a cop who just wants to catch the bad guy, and that job can’t be done effectively in ways that are not “dirty.” According to Klockars’ article, the Dirty Harry Problem is when a situation arises in policing where a morally good ends can only be accomplished by a morally bad or “dirty” means. Harry himself in the film recognizes that his job is a dirty and in one scene he says to his partner “now you know why they call me Dirty Harry… I handle any dirty job that comes along.” At this point he was referring to a rescue he just made of someone who was ready to jump off a building and kill himself.
Harry used force, violence and brutality to apprehend his suspects. Harry was justifiably brutal when he shot Scorpio in the leg in Kezar stadium. The force he used was legitimate because he had to stop the suspect from running away from him. He had to stop Scorpio in order to question him on the location of the girl whom he had kid-napped. When he continued with his violence in that scene and steps on the freshly wounded leg of Scorpio he crossed the line of brutality. His actions at that point were excessively violent because they were not needed to subdue the suspect. Scorpio was already on the ground when Harry stepped on him, the pain that Harry caused for Scorpio did not help him learn where he could find the girl, so they did not lead to a good ends either.
The criminal justice system in this country is set up so that the accused have rights as far as how they are apprehended and how evidence can be collected from them. I think in some cases as in the film, the accused have too many rights. The victims of violent crimes have the right to press charges once the suspect has been caught but that’s all, then its up to the criminal justice system to collect evidence and hold a trial. The members of society at large and victims of crimes have less rights it seems at some time than the criminals do. In the film, Dirty Harry, the killer seemed to have too many rights. Harry had all sorts of evidence that proved that Scorpio was in fact the serial killer but was unable to arrest Scorpio because of a technicality such as a warrant. When there is such an overwhelming amount of evidence all pointing to the same suspect, then the courts say that the evidence is inadmissable because of how it was collected, it looks like the system wants to let the criminals run free.
I think Harry maybe similar to some real life police officers who get upset at how the system seems to help criminals. There probably are police officers in this country who think the system is set up to make their jobs more difficult. They would like to be able to do more in some cases but since the accused have such extensive rights the actions of the police officers are limited. I think that the extent to which officers use violence in their dealings with suspects varies by individual officers and the violence of the crime the suspect is accused of. I think Harry would have been more “efficient” than the average police officer if he had been allowed to work the way that he wanted to. Harry got hung up by the rules of the system. He could have arrested Scorpio much sooner if his superiors had allowed him to. His Lt. and the mayor made him play along with the killer’s game of running all over the city to deliver the ransom money.
I don’t think I could have been as violent as Harry was if I were a police officer. I think that Harry’s violence was a product of his life circumstances. He had a wife who was killed by a drunk driver. He seemed as though he was on a personal mission to save the city of San Francisco from crime. I think his violence may have come from his sorrow at the loss of his wife. I can’t imagine myself ever being that violent. I could, as a police officer, shoot a suspect if they were putting me or a partner in danger. I don’t think I could be as violent as Harry was toward Scorpio because I have not been through the same kinds of life situations.