The Sources of Violence in America and Their Consequences for Law Enforcement

This book discusses the sources of violence, examines why some people use violence against police officers, and shows that such violence is not always easily combated; relates the functions of the police to the sources of violence against them; reviews the evidence on assault against police; and references a large amount of previously published and some unpublished material in a format that should assist researchers. The first chapter provides a historical perspective on American violence and discusses the terms that people use when describing violent acts. The ethical bases of violence and what makes the use of physical force a legitimate activity are explored in the second chapter. This discussion facilitates a better understanding of why different segments of American society have disparate views about when it is proper to use violence to settle disputes; when law enforcement officers should intervene in civilian matters; and whether civilians should use physical violence against police officers who are perceived as exceeding the limits of their authority. Chapter 3 explores the extensive theoretical literature on violence and describes the major schools of thought about its origins. This is intended to provide a better understanding of the types of violence that are directed against police officers. Chapter 4 addresses such concepts as law, order, legitimacy, majority rule, and professionalism as they apply to police activities. Chapter 5 outlines the major approaches to explaining criminal violence, and chapter 6 sets the assault incident within a theoretical context. Remaining chapters deal with the characteristics of assaulted officers, assailant characteristics, characteristics of the assault situation, and geographical patterns of American violence. Suggestions are offered about the areas where additional research is required before definitive answers can be reached and policy remedies can be selected.

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