Expert: No Rise in Use of Deadly Force by Police; Just More Cell Phones

Expert: No Rise in Use of Deadly Force by Police; Just More Cell Phones

It seems to be taken for granted by both the left and the right in America today that incidents of police brutality are growing even as crime itself is falling. But are they? At least one expert says no.

It is certainly a foregone conclusion to the left that police brutality is on the rise. Any look through the world of liberal opinion will find many voices saying that police brutality is growing in America today.

From the right it has also become a favorite theme among libertarians that police brutality is growing, even out of control. The libertarian website is constantly publishing stories about America’s increasingly militarized police forces and tales of police brutality.

Mainstream media has also given voice to this concept that abuse by police has increased. On Tuesday, CNN featured a piece by Iris Baez who asked, “Are the police getting away with murder?” Baez’s son was killed by police in 1998. Even as far back as 2007 USA Today was reporting a rise in violence initiated by police.

One expert says that America is suffering from a misperception: There really isn’t any increase in police brutality, only an increase in the reporting of incidents due to a proliferation of cell phones and portable video devices in the hands of the populace.

In an August 12 article at the Wall Street Journal, Maria Haberfeld, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, insisted that there is no real growth in police brutality.

Despite the story in Ferguson, Missouri, or that of the New York man who died from a chokehold delivered by police there, Haberfeld says it is a misperception that police are increasingly resorting to violence.

“There is no escalation in the use of deadly force. What we are seeing is a proliferation of cellphones and cameras,” Professor Haberfeld said.

In a long interview in 2010, Haberfeld elobrated on this theme, saying that there is too much ignorance among the public and the media about how police are trained in the use of deadly force.

Concerning how use of force is judged, Haberfeld insisted, “To an untrained eye, somebody that doesn’t understand police work, it may look skewed towards law enforcement, but it’s really not.”

She went on to say, “We have to remember that we have over half a million armed police officers in this country. If police officers were really so trigger happy… we would have many more bodies on a daily basis than we have. It’s really very rare to see a police encounter in which someone ends up dead.”

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at


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