Stun Devices Usage by Police Is Attributed to the Broken Windows Theory

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What Is Broken Windows Theory

Stun device usage by the police can partially be attributed to the Broken Windows Theory. Broken Windows Theory is a theory that seeks to explain the causation behind various actions. The theory essentially states that an initial action can spark a chain reaction of events (Gau and Pratt 2010). The concept of Broken Window Theory can thus be applied to a variety of actions, including the use of stun devices through police use of force, pertaining to both the police and offenders. For example, a police officer who apprehends a violent offender with the aid of a stun device will likely seek to use the stun device again if a similar situation arises due to the efficacy of the stun device in the first circumstance. Other officers may witness the use of the stun device and its efficacy, then deciding to use the device themselves, thus triggering a chain reaction (Gau and Pratt 2010). Broken Windows Theory can further be applied when investigating areas with high crime rates (Harcourt 2009). Areas with individuals committing relatively low priority offenses, such as prostitution and panhandling, may entice other individuals seeking to commit more serious crimes, as they observe the individuals committing low priority offenses not being apprehended (Welsh et al 2015). This can subsequently result in increased criminal activity in these areas, resulting in increased police activity, resulting in police resorting to the use of stun devices when apprehending offenders in such areas. Thus, the Broken Windows Theory can ultimately cause increased crime rates, and thus increased utilization of stun devices. Therefore, it is evident how the use of stun devices can be partially attributed to the Broken Windows Theory.

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Stun Devices and Their Use

Stun devices are utilised by the police when dealing with violent offenders. However, there are other individuals that police officers may use stun devices on in the best interests of police and public safety, such as the mentally ill. Stun devices are used in over 40 countries (Chappell 2010), mostly against violent offenders, that is offenders that pose immediate risks to police and public safety (White and Ready 2007). A recent review supported this, finding that the use of stun devices resulted in decreased risk to police officers and that they aided in de-escalating violent situations (Jenkinson et al 2005). However, stun devices are also used when dealing with mentally ill offenders (Chappell 2010). When police officers are dealing with the mentally ill, these mentally ill individuals frequently are experiencing delusions, paranoia and are fearful for their own safety (Chappell 2010). This can make reasoning with them difficult, which is further exasperated by the little mental health training that police currently undertake (Chappell 2010). The unpredictability of the offenders thus poses a significant risk to police and public safety, thus warranting the use of force through the utilisation of stun devices. Therefore, it is evident that stun devices are used by the police when dealing with violent offenders as well as other groups such as the mentally ill.

Social Learning Theory Is Another Basis for Using Stun Devices

The use of stun devices by police can be partially attributed to Social Learning Theory. Social Learning Theory is the theory that all actions and behaviours are learnt (Tu 2000). The theory suggests that individuals may observe the actions of other individuals, witnessing the consequences of their actions and then in turn be influenced to do something similar (Tu 2000). This can thus be used to explain the usage of stun devices in correlation to both the police and offenders. Similarly to Broken Windows Theory, a police officer may witness another officer applying use of force through utilising a stun device. The significant potential benefits to using a stun device when apprehending an offender, such as the benefits to police and public safety thus may influence other officers to use stun devices as well due to them witnessing the use of a stun device first hand (Tu 2000). Social Learning Theory can further be applied to offenders. Offences such as violent crimes including assault and homicide, can also be attributed to Social Learning Theory (Akers and Jensen 2011). A study by Rosemary Gartner found that exposure to violence and cultural heterogeneity were significant factors that contributed to homicides in 18 countries (Akers and Jensen 2011). The factors of exposure to violence and cultural heterogeneity, “the presence of competing and conflicting cultural models” (Harding 2011), can be described as features of Social Learning Theory as both have the ability to influence individuals behaviours (Tu 2000). Thus, if offenders actions can be attributed to Social Learning Theory, any officers who apprehend such offenders through the use of stun devices are thus being inadvertently effected and influenced by Social Learning Theory too. Therefore, it is clear that the use of stun devices can be partially attributed to Social Learning Theory.

Conclusion

Ultimately is it evident that the use of stun devices is beneficial to police and public safety when arresting violent offenders. This is clear when examining the functionality of stun devices and exploring the benefits such devices have, whilst also noting the issues regarding their use. Furthermore, the use of stun devices is not just limited to violent offenders, with them also being used on other types of offenders, including the mentally ill. The utilisation of stun devices by the police can be attributed to a number of theories, these including Social Contract, Social Learning and Broken Windows Theory. This discussion of who stun devices are used on and the reasons behind their usage ultimately reveals their efficacy and the justification behind their usage. Thus, is it clear that the use of stun devices is beneficial to police and public safety when arresting violent offenders.

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