"Excessive force" redirects here. For the film, see Excessive Force (film). For the band, see Excessive Force.
Ian Tomlinson after being pushed to the ground by police in London (2009). He collapsed and died soon after.
Police brutality is the wanton use of excessive force, usually physical, but potentially in the form of verbal attacks and psychological intimidation, by a police officer.
Widespread police brutality exists in many countries, even those that prosecute it. It is one of several forms of police misconduct, which include: false arrest; intimidation; racial profiling; political repression; surveillance abuse; sexual abuse; and police corruption.
April 21, 2001: Police fire CS gas at protesters during the Quebec City Summit of the Americas. The Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP later concluded the use of tear gas against demonstrators at the summit constituted "excessive and unjustified force."
The word "brutality" has several meanings; the sense used here (savage cruelty) was first used in 1633. The first known use of the term "police brutality" was in the New York Times in 1893, describing a police officer's beating of a civilian.
The origin of modern policing based on the authority of the nation state is commonly traced back to developments in seventeenth and eighteenth century France, with modern police departments being established in most nations by the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Cases of police brutality appear to have been frequent then, with "the routine bludgeoning of citizens by patrolmen armed with nightsticks or blackjacks." Large-scale incidents of brutality were associated with labor strikes, such as the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, the Pullman Strike of 1894, the Lawrence textile strike of 1912, the Ludlow massacre of 1914, the Steel strike of 1919, and the Hanapepe massacre of 1924.
Portions of the population may perceive the police to be oppressors. In addition, there is a perception that victims of police brutality often belong to relatively powerless groups, such as minorities, the disabled, the young, and the poor.
Hubert Locke writes, "When used in print or as the battle cry in a black power rally, police brutality can by implication cover a number of practices, from calling a citizen by his or her first name to a death by a policeman's bullet. What the average citizen thinks of when he hears the term, however, is something midway between these two occurrences, something more akin to what the police profession knows as 'alley court'