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Manners of Death in Police Research Paper

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Updated: May 24th, 2021

Police violence

The increased incidence of police violence that occurred over the last years has raised interest in the treatment of inmates in the US jails and during arrest procedures (Wihbey & Kille, 2016). Numerous researchers investigated the problem of deaths in custody and found that the incidence of this issue was very high and many of such deaths remained uninvestigated (Pearl, 2015). In fact, Lantigua-Williams (2016) noted that almost 7000 deaths in custody were registered in the US between 2005 and 2015.

Also, according to the data of the Bureau of Justice Statistics (2017), the incidence of various manners of deaths in custody (intoxication, suicide, accidents) rose significantly over the last several years. The US state selected for the report concerning the deaths in custody in California. The Bureau of Justice Statistics (2017) mentioned California among the states with the highest rate of deaths in custody. Criminal justice authorities of this state have compiled a detailed report presenting statistics of deaths in custody. The authors of the report also provided diverse sets of data sorting the incidence of death in custody in the state of California by various features such as the demographic characteristics of the victims, the surrounding circumstances, and manners of death.

As presented in the report by McCrary and Raphael (2015), the largest number of deaths in custody occurred among sentenced inmates – about 400-450 in 2012 and 2013 and less than 400 in 2014. Deaths during the arrest process are the second most common incident, and over 150 deaths of this type were registered every year between 2012 and 2014 (McCrary & Raphael, 2015). Black individuals had the highest rate of arrest-related deaths – 3.59 percent, Native Americans had 1.35 percent, Hispanic people – 1.11 percent, and whites – 0.77 percent. Rates of pre-trial deaths showed a similar pattern, with Black and Native Americans having the highest percentages – 4.39 and 2.79 percent, respectively (McCrary & Raphael, 2015). The number of prison deaths was the highest among white inmates (almost 1.70 percent of the prison population); Black inmates had the second-largest rate – 0.92 percent (McCrary & Raphael, 2015). Among the leading causes of death in custody there are natural causes (61.39 percent), justifiable homicide by law enforcement (14.35 percent), suicide (10.53 percent), accidents (8.37 percent), and homicide by other inmates (2.75 percent) (McCrary & Raphael, 2015). Such causes of death as intoxications by alcohol and drugs are not mentioned in the report.

Death of multiple individuals

The discussion of excited delirium is focused on its validity as a cause of death of multiple individuals whose arrest was associated with violence and struggle between the affected individual and police officers. Practically, the question is whether this condition that is not recognized by American Psychiatric Association or the World Health Organization is a real health problem or a cover-up used as an excuse for police violence. In my opinion, the deaths of the two individuals discussed in the debate happened due to different causes. In particular, the first subject started showing signs of aggressive behavior before the police arrived to handle him. In fact, his violent and dangerous behavior was the reason why the police were called. The man was difficult to handle due to his very large size and because he was heavily intoxicated by two different types of drugs which were the likely cause of his state.

It was the duty of the officers to subdue the dangerous subject in order to provide medical help for him; however, none of their attempts to stop him from fighting were successful until the subject collapsed and soon stopped breathing. His delusional and aggressive behavior was caused by the abuse of intoxicating substances, one of which was cocaine. There exists medical research that links the set of symptoms known as excited delirium to two more conditions proposing that they may be a spectrum of a single illness (Takeuchi, Ahern, & Henderson, 2011). Practically, the cause of death of this man could be a combination of intoxication that causes delirium, a preexisting medical condition, and the exhausting fight with the police that eventually caused his heart to stop.

The situation with the second individual is very different. Even though there was a struggle during his arrest, the man was not intoxicated with any substances and at some point expressed the desire to cooperate with the police. However, he was tased in his chest multiple times before he died (Sullivan, 2007). Research by Zipes (2007) reviewed the results of several autopsies of subjects who died after being tased in their chests and found that Tasers can cause cardiac arrest in people of various ages and sizes with or without a preexisting heart condition. In that way, I have to conclude that the death of the second subject was caused by the excessive use of force from the side of the police. The fact that in both of these cases, the law enforcement organizations used excited delirium as an explanation of the deaths in custody means that this unrecognized concept of a condition is overused by the law authorities and can serve as a general excuse in most cases of deaths in custody regardless of it being unrealistic.


Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2017).. Web.

Lantigua-Williams, J. (2016). The Atlantic. Web.

McCrary, J., & Raphael, S. (2015). Web.

Pearl, M. (2015). Web.

Sullivan, L. (2007). Web.

Takeuchi, A., Ahern, T. L., & Henderson, S. O. (2011). Excited delirium. The Western Journal of Emergency Medicine, 12(1), 77-83.

Wihbey, J., & Kille, L. (2016). Web.

Zipes, D. P. (2007). TASER electronic control devices can cause cardiac arrest in humans. Circulation, 129(1), 101-111.

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