United Nations Torture Convention of
 "Any act by which severe pain or
suffering, whether physical or mental, is
intentionally inflicted on a person for such
purposes as obtaining from him or a
third person information or a confession,
punishing him for an act he or a third
person has committed or is suspected of
having committed, or intimidating or
coercing him or a third person, or for any
reason based on discrimination of any
kind, when such pain or suffering is
inflicted by or at the instigation of or with
the consent or acquiescence of a public
official or other person acting in an official
Torture (Stanford Encyclopedia of
Philosophy) - This entry is in four parts.
The first part addresses the question
what is torture?; the second part, what
is wrong with torture?; the third part, is
torture ever morally justifiable?; and the
last part, should torture ever be legalised
or otherwise institutionalised?
This suspect is really bad news.  During
the arrest, the suspect resisted, and you
used your Taser to subdue the suspect,
so you're surprised when the suspect
subsequently agrees to be interrogated.  
You have the suspect transported to
your department's robbery unit where
detectives are waiting to conduct an
interrogation.  Since you're new and
eager to learn, you'd like to be present
for the interrogation, so you ask the lead
detective for permission to sit in and
observe.  Since your request is perfectly
reasonable, you have no idea what a big
mistake you've just made.

The beginning of the interrogation goes
along routinely as the suspect is given
his Miranda warnings which he waives
agreeing to answer questions.  Even
though you're inexperienced, it soon
becomes evident to you that this suspect
doesn't intend to admit to anything.  
You're not all that impressed with the
obvious frustration being displayed by
the lead detective as the suspect voices
nothing but denials and useless banter.  
By the suspect's facial expressions, it's
apparent that he's pleased with himself
as the lead detective stands up and
slowly walks around the table and behind
the suspect as he continues to ask
questions.  When the detective stops
directly behind the suspect, you notice a
Taser in the detective's hand.  Before
you can interrupt what is about to
happen, the detective presses the Taser
against the suspect's shoulder and,
"Zap!"  The suspect goes flying off the
chair and lands on the floor in a seizure
like state... okay, let's end the scenario

You've just observed a detective – a
police officer – commit a criminal act, and
an act of torture.  Now... how should you
feel, and what should you do?  

The first part of this question is easy.  
You should feel enraged; not because the
detective tasered a useless piece of
humanity, but because he committed a
criminal act right in front of you, and he
expects you to be okay with it and –
most importantly – be part of the criminal

The second part of the question, what
should you do, is not that easy.  You
could zap that detective with your Taser
and arrest him.  Actually, as the scenario
is described, your use of force and arrest
of the detective would be perfectly
lawful.  The detective committed a
criminal assault in your presence, and
your use of force would be justified to
disarm him of his Taser.  While this
course of action would be legal, it
wouldn't be advisable.  What you
definitely should do is put your handcuffs
back on your suspect and spirit him back
to the lock-up, or the point of the arrest
process from which you removed him for
the interrogation.

Hopefully, you'll never have to experience
anything like the scenario describes, and
you'll never have to decide on any action
or inaction to undertake following such
an event.  The best way for you to avoid
being compromised by those lacking
integrity or brains is to immediately begin
to establish your reputation for
adherence to principled and lawful
conduct in everything you do.  Others will
avoid placing you in compromising
situations when they realize your low
tolerance for stupid non-sense.   

As far as the limited use of what is
commonly referred to as aggressive or
enhanced interrogation techniques used
against terrorists, I have no problem with
terrorists being subjected to the
enhanced versions as long as it's not
police officers doing the interrogations.  
It shouldn't take you too long to learn
that liberty, justice, and survival is a
balancing act.  In a country where liberty
and justice is balanced better than most,
the threat – and indeed the realty – of
terrorist acts of disastrous proportions
have placed survival squarely within the
balancing act.
"No matter how intelligence
information is obtained, its value will
always be determined by the means
and methods available to verify or
discredit the information."
~ Barry M. Baker
While the United Nations may be one of
the most corrupt and inefficient
organizations on the planet, its definition
of torture seems to be pretty
reasonable.  However, as long as
terrorism remains the focal point of
anything, it's highly unlikely – make that
impossible – that any definition of torture
will be universally accepted to any
reasonable degree.

I think that anyone who looks at some of
the torture devices from centuries past
can agree that any interrogations
involving their uses constituted cruel,
inhuman and depraved treatment
inflicting severe physical and mental pain
and suffering.  However, those devices
are not the subject of modern torture
methods; even though, the most
discussed method, water-boarding, does
date back to the Spanish Inquisition.
A big part of the torture debate revolves
around the question, "Does torture
work?"  A lot of time and energy is
wasted on this question since torture
obviously works.  If torture is applied to
obtain a confession, those applying the
torture already know what they want to
hear.  American POW's during the Viet
Nam war were subjected to torture to
extract confessions of war crimes for
political propaganda dissemination.  
There will always be plenty of people,
even Americans, who are eager to believe
the worst about their own.  Why do you
think Jane Fonda will be forever known as
"Hanoi Jane?"

Then, there's the quality of intelligence
information question.  This should be a
no brainer, but some people will never
seem to understand the nature of
information regarding its timely relevance
and methods to verify information
acquired by any means... including
torture.  Simply put, information will be
timely and good, or it will be bad,  or it will
be out of date and no longer relevant.  
No matter how intelligence information is
obtained, its value will always be
determined by the means and methods
available to verify or discredit the

As a police officer, you'll have the luxury
of avoiding the torture debate, because
you'll never have a reason, valid or
otherwise, to apply torture to anyone.  
You will have occasions where you'll be
required to apply severe physical pain
and suffering to subdue suspects.  The
degree of pain and the duration of
suffering will depend upon the level of
force exerted against you to prevent you
from effecting a lawful arrest.  Your use
of deadly force will be the ultimate force
whether or not death results from your
use of deadly force.  Whatever degree of
force you use during the course of your
duty, your application of force ends as
soon as the suspect is incapacitated or
otherwise under your control.  

As a police officer, if you use your
knowledge and instruments of force to
extract a confession, or other
information, from a suspect, you'll be
committing a criminal assault, and it
won't make any difference how your
application of force is described...
torture, brutality, excessive force, or an
act done in good faith due to exigent
circumstances... it just doesn't matter.

Although American police officers are very
much a part of the war against terrorism,
police officers operate in domestic
jurisdictions where police officers are
expected, and indeed required, to
respect the civil rights of every person
with whom they come into contact.  
When you become a police officer, you'll
work with a few who think that
extraordinary means are justified to meet
just ends for the public good.

Imagine yourself in this scenario.  You're
a new police officer who's just
apprehended a robbery suspect.  There's
no question that this suspect is a
dangerous felon.  During the robbery in
question, the suspect shot and wounded
the victim.  While your arrest of the
suspect was based on sufficient probable
cause, there's probably not enough
evidence currently developed to obtain a
conviction.  The victim's identification of
the suspect is less than positive, and the
gun the suspect used has not been
recovered.  Other circumstantial evidence
does exist; however, a confession from
the suspect would seal the deal.  

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Becoming a Police Officer
An Insider's Guide to a Career
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While television police
shows and movies are not
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for you to apply to your
police career, they do
sometimes offer some
valuable insights.
The good news is...the
odds of you having to  use
deadly force is low.  The
bad news is...you will be
faced with that decision.