Disproportionate Force

It is illegitimate for a State to use more than the minimum necessary violence when it is enforcing the law.  There are three all-too-common law-enforcement scenarios which can be classified as abusive:

  • Although physical coercion may be required to make an arrest, it is unacceptable to assault or injure a suspect.
  • Sometimes a very unpleasant relationship can develop between prisoners and their guards, in what Philip Zimbardo referred to as “The Lucifer Effect”. This can include torture, as described in the previous section (
  • The use of lethal force in crowd control, particularly against peaceful protests, is an abuse of power.

State violence often strengthens people’s determination to resist, as described in the next sub-section (

If a State uses violence against the person “as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population”, it is committing one of the “crimes against humanity” which are listed in Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).  The named individuals who are deemed to be responsible can be prosecuted at the ICC in some cases (



This is a current page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3a book, © PatternsofPower.org, 2020.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/7242.htm