Usually condemned in the “civilized” world, the devices and techniques of police terror and violence have always been, and are still today, very frequently used, legally and illegally, as a means of social control. There is no difference between American and Soviet police terror; it is one of the techniques used by all police to achieve domination. Sociologically, it is a person, thing, or practice that causes intense fear and suffering, whose aim is to intimidate and subjugate. Targets of terror and violence in the American police system at the federal, state, and municipal level are criminals (organized and individual), extremists, radicals, and the like, who under pressure curtail or cease criminal activity within the jurisdiction of the agency.
Terror and violence as techniques are limited by the cultural standards which determine the extent and the ways in which these are expressed, inhibited, and sublimated. It is important to note that public knowledge of such activity by the police, through exposure, will result in stopping such operations and practices. However, after the public outcry and probable ensuing investigation, the practice will begin again as the criminal elements cannot be controlled by orthodox enforcement measures. Application of equal or superior force when dealing with criminal elements becomes a must at times in establishing superiority.
Psychological-terror methods, coupled with intimidation, aim to force the terror object to behave in a manner most favorable for the subject. These methods have an indirect, preventive character, with the intention of producing a psychological effect. All these steps aim to strike fear in the potential critics (criminal individuals) and impress on the masses that similar steps, even harsher ones, will follow in case of additional illegal activity.
An application of police terror directed at criminal elements is the Street Crime Unit (SCU) of the New York City Police Department. This unit fills the gap between routine, visible police patrol and after-the-fact criminal investigations. The unit focuses on street crimes—robbery, personal grand larceny, and assault. Its primary strategy employs officers disguised as potential crime victims placed in an area where they are likely to be victimized. A plainclothes back-up team waits nearby, ready to come to the decoy's aid and make an arrest. Only criminals perpetrating criminal acts are the object of this group's attention. Unsure as to which citizen is the policeman