- May 21, 2020
Police brutality is a type of misconduct by law enforcers. Inconducting their duties, police officers are legally allowed to usephysical force to restrain violent people. However, the Human RightsWatch (1) notes that some law enforcers use excessive force thatincludes “unjustified shootings, severe beatings, fatal choking,and unnecessarily rough treatment”. Such police brutality is agrave abuse of human rights, which is widespread all over the UnitedStates. The problem is aggravated by the fact that many brutalofficers escape punishment and frequently repeat the human rightsviolations. In addition, the criminal justice system, which isexpected to deter police brutality, habitually fails to reprimand orrestrain officers who use excessive force.
In the following discussion, the paper produces facts and statisticsthat depict police brutality as an important socio-political problem,explains why the problem exists, discusses attempts that have beenmade towards solving police brutality, and why they did not work.
as an Important Socio-Political Problem
Police brutality is a significant socio-political problem becausethere is ample evidence to demonstrate the widespread use ofunnecessary force towards civilians by law enforcers. Researchindicates that the use of excessive force by police has been on therise in 2016 (Kindy, Lowery, Rich, Tate and Jenkins 1). The figure ofdeadly shootings by law enforcers rose from 465 last year to 491during the first six months of 2016, which is an indication of a 6%increase in police brutality (Kindy et al. 1). Recent statisticspoint out that “the year is not over yet, and police have alreadykilled at least 896 people. Many of whom were unarmed, mentally ill,and people of color” (Calacal 1). This means that more policebrutality has been recorded after the first six months of the year.
More alarming is the fact that, although law enforcement departmentsclaim to handle all civilians equally, police violence appears to behigher towards people of color and minorities (Calcal 1). Accordingto Kindy et al. (1), African Americans progress to be shot 2.5 timeshigher compared to whites. The situation is worsened by the fact thatpolice progress to shot and kill more blacks and other individualsfrom minority populations who are not armed. A study conducted by TheGuardian reveals “that 32% of black people killed by police in 2015were unarmed, as were 25% of Hispanic and Latino people, comparedwith 15% of white people killed” (Swaine, Laughland and Lartey 1).The statistics are a clear sign that minorities are the main victimsof police brutality, especially in cases where the brutality resultsin death.
In most cases, police violence is perpetrated through theunwarranted shooting of victims. However, brutality has also beenreported following altercations of suspects with law enforcers inpolice custody (Swaine, Laughland and Lartey 1). Officers react tosuch disagreements by severely beating the victims or through roughtreatment. In addition, deaths have been reported after the use oftasers on suspects by police (Swaine, Laughland and Lartey 1). Tasersare supposed to be used by officers to subdue suspects that mayattempt to escape arrest. They have been considered a betteralternative to the use of lethal weapons, like firearms.Nevertheless, law enforcers seem to use tasers at an increased andunwarranted frequency (Swaine, Laughland and Lartey 1). This isespecially the case when officers are confronted with an individualthat has a mental illness, and who is likely to react to policearrest with agitation. Generally, officers are unable to handle amentally ill suspect. Hence, they may confuse the agitation asresistance to arrest, resulting in increased use of force on theindividual (Kindy et al. 1).
The rise in police brutality has resulted in widespread distrust oflaw enforcement agencies by the public. This is especially the caseamong African Americans and other minority groups, who feel that theyare targeted by law enforcers. Society feels that the government hasfailed in protecting their human rights. The situation is morealarming because even in cases where police brutality is reported,officers are not held accountable. They either receive insignificantor no punishment (Calacal 1).
Reasons why Exists
Police brutality is widespread in America because the country has aviolence problem (Brooks 1). The United States is the only countrythat does not have stringent laws against gun ownership. As a result,more civilians are able to buy and access firearms, while gun relatedviolence in the country is high. Police officers have also beenvictims of gun violence during the arrest of suspects. This in turnhas a negative impact on how law enforcers react to suspects. Policefrequently assume that during any encounter with an offender, theindividual is likely to be carrying a firearm. Thus, the increasedrate of police brutality through unjustified shootings arises fromAmerica’s violence problem.
Apart from violence, “America also has a racism problem” (Brooks1). African Americans as well as other minority groups continue tostruggle to triumph over racial differences, because the country haswidespread active racism towards minorities. This has resulted inwidespread disparity between how minorities and whites are treated.In specific, blacks have a higher likelihood to be arrested ascompared to whites. The higher rates of arrest derive from thepresumption that African Americans are more prone to engaging incrime, and that they are violent. As a result, during arrests ofsuspects, some police officers assume that when dealing with anAfrican American, he or she is likely to resist arrest. The outcomeis always an unjustified use of force by law enforcers.
In addition, police brutality exists due to the U.S. policingproblem. The country has a very large workforce that comprises of“some 18,000 separate state and local police departments and 73federal law enforcement agencies” (Brooks 1). The departments aremade up of “city police, state police, sheriff’s offices,university police, transport system police, and a range of otherspecial jurisdiction departments” (Brooks 1). Also, the departmentshave different rules, training programs and procedures of operation.This means that the American police force is not guided by a singlepolicy, and also police officers employed receive different trainingon how to deal with suspects. Research demonstrates that suchdifferences are likely to contribute towards police brutality (Brooks1). For instance, a city police unit’s training program does notinclude teaching the officers on how to handle mentally ill suspects,the law enforcers from the unit may be incapable of handling thesituation and act aggressively towards the suspect.
Attempts made to solve the Problem
Training reforms have introduced in many police units. The objectiveof the reforms is to train law enforcers on how to restrain suspectswithout using force (Kindy et al. 1). Also, realizing that policebrutality is perpetrated towards unarmed individuals who have mentalillness, law enforcement agencies realize the need to teach officerson how to handle such people. Another attempt has been theintroduction of “police-worn body cameras, surveillance cameras,cameras mounted on patrol cars” (Kindy et al. 1). The cameras areaimed at capturing any form of police brutality, which makes iteasier to convict law enforcers that use violence. The availabilityof video evidence has resulted in the firing of some officers, whileothers have been criminally charged.
Why the Attempts have failed
The main reason why attempts to end police brutality have failed isdue to lack of public accountability by law enforcement departmentsand the criminal justice system. The Human Rights Watch (1)expresses concern that even when cases of police violence arereported, there is a constant failure by supervisors to investigateas well as punish the law enforcers that violate human rights.Calacal (1) further notes that even police violence is reported, itis possible for law enforcement departments to fail to punish theofficers. Even when reprimanded, the punishment is always minor.Cases that have made their way to courts have often been unsuccessfulbecause the jury ends up exonerating the brutal police officers fortheir crime. In addition, considering that law enforcers are legallyallowed to use force during arrests and when need arises, many takeadvantage of the law and use force even when unjustified. In mostcases, it is difficult to determine if the use of violence waswarranted, especially when there are no witnesses to support the useof police brutality.
Police brutality, which is the unjustified use of forcetowards suspects by law enforcers, is a common phenomenon in America.Many officers, in their line of duty, use force to make arrests. Thishas resulted in the killing of civilians, including those unarmed andthe mentally sick. Police brutality is as a result of the violence,racism and policing problem in the United States. Attempts such aspolice training reforms and use of cameras have been unsuccessful insolving the problem, due to lack of accountability by policedepartments and the criminal justice system.
Brooks, Rosa. America’s Police Problem is not Just About Police.Foreign Policy, 5 Jan. 2016. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/01/05/americas-police-problem-isnt-just-about-police-guns-violence/
Calacal, Celisa. This is how many People Police have Killed so far in2016. Think Progress, 5 Jul. 2016. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.https://thinkprogress.org/this-is-how-many-people-police-have-killed-so-far-in-2016-7f1aec6b7098#.2n86vnrlm
Human Rights Watch. , 2016. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.https://www.hrw.org/legacy/about/initiatives/police.htm
Kindy, Kimberly., Lowery, Wesley., Rich, Steven., Tate, Julie andJenkins, Jennifer. Fatal Shootings by Police are up in the First SixMonths of 2016, Post Analysis Finds. The Washington Post, 7Jul. 2016. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/fatal-shootings-by-police-surpass-2015s-rate/2016/07/07/81b708f2-3d42-11e6-84e8-1580c7db5275_story.html
Swaine, Jon., Laughland, Oliver and Lartey, Jamiles. Black AmericansKilled by Police Twice as Likely to be Unarmed as White People. TheGuardian, 1 Jun. 2015. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jun/01/black-americans-killed-by-police-analysis