Police BrutalityProtecting the public is the main mandate that the police are charged with. For the most part, police officers execute this mandate faithfully. For example, every day, police officers risk their lives in their quest to insulate communities against criminal elements. However, recently, questions have been raised about whether the police are truly committed to protecting the public. These questions have been triggered by incidents of police brutality. Police brutality is a serious problem that must be tackled if law enforcement agencies are to gain the trust of the public and fight crime effectively.
What is Police Brutality
Police brutality has gained increasing attention in recent days. At its core, police brutality involves the use of excessive force by police officers (Peeples, 2020). For example, recently, in response to protests against police brutality, police officers were shown teargassing and using rubber bullets against protestors across the US. Whereas it is true that all Americans are vulnerable to police brutality, communities of color bear the brunt of this problem. For example, police officers have faced accusations of using lethal violence against unarmed African American men.
Types of Police Brutality
Police brutality is a broad and complex phenomenon. There are various types of police brutality. The main types include verbal abuse, physical assault, and inmate abuse. Other forms of police brutality are false arrests and imprisonment, sexual abuse perpetrated by police officers, racial profiling, and intimidation (Brantley, 2020). While there are numerous forms of police brutality, the use of excessive force is the most common. For example, there have been instances where police officers use chokeholds to subdue suspects. The numerous deaths that have occurred as a result of the chokeholds have prompted police departments to review their policies regarding this technique.
Causes of Police Brutality
A number of factors have been blamed for causing and encouraging police brutality. An institutional culture that is based on racist approaches and values is among these causes (Wolcott, 2015). For example, in response to the killing of George Floyd, it has emerged that across the US, there are police departments with cultures that encourage officers to use excessive force against African Americans and other people of color. These communities are regarded as threats that must be contained at all costs. The failure to train police officers adequately on how to de-escalate situations and engage with the public in ways that promote trust is another cause of police brutality (Wolcott, 2015). For example, when police training focuses on the use of violence, it should not be surprising that officers become brutal. There are situations where officers should opt for dialogue instead of violence. For example, when responding to crises involving mentally ill individuals, officers should abandon violence in favor of conversation.
The US criminal justice and political systems have also been cited as among the drivers of police brutality and violence (Wolcott, 2015). For example, in nearly all instances, officers charged with police brutality are acquitted even when there is overwhelming evidence. In some instances, the officers are not charged at all and are able to keep their jobs. Furthermore, the American political system tends to side with the police at the expense of victims of police brutality. For instance, it is not uncommon for union leaders and politicians to defend officers accused of using excessive force. It is clear that police brutality in the US is a complex problem that can only be solved through interventions that target the root causes of this issue.
Origins of Police Brutality
Police brutality in the US has a long and complex history. Police brutality in the country can be traced back to the 19th century. For example, soon after the first police department was set up in 1838, police officers engaged in various forms of brutality (Nodjimbadem, 2020). Such groups as European immigrants who had recently arrived in the country bore the brunt of brutality and violence. In the late 19th century, police brutality became a normalized part of police operations. During this period, Jim Crow laws instituted across the American South empowered police officers to use excessive violence to perpetrate oppression against the African American community (Nodjimbadem, 2020). The prohibition era is another period where police brutality was laid bare. It was established that police officers tended to use excessive force to enforce the prohibition laws. It was not until the 1960s that police brutality became even clearer. In response to the Civil Rights Movement, police officers employed unacceptably brutal techniques (Nodjimbadem, 2020). In addition to beatings, they also killed dozens of unarmed African Americans protesting against the unjust systems in the country. The 1990s further saw an escalation of police brutality with African Americans again witnessing the worst effects of this problem. Today, police brutality remains as prevalent and serious as it was in past years.
Police Brutality Cases and Statistics
The cases and statistics regarding police brutality reveal how pervasive and deeply rooted this problem is. There are many cases that highlight police brutality. Among these cases include the recent killings of George Floyd, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Alton Sterling, and Philando Castille, among many others. All these were unarmed black males whose lives were ended by police officers using unreasonably excessive and lethal force. These black men join a long list of Americans who have died in the hands of brutal police officers. Data shows that between 2015 and 2016, 1,348 people were killed by police (Picheta, 2020). This figure underscores the need for urgent interventions to address the police brutality problem.
In closing, police brutality is among the problems that erode the effectiveness of law enforcement in the US. Every year, the US has consistently recorded thousands of cases of police brutality. This problem can be blamed on a culture that is reluctant to hold police officers accountable. Furthermore, police brutality is the result of racism and discrimination which have infiltrated the American criminal justice and law enforcement systems. There is no question that the US needs to move with speed in developing solutions to police brutality.
Brantley, R. (2020). Types of police brutality. Riddle & Brantley. https://justicecounts.com/personal-injury/types-of-police-brutality/
Nodjimbadem, K. (2020). The long, painful history of police brutality in the U.S. Smithsonian Magazine. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/long-painful-history-police-brutality-in-the-us-180964098/
Peeples, L. (2020). What the data say about police brutality and racial bias — and which reforms might work. Nature. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-01846-z
Picheta, R. (2020). American police shoot, kill and imprison more people than other developed countries. Here’s the data. CNN. https://edition.cnn.com/2020/06/08/us/us-police-floyd-protests-country-comparisons-intl/index.html
Wolcott, J. (2015). The other cultural forces behind police brutality. Vanity Fair. https://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2015/06/police-deaths-baltimore-ferguson-james-wolcott