Police Brutality Essay

Over the last few years, it seems that the police have gone more violent than ever before, and due to that, the issue has become more spoken about. Unfortunately, the news about a police officer acting brutally towards a citizen will not shock anyone these days. As the issue still exists, it seems that the members of the police do not fear the government, and despite some measures taken against this issue, the brutality continues. What is more, the majority of the situations, in which a police officer expresses violence towards someone, a black person is involved, and he or she do not play the offender’s part. Since the police brutality is often aimed at the black people, the issue becomes not only about committing a crime, but, what is more critical, committing a hate crime against another race. Over the past years, police brutality has gone on a higher level of violence, especially against black people, and US government does not seem to do anything about it. The actions of the current-day police echo the actions of the people, who were to monitor Black people during the times of slavery, except the slavery has been long gone, and Black people have been given the equal rights.

The police is a government state force, which is responsible for preventing and fighting crime, as well as providing a safe environment for the civilians. The given definition is supposed to dictate the police their behavior and show what exactly is being done. However, the official definition of the police does not seem to correlate to their actions in real life. “The public has been filming and broadcasting egregious acts of police violence since the 1990s.” (Scott, 13) However, as many acts of violence are being filmed, even more, are left unaddressed. It is not uncommon that the violent police outbursts end in the death of the victim. The brutality is often expressed for no reason at all, for example, according to Scott (14), “Miami-Dade Police choked a 14-year-old boy on Memorial Day 2013 because he watched them with what police described as “dehumanizing stares.” The statement sounds ridiculous, and not something that you expect to happen, yet the situations like this are too often. Another case, where the police have apparently crossed the line is reported in the article by Scott (18), where he explains that in 2006, in Atlanta, the police broke into the 92-year-old lady’s home, looking for drugs, have shot her in the process, yet have not found anything. Even if, hypothetically, the drugs were there, there is no particular reason to pull out a gun at a senior citizen. One part of the problem is that many times, the police overdo their job, and instead of protecting the citizens from the criminals, the police turns into the criminals, who hurt citizens in the first place.

The issue of police violence against citizens has not ever been purely political – the majority of the police brutality has a racial background. “Black and Latino’s men are significantly more likely than are Whites to be killed by police.” (Alang, 1127) What is more, while police continue to perform violent acts against people of color, law enforcement rarely take any action against it. “Racially disparate use of force indicates that White supremacy— the systematic positive assessments of whiteness that go hand-in-hand with the devaluation of blackness —permeates the US law enforcement system.” (Alang et al., 662) It seems that the period of slavery passed a long time ago, taking all of the hate towards Black people with it. However, all of the current-day data that can be witnessed every other week shows that America still hates Black people.

Most importantly, it includes the government. The evidence that supports this argument can be seen in the structure of the police. Even though many times the violent actions of the police can be left unaddressed, there are cases, when the incident, in which a police officer has crossed the lines of protecting either themselves or the citizens, is being dealt with. Usually, the actions are taken by the level of violence. Therefore, the police officer is faced with some disciplinary actions, a fine or is being fired from the department. If the police officer is being fired, he or she may want to continue working in this field, so he or she will try to apply for the same job in another department. Harris and Horace (2) state that the officials at the police departments “often do a poor job of screening out applicants, allowing in men and women who have already been proven to be bad cops in other departments.” It is often the case, where the chiefs of police departments tolerate “a pattern of police brutality and use of force against African-Americans.” (Boyd, 3)There has been a case, where a cop, who has killed a 12-year-old girl, successfully got a job in another police department. Now, in the era of mobile phones, such situations are likely to be filmed, therefore, gain publicity. Before that, however, the situation was even scarier than it is currently. In the 1970s there has been a secretive unit created in Detroit, in order to fight street crimes. Instead, this unit lived off the hate towards black people. The situation was so outrageous that Peterson was called “the most notorious killer cop in Detroit” (Binelli, 30), and by ‘killer,’ everyone meant specifically ‘black people killer.’

In the eyes of the Black people, the police are not seen as the government force to protect them, as the citizens of the United States of America, instead, they are seen as the establishment that poses a potential danger. Even though the justice system is meant to be equally effective and fair towards all of the US citizens, White and Black people have had completely different experiences within the criminal justice system throughout history. “Mainly, whites see the law as a force to serve and protect their rights and their property in a democracy. Blacks have been more likely to experience it as an agent that denies their rights.” (Staples, 31) Over the years, since the times, when slavery was a constitutionalized phenomenon, the government did not care for the safety, or overall right of the non-white people. Even during slavery, when there was a small number of rights that applied to the Black people, those rights were most likely neglected. The famous case of Dred Scott serves as one of the evidence. Nowadays, it seems that society has finally realized that the color of the skin does not define the person’s actions. However, the fact that Black people still feel unprotected as the citizens of their own country completely negated the previous statement. “The impact of police brutality is much broader than simply affecting the individuals who have experienced racialized violence. It is a constant reminder of the historical and current devaluing of Black lives.” (Alang et al., 663) Seeing too much police brutality towards the members of their community and the police officers, who are not punished for their actions lefts Black people with no hope towards the better future.

The public and the government tend to ignore, or forget soon enough, all of the issues that are related to the police brutality, especially if the case includes a Black person as a victim. As society has stepped into the world of modern technologies, social media has played a huge role in people’s involvement in all of what happens in the government. As soon as the controversial topic reaches the public, the whole world hears about it. Because of this, many problems have been solved, as it is hard not to address something that at least half of the country knows about. Such novelty has played a massive part in the topic of police brutality. Many videos of police brutality have gone viral on various social media sites, leading to people being aware that the issue exists. What is more, it is likely that the government officials will address the issue, and punish those responsibly. However, once again, despite the issues being addressed, there is a massive part of society that is racist, and many people of this part are, unfortunately, a part of the authority too. The racist part of the society that is general public makes sure to react to such incidents in the manner, suitable to them. It is common for people to start arguing that “victims were somehow responsible for their untimely murders—dissecting the guilt or innocence of the murdered persons versus understanding how White supremacy might have caused this.” (Alang et al., 663) It is a quite common move for a government to cover up the tragic events, in order to keep the panic away from the people, and it happens even more often when the events include two categories of people: police officers and Black people. The police, in the first place, is the establishment, which represents the government to protect the citizens. Therefore, every action that the police do can be interpreted as something that the government allows. If the police officer brutally assaults the unarmed citizen, just because he or he considered the latter ‘suspicious,’ it can be seen as the action, which government considers normal. However, instead of dealing with the issue, the officials try hard to cover up the fact that the issue was present in the first place. Even though a lot of violent interactions of the police and the citizens are recorded, it is not hard to imagine that many of such situations are left unseen. There has been an experiment conducted by Rialto, California Police. During the experiment, officers were cameras that captured every interaction with a citizen. Scott (13), reports that “the video cameras resulted in a 60 percent drop in use of force and an 88 percent drop in complaints against officers.” Such experiments show that there are solutions to the currently existing problems, yet government and state authorities keep ignoring this solution along the problem itself.

On the other hand, a lot of the information that is presented on the topic of police brutality comes from biased individuals. Therefore the picture cannot be seen in the full scope. Anzilotti (n.p.) explores the issue of police brutality from both sides, stating that only this approach will help the issue be solved. Due to the issue often having only one side, who has the victims, it is evident that the public will choose this side to give the word. However, to understand the big picture of the problem, it is necessary to hear both sides. “For people on either side of it, police brutality is an issue that only has one side.” (Anzilotti, n.p.) Police are the governmental establishment. Therefore, it has strict rules and, for the most part, the general public does not understand them. “Understanding law enforcement’s processes, the points at which decisions are made and in response to what governmental or intra-agency pressures, will give community members another lens through which to view the reforms they are pushing for.” (Anzilotti, n.p.) The government can play a critical role in the solution of this issue. Instead of neglecting the issue of police brutality, the officials could present a safe environment for both parties to express the opinions, therefore, leading to a better understanding between the police and the community.

Police brutality is an issue that has existed for a long time. What is very important, the majority of violent acts happens against Black people. Therefore, violence against the Black people during the times of slavery is considered to be the closest ‘ancestor’ of the current issue. During the times of slavery, Black people had a small number of rights, and yet they almost every time were denied. Nowadays, Black people are finally considered to be full citizens of the United States. However, they still feel heavily unprotected by the US government. The fact that police brutality exists in the first place proves that authorities do not do anything to solve the issue. While brutality does not necessarily mean violence, many of the cases of such ends in civilian’s death. It is important to note that in the majority of cases the victim of police brutality is unarmed, a minor, or a senior citizen, which means that the police officer had no reason to perform violent acts or to pull out a gun. However, while the government has neglected the issue for many years, there might be a possible solution. The police officers need to be heard, in order to understand the full picture of the problem. Hearing both parties will lead to better communication between the police and the community.

Works Cited

Alang, Sirry, McAlpine, Donna, McCreedy, Ellen & Hardeman, Rachel. “Police Brutality and Black Health: Setting the Agenda for Public Health Scholars.” American Journal of Public Health, vol. 107, no. 5, 2017, pp. 662–665. doi:10.2105/ajph.2017.303691

Alang, Sirry. “The More Things Change, The More Things Stay the Same: Race, Ethnicity, and Police Brutality.” American Journal of Public Health, vol. 108, no. 9, 2018, pp. 1127-1128. doi:10.2105/ajph.2018.304628

Anzilotti, Ellie. “Will Seeing Both Sides Of The Issue Help End Police Brutality?” Fast Company. Retrieved form https://www.fastcompany.com/40519064/will-seeing-both-sides-of-the-issue-help-end-police-brutality

Binelli, Mark. “The Fire Last Time.” New Republic. 2017, pp. 28-41.

Boyd, Herb. “Lawsuit Filled in Ossining Death.” The New York Amsterdam News. 1999. Print

Harris, Ron & Horace Matthew. “The Abuse Won’t Stop Until We Change Police Culture.” The Skanner. 2018.

Scott, Rion Amalcar. “The Etiquette of Police Brutality.” The Crisis Magazine. 2015.

Staples, Robert. “White Power, Black Crime, and Racial Politics.” The Black Scholar, vol. 41, no. 4, pp. 31-41.

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