In the contemporary community, handling citizens, police have been blamed for excessive use of force. Police brutality arises when dealing with citizens, law enforcement officers use excessive force in the interview process, during questioning or the arrest. The problem of police brutality has caused many discussions as people try to determine the meaning of excessive force. Chaney and Robertson (490) state that the use of force remains a substantial part of the police duties in instances when the society members fail to follow the law and oppose police. Police brutality can be caused by using a high level of excessive force and the illegal beating of citizens in an unreasonable manner. In most cases, it goes unnoticed since the law protects the actions of the police and leads to violation of human rights such as shooting of innocent civilians and harassing members of the minority races in America due to the perception of being criminals and violent.
Smith and Holmes (100) state that police brutality can be caused psychologically and physically. The physical forms involve the direct force on the society members. On the contrary, psychological forms involve harassment, intimidation, and verbal attacks, which cause fear and a gap between society and police. Police brutality is seen as a form of police misconduct, which is related to sexual abuse, racial profiling, corruption, and false arrest. Moreover, Ariel et al. (599) claim that these types of attacks are mainly aimed at the vulnerable groups such as the elderly, poor, weak, and minorities. In the U.S., police brutality is closely associated with discrimination based on race aiming at Muslims, Hispanics, and African Americans. Although the police are given powers to use force in apprehending citizens, they should use reasonable forces in controlling the situation and avoid violating citizens’ rights.
The primary contributor to police brutality is racial discrimination. Police brutality is associated with racial profiling where members of the certain race are perceived by the police as most likely to be involved in criminal activities due to their race. In most occasions, racial profiling leads to accusing a person of committing a crime even when there is no evidence based purely on race. The issue of racial profiling is synonymous to the United States since the times of Rodney King in 1991. Historically, minorities have been the primary victims of police brutality, and little effort has been made to rectify the situation. The main problem with racial profiling and police brutality is that creates a distrust between members of the society and the police force. A very high percentage of African Americans do not trust police officers due to a history of abuse and brutality that have created fear and panic between the two sides (Chaney and Robertson 493). The cases of police shootings are a result of racial profiling where police assume all black men are armed even when that is not the case.
However, there are those who hold a different view taking the stand that police officers are professionals and do not use racial profiling when conducting their duties. According to detective McLaughlin, a black officer, he argues that police only prey for people who are preying on others, and it does not have been about race (Mac Donald). Police work is risky and law officers usually find themselves in a messy situation and have to use police discretion to make instant judgments. In most cases, the suspects are armed, and they have to protect themselves. In addition, there is high presence of unregistered gun in the streets. In 2014, more than 40 police officers were killed and other 50,000 assaulted (Wihbey). This sends the wrong message to the police officers who fear for their lives and opt to shoot first in a situation of life and death manner. Moreover, police officers are trained to apply control on suspects within the law; however, when suspects refuse to obey the law, police officers are left with no options but to use force when due. The counter arguments against police brutality suggests that police officers only use force when necessary.
The rampant cases of police brutality in major American cities such as New York and Baltimore have led to interference to end police brutality. Being on duty, police officers must wear body cameras to build trust and enhance the relationship with the public. In addition, video cameras aim to provide proof against false allegations and increase transparency. Using video cameras has shown its effectiveness in combating police brutality as reports show that body cameras reduced personal body force by 46.7% in 2015 (Simmons 57). In addition, the report states that wearing video cameras, police officers are more friendly and cautious to the public. This will help to build trust between community members and law enforcement officers and reinstate the faith in police officers to conduct their duties justly and fairly.
Lawsuits against police brutality are one of the effective methods of curbing the problem. The U.S. Department of Justice empowers the civilians to sue the police department under the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. In this way, civilians can issue a lawsuit when faced with police brutality. The court has followed up on cases of racial profiling on traffic stops and incidence of excessive forces in fighting organized crime. In addition, the pattern lawsuits have the potential of effecting change in the police departments and reduce police brutality while improving police accountability and transparency in their conduct. Moreover, a criminal prosecution against police officers who engage in police brutality can help reduce the incidence and lead to more awareness of the police and citizens. Traditionally, prosecutors have been reluctant in pursuing criminal charges against individual police officers; however, today, with the use of video cameras, prosecutors can prove without reasonable doubt that individual police engaged in police brutality and sentence him or her to prison.
Another mechanism of controlling police brutality is the use of civilians’ complaints board. The boards act as independent examiners of civilians’ complaints and review the actions of police departments to ensure the allegations of the citizens are addressed, and recommend policies that help improve the relationship between police and the community. Civilian boards help increase transparency in the police department and increase public confidence in the police (Simmons 56). Community awareness and education on their training can help them have the confidence to pursue their rights and sue police departments and help restore the relationship between these two groups.
In conclusion, although there are differing opinions on this issue, police brutality is a challenge in our today’s society. The incidence of police brutality may reduce in the future through amending federal policies to improve the relationship between the public and police officers and implement an efficient mechanism to ensure police transparency and accountability. The use of civilians’ complaints boards, video camera and lawsuits will help reduce police brutality. The unlawful shootings and verbal abuse must end as the society becomes more aware of police misconduct and various avenues in place to curb it.
Ariel, Barak, et al. “The Effect of Police Body-Worn Cameras on Use of Force and Citizens’ Complaints against the Police: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Journal of Quantitative Criminology, vol. 31, no. 3, 2015, pp. 509-35.
Chaney, Cassandra, and Ray V. Robertson. “Racism and Police Brutality in America.” Journal of African American Studies, vol. 17, no. 4, 2013, pp. 480-505.
Mac Donald, Heather. “The Police Are Not Racist.” Gale in Context, 2007, https://go.gale.com/ps/i.do?p=OVIC&u=ggcl&id=GALE|EJ3010156238&v=2.1&it=r&sid=OVIC&asid=18129522
Simmons, Kami Chavis. “Beginning to End Racial Profiling: Definitive Solutions to an Elusive Problem.” Washington and Lee Journal of Civil Rights and Social Justice, vol. 18, no. 1, 2011, pp. 25-54.
Smith, Brad W., and Malcolm D. Holmes. “Police Use of Excessive Force in Minority Communities: A Test of the Minority Threat, Place, and Community Accountability Hypotheses.” Social Problems, vol. 61, no. 1, 2014, pp. 83-104.
Wihbey, John. “There Is Conflicting Information on Police Brutality.” Gale in Context, 2016, https://go.gale.com/ps/i.do?p=OVIC&u=j101913008&id=GALE|EJ3010156257&v=2.1&it=r&sid=OVIC&asid=c1108345