In most instances, misconduct and harassment by police are often referred to as police brutality, while others refer to it as the use of excessive force. This event could result in the use of deadly force, which are a significant matter in America and other countries. Police brutality first came to the public domain after Rodney King was filmed as he was being beaten up by the police. In the present day, incidences of deadly force by police are aired live by media platforms and shared widely by people through social media. This has greatly promoted the fight against police brutality across the globe. There, however, are some factors that have been said to propel police brutality such as racial segregation and racism, social class, among other factors. This paper analyses the topic on police brutality and excessive force by the police, citing relevant examples and, besides, discuss on the theories that explain probable causes of the named issues. It also considers other factors that may lead to excessive use of force and brutality by police, for instance stress and poor training.
In recent years, there has been an influx in cases of deadly force by the police, which are characterized by extrajudicial killings, unjustified shootings, and beatings that are unnecessary. This events has made people believe that the police who are sworn to serve and protect them are no longer doing that. Other people believe that the police no longer protect the people but rather are enforcers regardless of the outcome of the situation. It is, at times, said that the media exaggerates the situation, and they appear more than they are because of a conspiracy theory. However, police officers in their code of conduct are permitted to apply any reasonable force necessary to handle a situation, however, at times they overdo it leading to police brutality.
Police brutality in the US could be traced back to the 1990s when it first came into the limelight. Rodney King, in the year 1991, was beaten up brutally by police officers (Martin, 2017). He was punched around 53 times, beaten with a baton and tased. Quite some officers were present at the scene where a bystander recorded the incident. The Officer had stopped Rodney for allegedly over speeding and that he attempted to escape since he was under the influence of alcohol. Later on, in 1992, two officers who were involved in the incident got acquitted by a jury made of all whites, sparking riots, which lasted for three days. The riots led to the loss of 55 lives, and close to 2000 people were injured (Martin, 2017). Minorities are the greatest victims of police violence and brutality.
The police force in the 19th century was comprised mainly of white men, who in most cases dealt with minorities by the use of force. This has continued to be the case up to date with the African Americans, Latin-Americans, and those that come from the low social class being the majority of the victims of police brutality (Embrick, 2015). Despite this notion, some believe that the police have a legitimate or valid reason to use excessive force in their line of duty to effectively deliver and race or minority groups are not factors that promote this vice in the police force.
Factors That Lead to Police Brutality
Perhaps the most common question is what leads to police brutality and excessive force? Why do police officers choose to apply excessive force? One thing for sure is that we cannot get a conclusive answer to these questions. There, however, are some reasons that have been brought up as possible causes of police brutality. It is, at times, linked to psychological factors, sociologic, and organizational factors. The sociological aspect is that it is not often that a police officer will apply excessive force on a person of high social status, a wealthy person, or one that is powerful (Reiss, 2018). The psychological perspective is that junior officers or those that are new to the police force may apply excessive force to prove themselves. Besides, police officers with less education have higher chances of engaging in police brutality or use excessive force.
Unfortunately, they are quite a few since the minimum requirement for joining the police force in most instances is a high school diploma. Organizational reasons are such as work policies and police sub-culture. The systems in the police organization may make officers feel like they are applying a necessary force but instead end up becoming too aggressive, which leads to police brutality. Police culture is a form of police tradition where police consider themselves as different from the rest. In this way, they may go to any extent to protect their own. They consider themselves right, and the “others” wrong. This prompts them to use excessive force to protect their own and also to correct the “others.”
At times, some officers develop a negative attitude towards minorities on the basis of race, sex, and religion. They believe that if a member of a particular race, sex, or religion treats them in a disrespectful or wrong way, then all other members of that particular group will also behave similarly. It is no longer secret that racial segregation most often plays a huge role in incidences that result in police brutality, thereby creating a barrier between the society and the police. In most instances, such cases are challenging to prove. These cases not only happen in the streets, they also occur in prisons too, where one has to prove authority.
Rise in the Use of Deadly Force
There are many ways in which police brutality occurs, which involves the use of physical force without the use of a weapon, by using non-deadly weapons, deadly force and weapons of impact. What has caused a public uproar and that which is being shared through social media platforms is the use of deadly force. Incidences where the police are applying deadly force are recorded by people and streamed live. By definition, deadly force is any amount of force, which would possibly lead to death or serious physical injury to the victim. Great concern should be put while addressing the issue on the use of deadly force and should not be taken lightly, but instead treated with so much seriousness.
This, however, is not the case, cases that involve police brutality are rarely handled in the Supreme Court and when it does, it is done poorly and in a very shallow way. Tennessee vs. Garner was the first instance when the Supreme Court handled the situation, whereby a police officer decided to use deadly force while he knew the suspect was not armed. According to the court ruling, using deadly force contradicted the Fourth Amendment. Therefore, the Tennessee Statute violated the constitution as it had allowed the use of deadly force in apprehending a suspect regardless of the outcome. Even though the use of deadly force is bound to the Fourth Amendment, an Officer has discretionary powers to determine whether or not to apply deadly force (Gross, 2016).
According to research, the assumption of the court is those police officers most often faced with the challenge of making split-second decisions on whether to apply force and therefore, have to use force in self-defense. Contrary to this, instead of using force defensively, police officers use it offensively and their decision to use force is most often premeditated (Gross, 2016). Therefore, even though there is the assumption of the court of what takes place, it is not what happens, and it is not put into consideration.
Incidences of Deadly Force
In April 2014, there was an incident where a police officer from the Ferguson, MO Police department gunned down a teenager, Michael Brown. He was suspected of stealing cigarillos from a store. The Officer who was notified, saw that the description provided matched with Brown and his friend where he stopped them. This is when a confrontation emerged. As Brown was attempting to get to his gun, it went off prompting Brown and his colleague to run off. Brown then stopped and turned to the Officer, where the Officer shot at him a number of times. The body of Michael Brown then lay in the streets for a long time. The Department of Justice, after investigations, later, concluded that the eyewitnesses who testified that Brown had raised his hands were not credible, thereby not indicting the Officer. Following this decision, protests sparked across the country, demanding justice and an end to police brutality.
In another case of deadly force involving shooting occurred in November 2014, of a teenager, Tamir Rice. The police were informed by a citizen that there was a man who was threatening people with a gun but it appeared fake. The responding officers were Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback. In their report, they indicated that when they got to the scene, Rice tried to get to the gun. Upon arrival at the scene, Loehmann shot twice after getting out of the police vehicle. There was a video that was released late that showed Rice on the phone and he was sited at a picnic table. Both officers drove fast through the grass and Loehmann shot Rice in the torso resulting in his death. The evidence brought before the jury favored Rice, however, they did not indict the officers responsible. However, the city opted to settle the case with the family where the family received six million dollars. Later on, Loehmann was declared unfit for service since he was emotionally unstable.
Theories Explaining Police Brutality and the Use of Deadly Force and Solutions
To explain police brutality and the use of excessive force, many different theories have been raised. These theories range from the psychological approach, the social learning theory as well as conflict theories. If a stereotypical officer for instance has his stereotypes triggered, then the results may not be pleasing. Police, unlike the rest of the population, have individual freedoms, which breed ground for misconduct. A remedy to this is psychological deadly training. A research conducted on the psychological format of recruits that were part of a deadly force training which used real-life deadly force scenarios while providing recruits with experiential situations for them to make better decisions in matters involving deadly force. According to the research, the training increased performance, which led to behavior in real-life situations (Broomé, 2015).
According to the social learning theory, police brutality results from associations, attitudes, and the relationship between family, peers, and coworkers. For instance, during training, an officer may be trained by an officer with more experience. The training may be biased or discriminatory towards a defined group of people. The trainer could have issues with corruption or authority. These traits could be passed on to the officers’ training, where they develop the same characters. The trainer may direct the recruits to be harsh on specific groups of people or racial profiling (Embrick, 2015). This translates to police culture, where new officers are taught by fellow officers how to apply excessive force in the form of self-defense. They are taught enforcement of authority, attitudes, and other vices, including using excessive force. This is why there is necessity in understanding social learning in this theory. Therefore, as long as there are officers that are corrupt training others, then the chain of corruption will never break.
The other theory explaining police brutality is conflict theory. According to this theory, the higher social class has the ability to exploit the less privileged. According to this theory, the supporters of police violence are those that benefit from it. Those that are rich and powerful are the lawmakers and are in direct contact with law enforcement agencies. They, then, use the police to their advantage and protect themselves by whatever means necessary. In most cases, crime-prone areas are areas where people are from the low social class where they are prone to mistreatment by the police. This is an injustice in the police division which is a part of the criminal justice system, but very little is being done to bring a solution. Other factors that promote police brutality are stress, which could trigger Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. (PTSD). (Neely, & Cleveland, 2016).
In conclusion, using excessive force or police brutality will happen. In addition we are nowhere close to seeing them coming to an end. Police view the use of force as a remedy in fulfilling their work. In the field, officers are usually faced with complex situations where they have to make quick decisions to be effective in their work. It is at this time that an officer may consider using excessive force, which at times is not justified. However, we should not paint all officers as being evil and abiding by this behavior by the police.
Some are good and do not engage in police brutality. However, three is still much to be done to handle the situation by all parties involved. That is the police, the criminal justice system where officers who are found guilty of engaging in police brutality should be punished or get convicted. Police brutality should be made a criminal offense in which the law should clearly state the level of force that the police should apply in a situation and not just leave it to the Officer’s discretion.in this way, we could see a drop in these incidences. Should be made a criminal offense in which the law should clearly state the level of force that the police should apply in a situation and not just leave it to the Officer’s discretion.in this way, we could see a drop in these incidences.
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