On March 3rd, 1991, Rodney King and his two friends were pulled over for speeding In Los Angeles. King had just recently been released from prison for second degree robbery and was still on parole. The police officers on duty reported speeds of 110-115 mph and even called in a helicopter for back up although there was no police chase involved. The police audio tape explains how King circled through a dark neighborhood going 55mph in a 40-mph zone and the how the vehicle stopped at a red light but failed to yield to police. Based on the statements of the audio tape, it appears the officers pursued King because he had a criminal record. King was pulled over by at least 15 officers in patrol cars. Two witnesses observed King getting out of his vehicle, while following police orders, as he lay on the ground. The police on scene reported King trying to stand up while being handcuffed causing an officer to fall and he also allegedly reached into his pants pocket that raised police concerns.
They also said King kicked and swung at the officers while he charged at them. The eye witnesses said they didn’t see him attempt to do any of these accusations. While King was lying on the ground handcuffed, he was tazed with a stun gun and struck across the face with a baton by the apprehending police officers. A third witness was able to videotape the incident and it shows King was hogtied on the side of the road being beaten repeatedly for a couple minutes by the Los Angeles police officers. King was struck in the head and shoulders multiple times and was even stomped on in the head and neck area. Witnesses said out of all the officers on scene, not one of them made any effort to stop the beating. After King was beaten the police dragged him down the street face down, still hogtied and handcuffed, where he was left all alone.
The ambulance arrived minutes after this horrific beating occurred. King was loaded onto the stretcher, still hogtied, and was taken to the hospital. King’s two friends were simply let go after the ambulance left. When King was examined by doctors, they found nine skull fractures, a shattered eye socket and cheekbone, a broken leg, a concussion, injuries to both knees and nerve damage that left his face partially paralyzed. King was released without charges. A sergeant and three officers were the only ones charged with this horrendous crime. (Deutsch n.p.). This case definitely helped shed more light and public awareness about police brutality, especially towards the L.A.P.D. (Los Angeles Police Department). The L.A.P.D. has had a bad reputation for generations of the heartless treatment of minorities and the disrespect they display towards civilians. There have been hundreds of racial profiling complaints towards the LAPD. They have yet to consider a single one valid.
The L.A.P.D has the lowest officer-to-resident ratio consisting of 8,300 officers serving a population over 3.4 million. White officers make up 61% of the L.A.P.D while Los Angeles’s population consists of about 60% of nonwhites. Some believe that white police officers don’t understand a lot of things that go on in these areas and that could potentially be one reason why some instances result in excessive force. Being a police officer is a perilous occupation where police are sometimes put in dangerous situations and excessive force is needed. Although police are able to use excessive force to protect and serve our country, there are many police officers who abuse their power and privileges. Many officers use extreme measures when it deems unnecessary which results in police brutality or even death. Police brutality has been in the public view for quite some time but not much has been done about it because most evidence either gets covered up or disregarded.
While citizens worry about protecting themselves from criminals, they must also keep a watchful eye on those who are supposed to protect and serve. Police brutality in the U.S., racial profiling, the prevention of abuse, and what we can do to protect ourselves and each other against police brutality are important views to be aware of that lead us to understand what we can do to help reduce these inhumane acts in our society. Many reports claim police brutality have risen quite a bit in recent years so that could easily explain why there are 3,890,000 police brutality videos accessible on the internet today and not only is it widespread it is profoundly entrenched. Police brutality is commonly known around the world as the use of unreasonable or excessive force used by the police to pursue or arrest civilians that end up causing serious injury to an individual for no reason at all. It is said that it mainly consists of white officers abusing minorities.
This may include physical injury, false arrests, verbal attacks, physical intimidation, psychological manipulation, and sexual abuse. (Langsted n.p.). Surprisingly, many of the people that are involved in a police brutality case are not involved in criminal activities. They simply had a minor disagreement with the police officer. Little is being done to reduce or monitor the number of police beatings and evidence shows that “racial and ethnic minorities were disproportionately” harmed by harassment, verbal and physical abuse, and false arrests. (Lendman n.p.). Unfortunately, police can use excessive force anywhere and for whatever reason. Different causes of police brutality are more common in some places than others. California, New York, Florida and Texas see the most cases of police misconduct.
Police brutality is mostly caused by hatred for another race or at times an individual person but the elderly, women, students, and elected officials have become victims as well because of their weakness and vulnerability. Police have attacked people in university libraries, in public meetings, and in their own homes. Federal records do show a large majority of police brutality cases are left unresolved where police are not prosecuted. (Rockwell n.p.). It’s disturbing to know civilians, who witness police brutality, are so intimated by police for the fear of retaliation they don’t intervene to stop police brutality. Police who commit brutality are most likely to commit perjury as well. Police will most likely lie on the stand to prevent any lawsuits against them or the department they work for. The most common form of perjury made by police is they say the Miranda rights were read to an individual when they really hadn’t been.
However, there are decent cops who truly believe a guilty individual will go free unless they lie on the stand to help put the criminal to justice. When police are investigated about incidents involving beatings or shootings, many cases show the actions of the police were unjustified. Police usually get a slap on the hand (no suspension/mild discipline) or get off pretty easy (probation) when it comes to punishments they should be held more accountable, for instance, being guilty of a serious misconduct. Meaningful disciplinary action for police officers should be just as stern and dealt with in a very similar way as any other civilian’s punishment would. The public is given very little information if the case doesn’t make it to trial so therefore the abuse stays hidden and police abuse continues. Police misconducts should be taken more seriously because cops are held to a higher standard and have made a promise to protect and serve our country.
Did you know that, in 2009, only 33% of police officers that were charged misconduct went through to conviction? Only 64% were convicted and received prison sentences. And an astonishing 14 months is the average length of time a police officer spends in prison. (“Injustice Everywhere” n.p.). Depending on what their actions and misconducts are, some should be either fired, prosecuted or their peace officer license taken away. If they are unable to hold up their end of the bargain of the promise they made to our country then they should simply find another job. Alvin F. Poussaint, M.D. is an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He believes there are two main reasons that police officers have no problem with brutalizing people or witnessing them being beaten. The first reason is many officers get caught up in slogans such as “War on Crime” or “War on Drugs” they begin to see themselves as warriors in battle where the enemy becomes the objective.
The other reason is because the large amount of negativity policemen face and the number of bad people they are confronted with results in police making generalizations that take on racial tone. Police then feel people should be punished for who they are and what they represent. (Massaquoi n.p.). Although congress passed a Police Accountability Act in 1994, they failed to fund it. On top of that, the legislation doesn’t require police departments to provide data to the justice department nor are they required to keep any records. They don’t punish police violence or excessive force as human rights violations either. (Lendman n.p.). Police brutality is illegal and a violation of our civil rights that is protected by the United States Constitution. Recent studies show that since the attack on September 11, 2001 some police felt the use of excessive force was necessary so they began targeting individuals of middle-eastern or Islamic backgrounds.
Although they thought or believed it was necessary to use excessive force doesn’t make their decision right because nobody is above the law, including police officers. Racial profiling as well as discrimination appears to be the leading causes of police brutality in America today. Decades of racial discrimination, poor urban planning, and failed labor policies have left African American’s jobless and trapped in poor neighborhoods. Once they are trapped, they rarely get opportunities needed to rise above poverty and have few positive role models so they feel they have no other choices but to turn to gangs and the life of crime so they can achieve a sense of belonging, protection, and money. Racial profiling is described as singling out any individuals or groups as potential suspects in a crime because of their race or ethnicity. Most victims that are subject to racial profiling are African Americans, Hispanic Americans, homosexuals, religious extremists and younger men.
For example, if a police officer stops a young black man walking down the street or pulls him over while driving because they are viewed as commonly involved in drug crimes, stopping Hispanics near the Mexican border because illegal immigrants travel specific routes or Arab airplane passengers because Muslim groups have committed acts of terrorism are all acts of racial profiling. This commonly occurs in traffic stops, city streets, highways, schools, and are most common in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Texas. Racial profiling is so controversial these days because minority groups feel victimized by their race, ethnicity or national origin rather than their behavior. Although only small parts of groups participate in illegal activities, racial profiling treats everyone of that group as suspects.
Another way people look at it is based on the known information about group characteristics of those involved in crimes it helps the police identify a young black man in a high crime area, a Hispanic man near the Mexican border or a Muslim man in the airport who may be a threat to innocent individuals. “Evidence shows that racial minorities are systematically victimized, without cause, in public, when driving, at work, at home, in places of worship, and traveling, often violently. Agencies designed to ban federal officers from engaging in racial profiling is, in fact, flawed and does little to end it, because it doesn’t cover “profiling based on religion, religious appearance, or national origin.” A major impediment to (prohibiting it) remains the continued unwillingness or inability of the US government to pass federal legislation (banning the practice) with binding effect on federal, state or local law enforcement.” (Lendman n.p.).
Racial profiling is a violation of our Constitutional Rights but police departments either: encourage it, does little or nothing about it or, believe it or not, believe it’s necessary. Preventing police brutality is an ongoing goal in America. It’s hard to find a balance between laws designed to protect individuals and police officers. One way to help reduce police brutality is to help address a bad situation when you witness one arise. This can be dangerous so a person should take precautionary measures as necessary. The best way to defend ourselves against police brutality is to stay away from any situations where police may be involved. If a person happens to become involved in a situation where a cop is using excessive force, the person should not retaliate because that will only cause the situation to become more dangerous and a possible accumulation of unwanted charges may occur.
If they are taken into custody, they should contact an attorney as soon as possible and make sure to write down as many details about the incident they can remember so if the incident goes to court they have the appropriate documentation. There are two amendments of the U.S. Constitution that protect civilians against police brutality. The Fifth Amendment states that a person cannot be forced to act as a witness against himself, or be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process. In other words, an officer cannot force an individual to commit a crime, nor can an individual be incarcerated without due process. The fourteenth amendment adds that no person under the jurisdiction of the United States can be deprived of the protection of the law. (Langsted n.p.).
Diop Kamau is a 52 year old former police officer who, for the last two decades, has made a career recording police abuse in the California area because of the mistreatment his father encountered in 1987 by another California department. Although he is aware he is not very popular with many police departments, he continues to bring public accountability for local law enforcement into the public eye by videotaping and using microphones to test the racial tendencies of the local police. Police debate if the videos are serving the public interest or if it is putting officer’s lives in danger and setting the foundation for the public not to trust law enforcement. In some cases police say they are afraid to react to a situation because they think they will get in trouble for something they thought they did in good faith, which could actually cause serious safety issues and concerns for police and civilians.
There are two sides to every story and then there is the truth. These video recordings have helped tell the truth in many controversial cases between police officers and the accusers. Usually the police officers get the benefit of the doubt because they have made a promise to protect and serve our country but with the rising amount of police brutality in America today, these videos help settle cases of police misconduct. These videos can also help protect police officers against false accusations of mistreatment as well.
Not only can they help protect the public and police officers in difficult situations, it shows how officers and employees interact with the public. This can help suggest possible ways for police officers to improve their interactions with the public and to retrain their employees in a positive manor. Kamau says, “Video is making victims more credible. If Rodney King would have tried to tell his story without video, nobody would have believed it.” (“Policeabuse.com” n.p.).
There are many police crimes caught on tape that can easily be viewed on the internet. All you have to do is go to http://www.policecrimes.com/ to read about the horrendous stories posted or you can also search for video footage on http://www.youtube.com/ by typing police brutality in the search engine. There is also a National Police Misconduct News Feed website, www.injusticeeverywhere.com, which allows the public to review daily recap’s of police misconduct in the U.S. America has every right to know what kinds of actions police are taking that violate people’s rights. On the contrary, law enforcement experts believe the openness of police brutality in the public will group all cops as being mean and unprofessional when this is not necessarily the case. There are dedicated police officers that put their lives on the line to protect us from harm. Mediation introduces new opportunities for police accountability as well.
An officer participating in mediation is directly accountable to the citizen who filed the complaint. This enables the police officer to take full responsibility for their actions. It also enhances positive changes in police subculture. The experience of mediation between the police officer and complainant and the opportunity to learn how one’s actions affect one another, people may eventually have an effect on the police subculture. (Walker, Archbold, and Herbst n.p.). The best way to reduce police brutality is for the police departments to admit there is an ongoing problem with police abuse and that it does truly exist. It’s just as important for the community to stand up for the fight against police brutality. Another way is to increase the training and education in the recruitment new police officers.
Instead of hiring high school graduates, they should be required to have a college degree. A police department should also have a good leader in the department to guide police officers to do the right thing. Officers that live in the same city they are working in helps tremendously because they are aware of the mores of the society they reside. If a police officer is unaware of their surroundings, they can have trouble reacting to situations they haven’t experienced before. Acknowledgement of the law and civil rights can help civilians distinguish what is right from wrong when it comes to treatment by police officers. Police brutality in the U.S., racial profiling, the prevention of abuse, and what we can do to protect ourselves and each other against police brutality are important views to be aware of that lead us to understand what we can do to help reduce these inhumane acts in our society.
Police brutality and racial profiling have been continuous issues that have been around for hundreds of years, after slavery ended and it still continues to happen today. The knowledge of why and where it’s happening and the understanding of goals towards a better police accountability system can help American’s come together to create a peaceful and less violent society. It also teaches us how protect ourselves and each other against the inhumane acts by police officers if we are ever faced with such an unfortunate event. Being a police officer is a perilous occupation where police are put in dangerous situations sometimes and excessive force is needed. Although police are able to use excessive force there are many police officers who abuse their power and privileges.
Many officers use extreme measures when it deems unnecessary which results in police brutality or even death. Police brutality has been in the public view for quite some time but not much has been done about it because most evidence either gets covered up or disregarded. While citizens worry about protecting themselves from criminals, they must also keep an eye on those who are trained to protect and serve our country. It may have taken for eye witnesses and their video cameras to capture the mistreatment of civilians of police brutality going on in the U.S, especially towards African American’s, but at least the problem is now being acknowledged and brought to the public’s attention instead of just being swept under a rug.
People want the protection of police without having their rights violated along with the prevention of crime. There are many changes that occur as time goes on as far as laws, policies, people, attitudes, generations, beliefs and so on. The operations of police departments should be among the changes. We, as a nation, need to come together to prevent our families, friends and future generations from becoming a victim of police brutality. The past does not have to be the future so let’s take criminal justice more seriously so we can continue on towards the goal of having peace on earth.
Works Cited Page
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Deutsch, Linda. “Police tape: ‘You just had a big-time use of force’.” THE OREGONIAN. The Associated Press, 03191991. Web. 6 Apr 2012.
Langsted, Evan. “Questions about Police Brutality.”Articlesbase. Articlesbase, 08242009. Web. 6 Apr 2012.
Lendman, Stephen. “Police Brutality in America.” Baltimore Chronicle & Sentinel. The Baltimore News Network, 07132010. Web. 6 Apr 2012.
Massaquoi, Hans. “How to stop police brutality – includes 12 steps to solving problem of police brutality.”Business Library. Ebony, 04062012. Web. 6 Apr 2012.
Rockwell, Lew. “Quick Facts: US police brutality.” YOU.S DESK. Press TV, 12172011. Web. 6 Apr 2012.
Walker, Samuel, Carol Archbold, and Leigh Herbst. “U.S Department of Justice.” Mediating Citizen Complaints Against Police Officers: A Guide For Police and Community Leaders. Department of Criminal Justice, 08022002. Web. 6 Apr 2012.