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Technology has drastically advanced over the years, giving people the opportunity of owning a cellular device with multiple capacities. Devices now can take panoramic pictures, record live videos, are able to stream the web and can connect with almost anybody nationwide through available applications. Although these devices are a helpful tool in making everyone’s life easier, this device has recently been used against police agencies and their officers. Officers are being recorded everyday by the public and sued for using excessive force in situations where it wasn’t necessary.
Police brutality has been around since policing was first designed in 1829 by Sir Robert Peel, and technology has only helped expose police behavior by allowing people to post their videos on the web for everyone to see. People have been able to use technology to their advantage by capturing part of the incident and making the officer seem corrupt and unethical. Because of this dilemma, police agencies have adapted to using body cameras on their officers, to decrease the amount of excessive force officers use against the public.
Major events in history, like the Civils Right movement of Martin Luther King Jr, led to capture the media’s attention, which started the exposure of officer’s brutality and misconduct. The goal of this movement was to end the use of deadly force and police brutality, majorly towards the African Americans. The police in Alabama where behaving unethically and abusing their power and the media captured everything for the world to see.
Events, such as police officers performing a traffic stop and targeting African American males, breaking one of their tail lights with a baton, and then arresting the black African American male and placing them in the back seat of their vehicle, where often practices seen while the movement took place between the 1950’s and 1960’s. The officer would then be known to drive them to the middle of nowhere and would physically and emotionally attack the individual before placing them in jail. These practices would take place daily, without having a reason behind the traffic stop leading to an unlawful arrest.
The media covering police brutality and exposing them on the news became a hit. People nationwide were able to be informed of the latest news within the movement and were able to unite together to fight against the odds. The media was the first method in giving the people knowledge of what was occurring in their community. The Civils Right Movement was a nonviolent movement created to end racial segregation and discrimination towards minorities, made primarily of black people. Police brutality became a problem, as it was widely known across America, because officers were not being punished for their behavior and police brutality lead to more riots.
From the 1950‘s to early 2000’s, technology has made a tremendous turnout. What was difficult to imagine back in 1950’s, is what we have in our every day lives now in 2018. It was hard to imagine back then having a cellular device that can facetime someone else across the world, to now having police agencies adapt to body cameras, that are able to both video and audio record every encounter the officer makes on a daily basis. Because technology has made it easy for people to record events at the touch of a button, police officers across America are now being exposed through the web. Videos uploaded showing police brutality are now being shared through every social media and seen by millions of people.
However, African Americans are more likely to experience police brutality, compared to other races. The majority killed by police officers are African Americans between the ages of 20-25 years of age. Carbarado mentions many reasons why African Americans are “vulnerable to repeated police interactions.” He mentions how there is “proactive policing”, targeting neighborhoods with high crime areas that have little disorder, “racial segregation” where police target black people who seem “out of place” when they are in neighborhood dominantly white and “racial stereotypes” meaning black people are officers preferred person of interest (Carbarado, pg.163). In 2015, 38 unarmed African-Americans were killed that year, compared to the fewer number of killings, which was 19 for Hispanics that same year.
A case that opened the eyes of many was the case of Michael Brown. Michael Brown was an 18-year-old, unarmed African American teenager, who was shot and killed by a white officer by the name of Darren Wilson. The grand jury did not indict the officer, Darren Wilson, with the murder of teenager Michael Brown. This case was seen as racially motivated by many who saw the footage, which was caught with a civilian’s cell phone. Onyemaobim mentions “While not always motivated by racism, police brutality is undeniably associated with race. Throughout the course of American history, police violence against people of color has occurred in horrifying disproportions” (Onyemaobim, pg.2016). We live in an era where we no longer perceive police as peacekeepers, but as a threat to society. Police brutality is seen so frequently, that it is almost seen as a societal norm. Every time a person is being mistreated by police, first thing that comes to mind is to record the event. While the majority of police officers are white, the majority of victims who suffer police brutality are mostly blacks. This says a lot whether racism plays a factor in police misconduct or not. Police complaints are filed leading to lawsuits, leaving the end decision to the court system and the prosecutors.
Prosecutors play the biggest role in deciding whether or not the police shooting was justified. They must depend on the necessary evidence police gather. Evidence such as: statements from witnesses gathered by the officer, other officers present at the time of the incident, or recordings from the public. In most instances, the police’s word is the only one that counts, being the officer was the only one that witnessed the event. Patton states that because prosecutors are high in power, they will work together with offers to not pursue the case. This decision later affects minorities because at the end, they are not receiving justice. He states “The incentives for federal prosecutors to shield police officers from claims of misconduct are especially problematic because of how much power federal prosecutors wield. They can and do erect high barriers to challenges to police behavior —barriers that overwhelmingly impact the poor and racial minorities” (Patton. pg.1435). A problem relying on police cooperation creates a conflict of interest in most cases. Because of how close of a relationship the prosecutor and the officer may have, it is more likely the prosecutor is unwilling to raise charges against the officer and follow the case.
A study done by Professor Mathhew Desmond concluded how communities, especially the black community, lost its trust in the police department after an incident with unarmed man Frank Jude. Frank Jude was at a police officers housewarming party, when off-duty officers blamed Frank and his friend of stealing one of the officer’s badge. The off-duty officers made racist remarks and the proceeded to beat Frank. Because of this incident that included police brutality, the community decreased the amount of crimes they reported to 911 stating, “The magnitude of the crime-call decline in Milwaukee was large and long lasting. It persisted for over a year, “result[ing] in a loss of approximately 22,200 911 calls, a 17 percent reduction in citizen crime reporting, compared with the expected number of calls.”19 Moreover, the “missing” calls were primarily confined to the areas of Milwaukee in which mostly African Americans lived” (pg.1358). The police community tends to forget is that key events in our history that impacted society the most, is the main cause for the problems that have emerged today. Since Michael Browns death in 2014, Black lives matter movement arise. There are controversies of what happened that day when Michael Brown was shot and killed that have raised questions whether to believe eyewitnesses, the officer or the police dash cam. Therefore, police agencies have adapted a new piece of technology that is able to record from a first-hand experience, from beginning to end. Vehicle dash cameras have been an effective tool police agencies have used for many years. Vehicle cameras were mainly used to capture the sound and scenery of what only is ahead of the vehicle, lacking the ability to record everything else. Because of this, police agencies lacked the ability to use their vehicle dash cameras to support their statements.
There are many theories that cover why police choose to misbehave. A theory that explains why police choose to deviate against policy and procedures is the differential association theory. Rational choice theory will explain why shifting towards body cameras in police departments will positively influence police behavior.
Differential association theory is covered by Dormeals and his study to figure out if officers are less tolerant of corruption than other groups? He mentioned “Groups that are assimilated and socialized within a tolerant environment, therefore, have a wide range of alternative definitions of corruption. Whenever a corrupt practice is accepted as a way of doing business, it will probably not be defined as corrupt. Police officers are supposed to disapprove of deviant behavior and to be exposed to negative definitions of crime. Accordingly, police officers – as members of a group organized against corruption – can be supposed to be less tolerant when making judgements about corrupt situations” (Dormaels, pg.598). This means that officers around level-minded people like them, are most likely to be exposed to corruption, therefore adapting to that kind of behavior and practicing it.
Areas such as the minority community, is where police corruption is seen the most. This is where low-income families, the majority being black, are living and are being targeted. Police are known to engage in behavior towards minorities. Police behavior towards minorities reflects historical factors that exist today. For example, racial discrimination, excessive force, police brutality and verbal and physical harassment. By adapting to body cameras, the complaints filed for police misconduct will decrease and body cameras will also influence the officers to reduce the amount of police misconduct they are currently engaging on.
Rational Choice theory is created around the impression that all humans rationalize their decision making with the consequences. They will tend to act rational in order to increase their profit. In this case, officers will have to act rational once they have body cameras on them and weigh out the consequences to their actions. Police officers have a zero tolerance on corruption and should not be driven by other officers’ individual actions/choices. When wearing the body cameras, police officers will have to further weigh the consequences in evaluating: if they are going to succeed in such behavior, how the punishment will fit the crime they commit and their loss in their career. Crime officers commit is not always due to their motivation and their predisposition, but their choice to commit such crime.
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