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Despite the progress made since the Civil Rights Movement for the equality of African Americans of the 1950s and 1960s, there is one area in particular that remains difficult to change. For many years, African Americans have been oppressed by white men. It wasn’t until 1865 that they were freed from their masters. In today’s modern day, we are seeing a conflict between law enforcement officials and society. Law enforcement officials, like all people, have drawbacks and the situations they encounter almost daily can be dangerous and almost always require fast responses.
However, we are seeing these police officers exercising their right of their job duties forcefully and illegally. There have been many young African Americans who are losing their lives to police officers without justifications, which leads to the questions of “Are our police officers genuinely protecting us or abusing their power of authority towards people of color?” Even with hard evidence that the officer could have avoided the shooting or forceful beating, and in the wrong, the majority of them are getting off without conviction.
Families are losing loved ones without reasoning while officers are keeping jobs and repeating unlawful actions. In the year of 2018, people of color are still experiencing colorism and racism, decades after being declared the rights as those who are white.
On many occasions, the United States compared to several other countries have been considered least safe. In recent statistical data, the United States has been ranked #14 on Nation Master, for crime rate. As little action is being taken to solve these problems, it is believed that as we move through generations, it is only said to increase due to easy access to unpermitted guns and increase in law enforcements job opportunities.
Although, for decades white on black crime continue to be an issue, the controversial topic became popular with the death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed seventeen-year old African American shot dead in 2012 when walking home from a 711- convenience store. In the year of 2017 alone, police killed 1,147 people, in which twenty five percent of them being a person of colored and unarmed (Mapping Police Violence, 2018). As an individual with a job that its main duty is to serve and protect all citizens of their country, they are targeting people of color with no remorse or justification. With young African Americans being a prime target to these officers, as a person who is half African American, I fear for my brothers, my cousins, my friends, and even their families. Grieving a loss of a loved one is argumentatively one of the hardest experiences one would have to deal with, especially if an innocent life has been taken.
Police officers exercising their power illegally is an ongoing reality of individuals of color and has covered media headlines for several years now. The act of police brutality includes but not limited to illegal and unwarranted violence against citizens, especially minorities regardless of the belief of breaking a law or not. Individuals who have been affected by police brutality have been left with physical and emotional scars that will never go away, and in majority of cases, has even caused death. Police brutality cases can be dated as far back as the 1800s and has affected many families and friends who all fall under the minority class.
Beginning as early as the 1800s, many civilians of color have been victimized by those who hold a badge or a license with law enforcement. Violence against African Americans began during the enslavement, dating back to the early 1600s through the late 1800s. Those enslaved had to experience their life within someone else’s hand, and in the year of 2018, us African Americans, not to the extent of those enslaved are still somewhat experiencing life within the hands of a white man. During those years of enslavement, slaves were not allowed to perform basic human rights such as voting or the right to freedom of speech or even attend school to enhance their knowledge. In today’s society, we are experiencing our basic rights stripped from us when encountering law enforcement officials such as our right to privacy. In many cases, police officers are enforcing unlawful searches without proper cause or warrants. If the victim does not act accordingly, police officers automatically think they are not cooperating and react forcefully. Slaves were punished by whipping, shackling, beating, sexual abuse, and imprisonment in response to disobedience of masters. Due to the background of racial tension, many police officers have adopted the approach of willingly discriminating against black people when pursuing criminal offenders, however, does not compare to the cruelty the ancestors of this generation had to experience with their masters (Owen, 2016). With the torture of over 100 African Americans to receive confessions in 1971, beating of Rodney King in 1991, scandal involving the police department’s Rampart Division in 1999, shooting and killing of Amadou Diallo in 2000, to the shooting and killing of Michael Pleasance in 2003 (Weitzer, 2002), the victims involved all have a similar background. The color of their skin, their presumed look of guilt, and the unjustified action taken against them resulting in death. In the Journal of Criminal Justice written by Ronald Weitzer, Department of Sociology, George Washington University, he goes on to explain that the causes for brutality are “·racist attitudes, assertive police strategies, mentality of trained “shoot to kill”, and lenient treatment”. With many cases of excessive force from individuals who have sworn to “Protect and Serve” in their oath according to the state of Virginia, stating “I (state your name) do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge all duties incumbent upon me as (state your name) according to the best of my ability, (so help me God).” (Title 49. Oaths, Affirmations and Bonds), however, shown in statistics presented in the Chicago Tribune in 2016, four out of five killings by police were of a young black male (Richards et al. 2016). Mentioned in an article titled It’s a Mad World: The History of Police Brutality written by Abigail Cosgrove, a writer for Penn State, when interviewing an officer, he stated “If you don’t want to get shot, tazed, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton, or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?” In a CNN article written by Jay Croft, on July 6, 2016, the tragic death of a young man by the name of Philando Castile took place in result of a simple traffic stop. As shown in a videotape taken by Castile’s girlfriend, throughout the stop, Castile complied with officer Yanez. Castile made it known to the officer that he in fact had a firearm on him, not to mention, owned legally, but was only trying to reach for his wallet to show ID. As Castile was reaching, Yanez shot him multiple times in response to “fear”. The incident of Philando Castile contradicted the statement the officer interviewed by Cosgrove, because even with compliance, a young man lost his life right in front of his girlfriend and her child. Anthony Bui of the David Greffen School of Medicine at the University of California wrote “Police violence disproportionately impacts young people, and the young people affected are disproportionately people of color” and recent statistical analyses showed that black men aged fifteen through thirty-four are between nine and sixteen times more likely to be killed by police than other people (Khazan, 2018). With the history and background of white privilege, a lot of studies can indicate the general bias among police officers that people who are a minority and have grown up in low income areas are more likely to be criminals and affected negatively by law enforcements compared to white people.
Furthermore, with every job, there are employment guidelines and rules that have to be followed. Police Misconduct can be defined as any action performed by a police officer that is unethical by established employment guidelines. In several cases, victims of traffic stop or arrests of those of color, in some way have been tortured, whether it was from a shot, tazer, or physically beaten. Compared to cases of white people in which many individuals have died due to terrorist like attacks such as school shooting, have walked into custody injury free. Many police officers are not held accountable for their actions and have easily gotten away with abuse of power against people of color even evidence from either the dash camera itself from the police car or from standbys recording on their cellular devices. Police misconduct violates rights and causes people to be wrongfully accused of crimes or even potentially death and can lead to obstruction of justice.
According to a statistical poll, Blacks believed that most police officers who had been accused of brutality have used “excessive force” as opposed to “necessary force in a dangerous situation” (Bureau of Justice Statistics). Misconduct could go as far as framing suspects, giving false testimony in court, stealing drugs, and shooting unarmed suspects without cause. As mentioned earlier, the Rampart Division in Los Angeles was a highly publicized incident in regards of police misconduct to the scandalous acts they were participating specifically aiming at those of color. In regards of evidence of the officer’s participation in this scandal, the police commission did not hold Rampart Division accountable for their actions. In the late 1990s, New York Police Department was accused of physical abuse against suspects, stealing money and drugs, and the distribution of drugs. Similar to the Rampart Division scandal, officers involved in the NYPD scandal were not held accountable. In addition, an article titled In the Shadows of the War on Terror: Persistent Police Brutality and Abuse of People of Color in the United States, attempted to bring awareness to police brutality and misconduct by showing committees that had concern of these mishaps voice their concern to the United States Government. In 2001, the Civil Rights Commission expressed concern regarding incidents of wrongful action. In May of 2006, CAT expressed concern regarding continuing reports of police brutality and use of excessive force and ill treatment by law enforcement officials. Later in the same year of 2006, UN Human Rights Committee also expressed concern about reports of police brutality and excessive force against racial minorities (Ritchie et al. 2017). Through long thoughtful meetings, both committees called on the United States Government to significantly increase its efforts to eliminate illegal actions of law enforcement officials. Research has shown that the government does not monitor or collect data concerning racial distribution of individuals stopped, searched, and arrested by higher authority (Ritchie et al. 2017).
With the hopes in advancements of technology, society is hoping to see a decrease in the abuse of power of law officials and an increase in rightful convictions of those who choose to abuse their authority. The development of these new technologies has allowed for greater insight and accountability of police officers in their daily routines including traffic violations and arrests. Dash cameras and body cameras have recently been added to police cars and uniforms over the years to hopefully increase accountability of officers and citizens. However, in many incidents, with evidence from witnesses and the dash or body camera showing excessive and unnecessary force, many police officers have walked free of murder with their jobs still in their hands, while victim’s families and friends have to mourn the unjustified murder of their loved one.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people, but the silence over that by the good people (MLK Jr., I have a Dream). As a result of the unjustified beatings and deaths of young unarmed men, several individuals have joined together all across the nation to bring awareness to those who have been and could potentially be effected. Usually, citizens worry about protecting themselves from criminals, but lately, many citizens, especially minorities must also keep a watchful eye on those who have been given the responsibility to protect everyone. With the advancement of technology, social media platforms are becoming a better way to address these cases in detail more than news stations. Individuals who are part of these organizations have gone as far as meeting with former President Barrack Obama, peaceful protests, making hashtags to bring awareness, and forming nonprofit organizations. Despite the significant progress, those participating in these movements emphasize a need to educated all Americans concerning the killings of black Americans by law enforcement officials across the nation.
After the killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Kimani Gray, Tamir Rice, and too many others, the vulnerability long experienced by black people in public spaces challenged the legitimacy of the state, even for those protected by white privilege through the #BlackLivesMatter organization. .
In conclusion, it is important to understand that Police Brutality is not limited to current events that are streamed on media platforms, but also the events that are dated back as far as to the 1800s. To avoid the unnecessary tragic losses of young black men, police departments need to implement new standards when dealing with certain circumstances and jumping to the need to shoot. Extensive training needs to be put in place on proper protocol and lawful action since learning that throughout the academy, trainees are “trained to shoot”. Police Brutality is not limited to certain states, it happens all across the world.
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