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Al Sharpton once said, “We’re not anti-police, we’re anti-police brutality.” Sharpton’s quote can justify that we as citizens develop an opinion on the matter, but not everyone knows what police brutality is, and how it is relevant in our society as a controversial topic. Police brutality is defined as the excessive use of unnecessary force, usually physical, but can also be verbal, or psychological intimidation by a police officer. It is one of several forms of police conduct, along with racial profiling, false arrest, etc.
(Rodgers). Police brutality goes as far back as the 1800’s and is still a very controversial topic that occurs in our society today. Police officers are portrayed as villains in the eyes of the community. This topic is covered significantly in our society due to the development of media such as newspapers and web articles that have allowed communities to become more aware about incidents and cases. One of the many cases that is well recognized is the Kalief Browder case.
This case is very controversial because what turned into a traffic stop, ended up turning the cops and Browder’s world upside down.
The incident was videotaped by a nearby witness and eventually made its way around the world through the media. The charges against the officers were brutal and excessive use of unnecessary force. This case caused many communities to become more aware of police brutality and the actions to take against it. There have been many other incidents of police brutality that have happened since this one, which have resulted in many violent marches, riots, and other engaging activates.
Over the years, officers and civilians have been able to protect themselves by using many technological devices such as body cams, surveillance footage, and cellphones. Police Brutality and the media’s portrayal of this violence may result in a lack of trust and confidence in all law enforcement officers. In the eyes of the community, the actions of one officer represents the actions of all law enforcement officers or officials. Society has changed their views on local police officers due to these incidents of violence in communities. The question posed is, are we able to change the view on our officers, or will they always be viewed as villains? Our society can see only one side through the media. The police get a bad reputation and the media portrays them out to be something they are not, many people do not recognize that the media can be wrong and, in some cases, one-sided, but having body cameras and other forms of surveillance can accurately portraying what is happening when a crime is in progress.
Out of the many cases we have seen involving police brutality, one specific case has stood out too many individuals who are still trying to fight for justice and rights. This incident is not like many others. Time Magazine has produced a series on Netflix about the case called The Kalief Browder Story. The documentary shows a one-sided segment on Kalief Browder, and as it was a tragic case and does not show all of the specific details of the incident, we can only assume what actually happened. Like many other cases that have field the Black Lives Matter Movement, this case hurt not only the victim, but also falsely portrayed how jails and prisons were run. Similar to any other organization, the Black Lives Matter Movement is an organization who protest for African Americans who many not be able to protest for themselves, mainly in regards to acts of police brutality. In this case, The Black Lives Matter are protesting for Kalief Browder.
Browder was a sixteen-year-old boy, who just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. He and his friend were walking home from a party one night in May of 2010, in New York City when they were approached by some officers who were responding to a 911 call about a backpack being stolen. Browder was a possible suspect and ended up being taken to a holding cell downtown. As his trial went on, he was identified as the suspect and was later charged with grand larceny. He was the. sentenced to three years in prison, which he spent in Rikers Island, otherwise known as “hell on earth” jail (Reese Hope 2018). Finally, on June 6, 2015, Browder was released due to the fact that there was not a proper case against him. Like many other cases, there was a video that was leaked to everyone in the country presenting the correctional officers beating Kalief and then putting him back into solitary confinement. Today, his brothers and sisters are still fighting for his peace and justice. The Kalief Browder Story was such a very moving and influential story for many people. However, I believe documentaries and the media have stretch the whole truth to make our country divided. Which is why it is always very crucial for police to have their body cameras on when dealing with citizens.
Many officers have a bad reputation due to how the media portrays them depending on which news station you watch. As said above, the story of Kalief Browder is tragic and devastating, especially for the Browder family who was, and still is, involved in the consequences, as well as the officers and judge who were put on the case. This case can, however, be rather deceiving. The night Kalief Browder was arrested for the grand larceny, the police officers who were assigned to look for the suspect were only given a description of what the individual looked like. Throughout our history, many different races have had many diverse encounters with law enforcement. Sadly, male African Americans have faced more difficulties in the justice system than African American females.
Throughout their research, experts from the National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project have produced studies to try and explain why this is, specifically in regard to the media portrayal and how society members interpret it. “A growing body of scholarly research related to police brutality has revealed that Blacks are more likely than Whites to make complaints regarding police brutality,” (Smith and Holmes 2003). A tremendous amount of data has shown that a black male is more likely to get pulled over than a white male. As said in the article, police officers are not viewed as the great hero that comes and saves the day when something bad is happening. Rather, in some individuals’ eyes, they are prejudiced and evil. Some believe that officers are malicious in some way, and possibly turn a blind eye when someone is committing a crime in their line of duty.
Thus, many individuals viewed EMTs and firefighters as the only heroes. A former blogger, who goes by the name of Carolyn, believes, “police are the backbone that keeps sanity and security in our homes, neighborhoods, and the world at large,” (Chaney and Robertson 2013). This information has shown that we as a society are willing to believe what everyone else thinks and many don’t form their own opinion. The majority of people have had an encounter with an officer throughout sometime in their lifetime, whether that be a good or bad encounter. As the media only shows what they think the public will engage in and talk about amongst others. When does the officer get a say about what happened in the incident. In some cases, it’s life or death as the individual is holding a dangerous weapon and threatening them.
Moreover, living in today’s society, police officer’s uniforms have gradually added more benefits for the officers, such as improved bullet proof vests and body cameras. A body camera is a small camera that is placed on an officer’s chest area or sometimes on their head. This device allows individuals to see what is going on during an officer’s shift for the safety of the public and the officers. “This technology was originally implemented due to the New York Police Department (NYPD) who is among the highest in police departments for stop-and-frisk” (Bank Ariel 2014). These body cameras were invented in order to prevent racial profiling and many other forms of prejudice. Body cameras are also beneficial for when an officer is required to use force. When conversing with many fellow police officers, they have always told me that whenever they are dealing with the public, they have their body cameras on. Analysis of police services data has shown when an officer is most likely going to use force. “What they have found in is that police officers don’t use force unless it is absolutely necessary” (Worden, Robert 2015). Although, cops may exhibit poor judgement which may result in unnecessary use of force. This can occur when an individual is running from the cops or if they have a weapon or even just using inappropriate language or gestures when the cop is just doing their job. Body cameras may have not made their way in the media, but they are making it in the public.
While many people have different viewpoints and opinions on police officers, they will never know what it is like to be on the front line of duty. Trusting police officers is critical matter, officers are not out to get people and are just trying to serve their community. As well as protecting citizens even when the case may be the situation is not fair. Having body cameras and surveillance is very important. “As Information technology has affected the practice of policing in many ways, but for the public, it has given residents new awareness of how police are doing their jobs. Videos taken both from bystander cell phones and from police body cameras now change the equation of transparency and accountability” (Jackson Brian pg.2). With having these new gadgets for officers comes greater responsibilities.
This holds both the community and officers accountable, serving as a checks and balance system. Although both sides are at fault for this matter our community and officers can both improve. “The way police do their jobs has a significant effect on citizen trust and legitimacy. Research on procedural justice has shown that even though individuals may not always like a specific outcome (such as a traffic stop), if they view the processes through which decisions were made as fair and appropriate, they are more likely to accept the outcome” (Jackson Brian, pg. 5). When getting pulled over, police officers will tell you the reason why they are stopping you. People need to look over the whole situation before making assumptions that they are getting pulled over due to race or any other prejudice they may insinuate. This is a value to how we as a community can help the way officers are viewed.
During the case of Kalief Browder, many officers did not know what he was capable of, nor did they know if he had a weapon in the backpack he was carrying or not. In this case, officers are just trying to protect themselves and their community from any possible threat that could occur. In The Theory and Evidence On Police Use of Force, it states that officers receive countless amounts of training before heading out in their patrol cars and into the community. A diverse background of people in the community (ethnicities, gender, etc.) and how to effectively use a body camera for their safety and the community’s safety are included as part of their training. Anywhere you go there will always be good cops and bad cops, but they have been through some of the scariest incidents while their lives were on the line. “In today’s world, officers are less likely to take legal action against a lower-class offender or even one of different ethnicity or racial background” (Worden, Robert 2015). This depends on aspects such as gender, age, how many officers were at the scene during the incident, the time it took place, and the severity of the crime. Although there are many different theories that have been studied over the years, no one will ever truly know what is going on in a police officer’s mind. This for example is why body cameras are beneficial to show both sides of the incident.
Even though many people would like to change the police culture and how we view it as a society, to do so would be very difficult. “Changing the confrontational element of police culture may likewise prove difficult when dealing with crime, criminals, and social unrest are defining features of the police role,” (Prenzler 1997; Waddington 199).
Through this paper, it was made clear that police brutality has divided up America in some way. Many people argue that the system itself will never change in our society, and people are always going to hold onto their own beliefs and values. As the world is revolving and technology becomes more and more popular each day, we can only hope that we can at least make the issue of police brutality more transparent. Also hold the media accountable in not showing biased one-sided videos, but also view police officers being a light and helping others in a time of need. Although there is a lot of to have policemen and women in the line of duty, we are able to admit that there are sometimes unfortunate incidents that cause the world to view said police officers as malicious or shady. We as a society need to accept that people will always make mistakes it’s a part of life and being human, but what really matters is if the person is willing to find a way to fix the mistake so it will not occur again. The truth is, that it is very hard for the police culture to be able to be changed at all.
Many people would love to see the world when it was a much simpler time and there was no social media. However, that will never be possible, because the world is constantly evolving and changing. There is always going to be new gadgets, shows, and music videos being created that will lead us to believe that all cops are bad. Everyone has their own values and beliefs, therefore, if someone feels a particular way about a subject, they generally will not change their views. “The belief that legal authorities are entitled to be obeyed and that the individual ought to defer to their judgments (Tankebe, Pg 3).” Many people believe that if the individuals of the society must obey the law, officers have to obey these same laws and are not above anybody else. The reality of this is the obligation to follow the laws and rules and regulations of society. Maybe if Kalief Browder would have followed the procedures when getting booked, or was able to get a good lawyer, he would have been able to get out of his situation. As said by Betsy Hodges “True public safety requires a collaboration between law enforcement and the community.”
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