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The minority in communities has been associated with violence by the law enforcement in the United States for many decades. Police brutality has been seen as an issue for many years, and it will remain a major concern for those in the minority throughout communities. In history, racist violence, also known as police brutality, was used to withhold the African American community and to preserve power and privileges for the white race. The idea of police brutality has been around since the 1800s, along with the controversy that comes along with it.
Police brutality has been a hot topic in more recent years, with related cases popping up in the news regularly. The practice of police brutality has a strong effect on the American population and the African American community. The presence of police brutality is becoming more distinguished as society grows; police brutality is an ongoing concern and creates problems in the United States. This essay will cover what police brutality is, the impact of police brutality on communities, different victims stories, the most impacted areas that police brutality occurs the most and why.
“Police brutality is the use of excessive and/or unnecessary force by police when dealing with civilians” (Lopez). Police brutality is a form of police misconduct which involves excessive violence by police members. Even though racial profiling still is seen throughout the United States, anyone regardless of race, gender, or age can become a victim of police brutality.
Racial Profiling is racial discrimination that occurs with police brutality.
This happens when a law enforcement officer targets a citizen based on race, rather than age or gender, for suspicion of a crime. A study from the Los Angeles Police Department found that minority groups who felt as if they have been racially profiled by police in the past continued to fear and lack trust in the law enforcement. When people become afraid of law enforcement, citizens become less likely to rely on them for protection. The phrase ‘walking while black’ is a word play similar to ‘drinking while intoxicated.’ The phrase explains that some black people are treated as though one is breaking a law by just walking outside. This is one example of racial profiling and discrimination.
The impact of police brutality can vary depending on the situation but a typical impact is PTSD. Victims and their family can suffer from things like panic attacks, depression, substance abuse or generate suicidal thoughts. This does not mean a victim of police brutality will automatically develop PTSD but they have a better chance of it developing. Some cases of police brutality have received media attention and can even start movements. Three black activists established a social movement called Black Lives Matter. It started with a simple hashtag on Facebook, #blacklivesmatter. A Tumblr and Twitter account were created shortly after as a way for people to share their unheard experiences and stories to the public. The words ‘Black Lives Matter’ was used as a slogan on signs for protests and at marches.
Activists started organizing meetings, parades, and protests to raise awareness of the issue. “The movement goal was to encourage peaceful dialogue and loving engagement” (Anzilotti). The movement, Black Lives Matter, campaigns for black lives, against violence and racism. Black Lives Matter is hoping to educate America on the bias of race that have a factor in abuse with law enforcement. Members of this movement have been involved in protests against police shootings of unarmed black citizens.
Police officers are serving the communities, striving to uphold the law and protect the citizens. When it comes down to it, police are humans that experience the same anger, fear, and compassion just as citizens do. Law enforcements training attempts to teach the officers how to handle stressful situations calmly and safely, but people make mistakes. “Communities of color sometimes don’t understand what it means to be a police officer, the fear of police have grown from just being on the streets” (Racing and Policing). Police are trained to remain calm during an interaction in all situations. Adrenaline and fear tends to affect anyone’s judgment in tricky situations.
According to Race and Policing, in 2015, only 52% of American citizens reported feeling confident in the law enforcement. The bad apple theory is one explanation of the lack of confidence in the police force. A few bad apples in law enforcement have spoiled the reputation of the rest of the police force.
Eric Garner was killed July 17th, 2014 during a police encounter after a police used an illegal force in Staten Island, New York. Officer Daniel Pantaleo used a choke hold to subdue Eric. There is video footage of the arrest and it quickly become viral. This is an example of excessive force that is prohibited to use as a way to subdue a citizen. (Ugwu)
Michael Brown, an 18-year old Black man, was fatally shot by Darren Wilson, a white policeman with the Ferguson Police Department on August 9th, 2014. In the suburb of St Louis, after officer Wilson was not found guilty, riots and protests fired throughout. The indictment for Wilson is a demand of the people in support for Brown. “Two shots were fired by Officer Wilson. One bullet was found lodged in the driver’s door. Mr. Brown had a graze wound on his right thumb, consistent with a close range shot.” (Cassandra Davis Chaney and Dannielle Joy) This situation sparked protests and acts of vandalism in Ferguson, Missouri and as well as widespread calls for an investigation into the situation that had happened. It is believed that officer Wilson fired a shot in an act of self defense but witnesses say otherwise. Michael Brown was an unarmed, black teen that lost his life.
A twelve-year-old boy from Cleveland, Ohio was shot within seconds of law enforcement arriving to the scene. Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback were the two officers that responded after someone reported a black male that ‘kept pulling a gun out of his pants and pointing it at people at the Cudell Recreation Center” (BBC News). The two officers were unaware that a child was the reasoning for the 911 call, under the impression that the situation involved an armed suspect. Tamir was told to drop the weapon but did not listen, causing officer Loehmann to fire twice at close range.
According to The Atlantic, Chicago is the most impacted area dealing with police brutality. Illinois governor, Otto Kerner, did an investigation of racial violence in the late 1960s. He wanted to understand the causes of what creates racial violence in the first place. Some of the problems found in American culture was unequal job opportunities, poverty, and inadequate education for the African American community. Although the study was done a long time ago, the same factors are still an issue in today’s society.
Police brutality is seen to be a big issue in highly populated places like New Orleans. With more violence in the bigger cities, that is partly why excessive use of police force is being used on citizens. Law enforcement attempts to protect their own lives from danger and will use illegal excessive force as a defense mechanism. In some cases, an officer could have been protecting himself but it is important to make sure law enforcement is educated to know if they are in the rightful position.
One cause for police brutality is seemed to be linked to psychological reasonings. Officers with different training and education have been proven to execute different plans of action taken in intense situations. Police that have less educated or training are more likely to turn to physical contact. Race of the officer has been found to play a role in what kind of excessive force is being used. White officers will patrol more aggressively and use stronger force. The amount of experience the officer has also is a cause psychologically. Newer officers often become more aggressive, and are more likely to use excessive force. This can be related to not knowing what to do in a certain situation and reacting to quickly before thinking. (Geller, William A., and Hans Toch.)
Race and the law enforcement in America is a topic that will forever evolve. The law enforcement is constantly attempting to improve their departments, prevent situations of excessive force, and better their bond with the communities. Black Lives Matter is one of many groups trying to encourage communities to collaborate and respect the law enforcement and promote the spreading of kindness. Both American citizens and law enforcement are attempting to mend the tension between the relationship. As situations and incidents happen, focusing on respectful dialogue and feeling as if voices are being heard is important. “We can and must do better to institute the best practices that reduce the appearance or reality of racial bias in law enforcement.” – President Barack Obama
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