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Police Brutality in the United States

Since the interception of the United States of America, several issues that plagued the nation for the next few centuries. The most of these problems centered around the placement of blacks in the new country’s social order. Often regarded as slaves during the American Revolution, this statement also often rendered us as property exclusively. This often led to the mistreatment of slaves as they were less than the standard human. To place this scenario into a simpler perspective, work horses often received better treatment than slaves.

However, as the desire for the ownership and legality of slavery receded throughout the 1800s, the attitudes towards blacks remain unchanged that of during slavery. This became more prevalent towards the latter portion of the century. Many people of color have endured tough conditions in which our lives are of so significance value to any other race.

One major pre-conditions that led to surge of police brutality is that of the division of powers.

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While there have been great strides made during the Reconstruction era in which the newly freedmen were given certain amenities that were not existing prior, every fought for equality were also met with great casualty. The main instigators that insisted that those hideous acts were to commence lay under the umbrella of individual state powers. The federal level was often proactive within boundaries while the actual enforcement of various laws was often left unto the hands of either state or local entities that often compromised of various individual that had different political opinions that of the federal level opinion.

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This difference in viewpoints led to a huge loophole in which people of color were the main group that were often regarded to receive the worst treatment to endured. More so, this often led to the wide mistreatment of various state powers that have shaped the lives of an entire race of individuals for several generations.

With everything mention beforehand, the environment in which the presence of police brutality was eminent. One fact that is not too hard to believe is that “Police are killing Black people at far Greater Rates than any other race,” (Nicki Lisa Cole, 2018). However, the exact number of causalities due to police brutality are not completely accurate to provide the magnitude of this great social order. More so the rate in which a black person is being killed by police or those that stand in that realm of capacities (i.e. armed security personal, guardsmen, etc.) is staggering! According to Cole, “A black person is killed by policemen every 28 hours,” (Nicki Lisa Cole, 2018). Also, within this fact, the largest group of those killed are black men aged between 22 and 31. With these statistics, the next paragraph will focus more on the causes of which why so many people were killed.

To fully grasp one of the main concepts given in any argument of police brutality another simple fact must be introduced, it is important to understand that most of those killed by the hands of police were unarmed. “Forty-four percent had no weapon on them, while 27 percent were ‘allegedly’ armed, but there was no documentation in the police report that supported presence of a weapon.” (Nicki Lisa Cole, 2018). Now one of the premise of any argument in which a police officer may feel the need to use a weapon or even stop an individual is that they were behaving suspiciously. One study conducted in 2012 by MXGM is that 313 black people were killed by police and/or vigilantes in 2012 and of that number, forty-three percent of those killings were initiated because of suspicious behavior. Even more upsetting is that 20 percent of the same number were those who was simply seeking mental help for a relative or friend. Only roughly one quarter of those killed were due to true criminal activity. Finally, simply feeling threaten has merit as an acceptable defense in a court of law.

To further break down the complex concept of police brutalities, the premise of which how those conditions existed must become fully recognizable. There has been a considerable amount of police brutality present in the United States since the 1800s. In the colonial times, the existence of a police force within a city or town where often regarded to forms of “night patrol” or “slave watch.” “In 1704, the colony of Carolina developed the nation’s first slave patrol,” (Victor E. Kappeler, 2014). Slave Patrols were used to capture and returned slaves who have escaped. Simply stated, slaves were considered property and were often bounded to their owners unless they faced certain death. However, after the Civil War, there was a rise of vigilante groups as well as extreme terror groups that caused numerous violent acts throughout the country with a deep emphasis in the South, who resisted Reconstruction dispute being virtually destroyed in the Civil War fought in the years prior. Vigilantes were the ones who often regarded the actual laws in their entirely and use violence and terror to spread their expressions of hate. The true number of lynchings will never become of existence in due to the large number of them being regarded as less than merit able for a criminal offense.

One group in refence when mentioning violence to colored people are the Ku Klux Klan. This still active group has a long dark history of which they spread terror and executed numerous lynchings. However, it is alarming when the identifying those who belong to the organization. It is safe to state that the individuals of local chapters were members of the very same community in which they cause terror in. To simply state, those same members of the KKK were often the town’s local police officers, political figures and doctors, major providers of services to the community, with a special emphasis on policing. It can be suggested that the police have held a hand in the organization of the execution of numerous lynchings. Dispute the passing of various acts and laws by the Congress, the pursuance of violence had commenced well into the 20th Century.

In comparison, the police’s response to major political reforms were of a forceful nature. When riots surfaced throughout the 20th Century, the police were called out to maintain control and order. Often these directives often came enticed with the words “by any means necessary.” This often created an environment were the police would use any weapon at their disposal to do just so. This resulted in various rash and violent tactics being introduce including the infamous usage of fire hydrants and police dogs. It is also important to note that this was often the measure in which the police would often rely on to enforce their extent of the law. This were often met with the backing of the local citizens, who often were the same ones in which the police were called out to enforce crowd control.

Presumably so, the presence of police during any type of citizen misconduct were often measurable to the extent mention aforehand. This essentially span from riots to peaceful demonstrations including federally mandated acts in which the local citizens would express their extreme displeasure for. This simple fact alone is the fundamental reason why the existence of federally ordered troops have existed well after the Civil War in certain areas, governing the fact that the Military Phase of the Civil War did not end until the passage of Several Civil Rights Acts Starting in 1964 spanning onto 1968. However, it is still essential to report that the termination of police violence has not transpire as presumed. In one report conducted by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission in the early 1980s reported that the, “Police officers possess awesome powers. They perform their duties under hazardous conditions and with the vigilant public eye upon them,” (Geoffrey P. Alpert, 1994). This fact can make the lines in which the police stance on reform has been of justice.

During the latter portion of the 20th century, the presence of police forces across America were taking a new reform. This reform was done to fully defend and preserve the presence of a tougher police force. One of the main reasons in the increase force and presence of the police was because of the War on Drugs. With the battle actively seeking the users of illegal substances, this led to the usage of such tactics as the stop and frisk and the as accordance to the American custom, the demographics in which any police agency in the country were arresting and processing criminals were extremely disproportionate. Another famous tactic that eventually became outlawed was the choke hold technique. This was considerably lethal amongst its usage and only short-lived in the police’s official usage range.

After each War fought in the 20th Century, there was a huge number of U.S. Army Solders that was African American. However, after battling abroad overseas, their expectance for better tolerance were crushed as they were often confronted immediately arriving back onto American soil. It is also noted that such important African American Political Influences were products of U.S. Veteran Status. While also fighting for the American Flag, they also experienced less forms of harassment by various ethic groups. “As black Americans began to assert their formal rights and liberties, demanding that they be respected by local governments, judiciaries, and law-enforcement agencies, their demands had the effect of reinforcing the tendency of white police officers to view themselves as protectors of white communities,” (Moore, n.d.). Another defining moment of the 20th century to also note was the two Great Migrations were there was the movement of a significant population of African Americans from the Southern States to the Northern, and Western States and back. As these movements occurred, the catalytic environment for which the police’s violence stance would come into heavy scrutiny.

The stance in which police have began to taken place was that of a defensive nature. Their areas of protection and interest were those of whites only. Law enforcement agencies often disregarded any criminal activity in the African American neighborhood unless it was met with extremely stressful conditions. In some instances, it was of police custom to assault and harass any minorities with a interest in African American. It was their duty to remain loyal to the oath in which every policemen or policewomen have taken. “For rookie officers, acceptance, success, and promotion within the department depend upon adopting the attitudes, values, and practices of the group, which historically have been infused with antiblack racism,” (Moore, n.d.). Another area in which police was often seen as the primary mode of defense was the upkept of inner city segregation and the creation of various laws enacted to do so. One law that is worth mention due to its graphic nature is the Sundown town. This simply states that any person of color found wandering the city after sunset were often lynched.

As the Century was beginning to end, the rate in which minorities was harassed by law enforcement agencies were rising to a staggering amount. In addition, there were more common occurrences where extensive force was used. However, the occurrence where the officer in question was indicted for his criminal acts were not equaling the number of incidents. More unsettling, the usage of common “cheap shot” defenses such as the simple probable cause clause or the more famed, he had a weapon on his body. These incidents were also proven false as well following an extensive investigation into each incident, in which, dispute such, has rendered many cops free of their assaults. These often have sent messages of no disregard for the lives of countless as time after time again, the Court Systems have proven African Americans wrong. The already tense relationship between police officers and minorities was becoming very hostile.

As the turn of the Century has come upon us, the change in the date has not changed the attitudes towards law enforcement agencies. More so, the incidents that occurred in such cites as St. Louis, Missouri, Baton Rouge New Orleans, and Philadelphia have also heightened the tensions once again. However, the technology grade in which the police often used were of military grade and the presence of police wearing full tactical gear while holding AR-15 doing simple patrols have become the norm. While the younger generation has become assimilated with the association of the two, the normal presence of a police officer in normal clothes or uniform have only been reserved for the privileged citizens. In recent times, it is quite normal for kids that where often classmates but was often different races to experience different perspectives of law enforcement. While a white kid may understand to approach an officer with respect, a black child may have been given detailed instructions were-as their question of survival was the main focal point when dealing with a police officer.

“Smart policing that is capable of telling the difference between petty crimes and serious threats, between most law-abiding residents and the small minority of lawbreakers in a community, is quite possible. It happens every day in white communities across the U.S.” (Hannah-Jones, 2018). While many police practices have involved the usage of excessive force, there is a significant difference between the treatment of black citizens versus white citizens. While a white male may often receive light punishment for their crimes, their equally black counterparts quite often receive harsher punishments. Another difference in those same individuals is their perspective on the world. “Stories of police harassment and violence in black communities are common. Young black men are 21 times more likely to be shot and killed by police than young white men. They are more likely to face ongoing everyday slights and indignities at the hands of police. The underlying causes run deep: Black people often see police as the face of larger systems of inequality in the justice system, employment, education, and housing,” (Hannah-Jones, 2018).

With all these stipulations given into play, the new Black Lives Matter movement have begun to taken shape. “The Black Lives Matter movement has risen to national prominence due to the controversial police killings of Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in New York City, Tamir Rice in Cleveland, and Freddie Gray in Baltimore, among others. For critics, the disparities and high-profile killings have fostered concerns that black lives matter less to police, and that the next victim of a police shooting could be just about any black American,” (Lopez, 2017). This fragile line of existence has been in effect since the colonization of America. The very existence of the African American population was at the control of the primary race during the time. Often so, the police have been given a considerable amount of power in protecting and the administrating of justice. In addition, the manor in which the police have used their power has been considerably questionable too.

In closing, it is simple to see where the force used by law enforcement over the years have been racially motivated. However, to create a reform within the policing community, there is a simple need for a less aggressive approach. The demilitarization of local law enforcement will be deemed as a huge positive step. In addition, the use of community policing, an effective strategy, would ease the tension between civilians and the police. One campaign dedicated for the implantation of better policing practices states to “establish enforceable protections against profiling to prevent police from intervening in civilian lives for no reason other than the ‘suspicion’ of their blackness or other aspects of their identity,” (Solutions, n.d.). This simple policy change will dramatically reduce the racial profiling often dealt under the hands of various law enforcement agencies.

Works Cited

  1. Geoffrey P. Alpert, W. C. (1994). How Reasonable Is the Reasonable Man: Police and Excessive Force. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 481-502.
  2. Hannah-Jones, N. (2018, April 10). Pacific Standard. Retrieved from TAKING FREEDOM: YES, BLACK AMERICA FEARS THE POLICE. HERE’S WHY.: https://psmag.com/social-justice/why-black-america-fears-the-police
  3. Lopez, G. (2017, May 6). Vox. Retrieved from Police shootings and brutality in the US: 9 things you should know: https://www.vox.com/cards/police-brutality-shootings-us/us-police-shootings-statistics
  4. Moore, L. (n.d.). Police Brutality in the United States. Retrieved from Encyclopedia Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Police-Brutality-in-the-United-States-2064580
  5. Nicki Lisa Cole, P. (2018, March 18). Five Facts About Police Killings and Race. Retrieved from Thought.co: https://www.thoughtco.com/facts-about-police-killings-and-race-3026198
  6. Solutions. (n.d.). Retrieved from Join Campaign Zero: https://www.joincampaignzero.org/solutions/#brokenwindows
  7. Victor E. Kappeler, P. (2014, January 07). Police Studies Online. Retrieved from Eastern Kentucky University : https://plsonline.eku.edu/insidelook/brief-history-slavery-and-origins-american-policing

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Police Brutality in the United States. (2021, Feb 05). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/police-brutality-in-the-united-states-2-essay

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