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Research Paper Sample: Police Brutality in the US

7 pages
1810 words
University of California, Santa Barbara
Type of paper: 
Research paper
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Police brutality refers to misconducts by police officers in which they utilize undue force on civilians in the performance of their law enforcement duties (Fagin 165). Police brutality can also refer to abuse in state, federal or municipal or city penitentiary institutions on the convicts by the facility personnel. Police brutality vividly appears in context when the law enforcement agencies cause grievous body harm or even psychological harm to civilians through intimidation tactics which are beyond the officially-sanctioned procedures. In the United States, police brutality has been blamed on several doctrines such as federalism, separation of powers, deference and burden of proof (Fagin 166). The institutionalized system of police training and the American culture in which the judicial system discourages prosecutor in criminal cases from a vigorous pursuit of policy misconduct has also encouraged police brutality. In the US, police brutality has led to the death of several Americans, most of whom are African-Americans (Swaine & McCarthy). Although there is rampant police brutality in the US, it is a situation that can be eradicated or minimized.

A report from the Department of Justice (DoJ) indicated that Chicago Police had used excessive force on civilians severally. The DoJs investigation had been initiated due to the public outcry over the shooting of a 17-year old Laquan McDonald and it analyzed several high-profile cases of the use of unjustified force which included shooting at fleeing suspects, shooting at vehicles without a vivid justification, use of Tasers on people who posed no threat and use of force as a form of punishment against individuals (Hanna & Park). The investigation concluded that although in most of the cases, the officers use of force was justified; some rogue officers were using force unnecessarily. This lack of accountability by some police officers made the city unsafe for both the residents and as well as the honest police officers who are trying to perform the work diligently.

There is a phenomenon in the United States in which even the American public is not ready to admit; the killing of unarmed black men by the police. Beliefs that there is no racism in the police unit are disputable since there is circumstantial evidence that individuals targeted by the police in the US have a black or brown skin (Katz 1). Simmons agrees that there is a disturbing wave of police violence targeting African Americans. However, there seems to be no clear proof that the law enforcement agencies are targeting minorities due to lack of a comprehensive national database of people killed by police officers. Simmons writes, "It is impossible to determine the scope of the problem without a comprehensive national database of the number of people killed by police officers. Katz agrees with the fact that there lacks sufficient information on people killed by policemen nationally and implies that if these records were available, they would illustrate vividly that the minorities are the victims of the police brutality. Miller also claims that the police in most cases, use deadly force against minorities and writes, Lets be realistic: deadly force encounters often involve white officers and minority citizens, and those deadly-force encounters are the often the most emotionally charged of all incidents.

Sometimes there is a need for police officers to use force to take control of a situation. The amount of force required to take control of a situation in order to preserve the life of an officer or civilians in the proximity is referred to as necessary force (Miller). Any force beyond that level can be described as an unnecessary force. Miller clarifies that, "The severity and intensity of the force used from verbal commands, to handcuffing, to baton, pepper spray, TASER, or firearm should be based solely on the dangerousness of the suspect's present actions and should have nothing to do with the suspect's attitude or the presumed moral "blameworthiness" of the crime in question." The police do not have to profile the suspect racially or sexually before determining the level of violence required in a situation.

In an evaluation of the use of violence, the officers concentrate on the legal ramification of the incidence by questioning whether the use of force was justified instead of determining whether the violence could have been avoided (Stoughton). The officers analyze a situation and then determine whether violence is reasonable. Stoughton blames the warrior-mindset which has become esteemed even in the police force. With this mindset, the police officers are trained to fight in order to defeat their enemies instead of being the guardians of the rule of law.

How to Combat Police Brutality in the US

There is a need for police reforms in order to combat police brutality. The first step in reducing police brutality is improving the quality of their training (Glennon). Hanna and Park attribute the police brutality in Chicago to inadequate training within the force and they write, CPD (Chicago Police Department) has not provided officers with adequate guidance to understand how and when they may use force, or how to safely and effectively control and resolve encounters to reduce the need to use force.

There is a need to change the police culture to change the role of police from the "warrior" to the "guardian". The warrior mentality in the police force promotes the violent encounters with the suspected lawbreakers (Stoughton). The police officers need to consider the use of de-escalation tactics before considering force as a viable option. To make it mandatory for a police officer to consider this tactical change, there is a need for laws to vividly describe the justification for the use of both lethal and non-lethal force. This will put officers who misuse this provision to unleash violence on citizens liable to criminal prosecution.

There is a need for better records to be kept in cases of police violence against civilians. Keeping comprehensive records will provide invaluable data on people target by the police and will support or refute claims that racial minorities in the US are being targeted by the police. Katz suggests that lawmakers should make it compulsory for police departments to make keep adequate data on cases in which officers use violence in their law enforcement tasks. To improve transparency, this data should be readily available to the public.

There is also an urgency to combat the implicit bias against racial minorities in the police force. This can be accomplished through thorough training and the adoption of zero tolerance on officers who demonstrate racial bias and dishonesty when reporting their use of violence on civilians. These officers need to be removed from the police force if it is clear that they are using violence without provocation. This will eradicate the police officers notion that they can lie and murder and get away with it as demonstrated after the killing of Walter Scott (Katz).

Some police departments have chosen to utilize body cameras to monitor how police officers carry out their law enforcement mandate, anticipating that if the police felt watched they would act more civilly and this would curb abuses (Ripley & Williams). Proponents of the body cameras hope that they will induce behavioral change on law enforcement officers and it will also create a permanent record of the police use of violence and will be important in determining whether the use was justified or not. However, there is sufficient proof that body cameras have not been effective. Ripley and Williams reveal that an 18-month study of more than 2000 police officers in Washington demonstrated that the use of body cameras has no significant effect on the behavior of the officers. The officers who had cameras utilized force and prompted complaints from civilians at the same rate as the officers who did not have the body cameras. Despite these negative statistics on body cameras, they also have improved the service delivery in the policing sector by enabling more accurate investigation, better training, increasing confidence in the police and even exonerating police in cases where they have been accused of using unnecessary force.

There is also a need for the American public to be trained on how they should interact with the police. To avoid violent confrontations with the police, citizens need to understand that they are obligated to obey a legitimate command from a police officer. According to Miller, police officers are mandated to use physical force on citizens, if necessary. The citizens should understand if they fail to oblige to the commands of a police officer then the situation may escalate and it could become necessary for the police to use force on them.

In conclusion, police brutality has been rife in the United States contributing to the death of many civilians, most of whom have been racial minorities. In most cases, the use of excessive violence on civilians has been unjustified. However, due to the institutionalization of the police in the country, most of the officers who have used unjustified force on the citizens leading to fatalities or maiming them have got away with it. It is, therefore, necessary for this vice to be combated in order to improve the effectiveness of law enforcement agencies. The first key step in combating police brutality is educating both the law enforcement agencies on how to interact with each other. Police are supposed to understand that force should be used only if it is unavoidable while civilians should learn to obey police command at all time. Police departments need to enforce transparency to ensure that statistics on police violence are readily available to the public. Use of body cameras is also proving important in the investigation of the police's use of violence to determine whether it is justified or not. Thus, there is a need for radical changes in the law enforcement agencies in order to make America safe for everyone.


Works Cited

Glennon, JIm. "Police use of deadly force is rare, scrutiny has risen - Nytimes.Com." N.p., 2015. Web. 17 Nov. 2017.

Fagin, James A. Criminal justice: 2005 update. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon, 2004. Internet resource.

Hanna, Jason, and Madison Park. "Chicago police use excessive force, DoJ finds." CNN. N.p., 2017. Web. 17 Nov. 2017.

Katz, Walter. "Walter scott's death should end public's denial of police victimization of blacks - Nytimes.Com." N.p., 2017. Web. 17 Nov. 2017.

Miller, Laurence. "When cops kill: the psychology of deadly-force encounters." PoliceOne. N.p., 2015. Web. 17 Nov. 2017.

Ripley, Amanda, and Timothy Williams. "Body cameras have little effect on police behavior, study says." N.p., 2017. Web. 17 Nov. 2017.

Simmons, Kami Chavis. "No way to tell without a national database - Nytimes.Com." N.p., 2016. Web. 17 Nov. 2017.

Stoughton, Seth. "Police shouldn't ask if a shooting is justified, but if it's avoidable - Nytimes.Com." N.p., 2015. Web. 17 Nov. 2017.

Swaine, Jon, and Ciara McCarthy. "Young black men again faced highest rate of us police killings in 2016." the Guardian. N.p., 2017. Web. 17 Nov. 2017.


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