According to The Law Dictionary, police brutality is defined as the use of excessive and/ or unnecessary force by police when dealing with civilians. The brutality can come in several forms; ranging from nerve gas, guns, false arrests, racial profiling, and sexual abuse. Many black men and women fall victims to officers. Police killed 1,147 people in 2017. Black people were 25% of those killed despite being only 13% of the population (Daniliana 1). Since 1992, there has been an increase in police brutality; almost normalizing the silencing of Black communities’ rights.
Police brutality within America has grown to be normalized behavior; by both officers and police departments. There has been a significant rise of the use of unlawful force when officers have dealt with black men and women. The misconduct and brutality has resulted in the death or serious injury of many. Due to the trend being normalized in society, there has been very little action taken to protect the victims and charge officers. The lack of action, and accountability taken by law enforcement, to help black men and women has led to an uproar in Black communities. There have been several riots, protests, and many other forms of police retaliation within Black communities. The uproar in Black communities is a result of years of repressed anger and pain, as the American society and justice system have always been oppressive and have rarely benefited them. Being unarmed, gender or age do not change the interaction between police officers and black people (see Figure 1).
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Everyone who is apart of the Black community is a potential target and victim. According to CBS Miami, in May 2013 a 14 year old boy was choke by a Miami-Dade officer for what the officer described as, dehumanizing stares (Scott 13). In 2013, a disturbed man, Glenn Broadnax, ran through traffic which caused a disturbance. The scene led to him and two other bystanders being shot. Mr.Broadnax was charged with assault, because officers felt his actions caused the shootings to occur (Scott 15). Other black men, such as Eric Garner and Oscar Grant, were not as fortunate as the young boy from Miami, as many have lost their lives due to brutality or misconduct on behalf of an officer. On Thursday July 17, 2014, Eric Garner’s life was taken by four officers who dehumanized him and refused to hear his cries while he laid face down and in an illegal chokehold that was deployed by an officer. Officers continued to ram his head into the sidewalk and restrict his breathing. Being a 400- pound asthmatic man, Eric Garner repeatedly cried to officers that he could not breathe. Those were his final words. Even when black men are handcuffed or subdued, they still are considered a threat. In 2009, Oscar Grant was a threat to an officer. An Oakland transit officer, Johannes Mehserle, shot and killed Oscar Grant while he was handcuffed and laid face down. Officer Mehserle claimed Mr.Grant was reaching for his taser and his gun was his only protection. Johannes Mehserle served less than a year in prison (Doherty 14). The lack of accountability forced onto Mehserle by the court system reveals the normalization of police brutality and undue force when dealing with black people.The trend of police brutality has greatly increased since the four officers, who beat unarmed Rodney King during a traffic stop, were acquitted by the Simi Valley Superior Court (Badertscher 4).
The trend of police brutality, also known as modern-day lynchings, directly affects Black communities and police departments across the country. (Willingham 87) There has been a significant rise in the loss of lives and a decrease in police responsibility. Due to rising trend, there has been an increase in rage and fear within Black communities, and attempted change in policing. The situations similar to Eric Garner and Oscar Grant have both paralyzed and lit a fire in communities. There has been an increase in reports against police officers, as many feel that they must fight to keep themselves safe from the police. Starr Brown was one of those who took matters into her own hands, and she filed a report against an officer for undue force. On September 18th, 2009 Starr Brown, eight months pregnant at the time, was assaulted and thrown down to the ground by officer Andrew Galletti after an argument. She was charged with obstruction, assault, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct. Her charges were later dismissed by a judge. The dropping of the charges was not enough. In April 2010, Starr Brown sued the police department and in March 2011 Starr Brown settled for $125,000 (Willingham 87).
The Christopher Commission of Los Angeles and the Mollen Commission of New York City discovered widespread issues of corruption, racial profiling, excessive use of force, and other forms of police misconduct (Doherty 1262). Due to the discovery on behalf of the Christopher Commission and the Mollen Commission, there has been precautions taken when police departments hire new officers or when officers transfer within departments. If applicants or officers have any previous instances of misconduct or history of violence, they are to be immediately rejected by the department (Doherty 1266). Despite precautions set in place, corrupt officers are still hired and protected. They are protected by the Blue-Wall-of Silence, other corrupt officers, and people in charge, and this often times prevents officers to do right by the many Blacks who are assaulted (Doherty 1282). Because of the wall of silence, in 2014 President Barack Obama took charge and created the President’s Task Force. The task force was designed to enhance trust and communication between officers and minority communities. The task force was also designed to improve police accountability (White, Coldren 6). The Presidential Task Force has also allowed for the idea of officers wearing body-worn-cameras (BWC). BWC’s have been publicly embraced by a number of resident advocacy and human rights groups (White 7). The use of cameras has helped many Black victims when reporting misconduct. The drawback regarding BWC is that they are not concrete and do have human and technological limitations.
Many police officers are accustomed to seeing Black people as threats. So much so, that they are trained to approach Black suspects in such a manner that makes them look huge and intimidating. They are trained to appear as a living blue wall ( Scott 12). Black men and women are dehumanized by society and officers. Of 63 people that were surveyed, nearly 95% believe officers do in fact dehumanize Black men and women. (Police Brutality Survey). Many officers feel to protect the majority, they must break down the minorities. Officers do this to reassure themselves that their power is awesome and nearly completely unchecked (Scott 13). Men and women who are either Black or Latino are much more likely to be assaulted or killed by officers (Alang 1127). Minority men and women are not protected as others are, but rather patrolled. The size of police forces in Black urban neighborhoods is neither proportional to crime rates nor similar to police force size in neighborhoods that are disproportionately white (Alang 1128). More people of color are dying due to officers and their dehumanization of them. There is an obvious lack of equality and justice in our society. People of all races and genders should feel safe with police officers. Police officers are hired to help protect citizens from threat; not become the threat. Movements such as Black Lives Matter have formed to help combat the injustice. In the next twenty to fifty years I do not foresee officers being held accountable for their unlawful actions against men and women of color; thus allowing for the brutality to continue. Until Caucasian officers learn to value the lives of those that do not have the same skin tone, ethical background, or culture the hunt against minorities will continue. Black men and women were, and still are, stripped of their power, and until the power is returned they will continue to be considered targets in the eyes of police (Willingham 79). The change must come from the police departments, and those who run them. Many agree with the idea that the change needs to start with the local authorities, as 70% of 63 agree (Police Brutality Survey). Everyone in charge of our government, including the president, must have the ideology that all lives are of value and no one is superior.
Black men and women have suffered greatly in America. Their civil rights have been disregarded by those appointed to serve and protect, police officers. Those who are set in place to eliminate predators have become predators themselves. They have helped break black men and women. Black men were stripped of their power to protect their women, leaving black women vulnerable and susceptible to all forms of violence by white men, including the police (Willingham 79).
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