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Hands up, don’t move, don’t run, and speak but speak with ease because one wrong move can cause that gun pointing in your direction to go off. At a young age, African American children learn how to stay away from police and how to act during an encounter with one, but nothing prepares them for what type of cop they may run into. Police have abused their power for many years and have gone unpunished by the government.

In 2015, 104 unarmed black people were reportedly killed by police and only 13 of the 104 cases resulted in the officers being charged with crime. (Mapping Police Violence) In 2017, 149 unarmed people were killed, most being people of color. (Police Violence Report) Police Brutality contradicts the values of police service, instead of protecting their citizens they have manipulated the system and harm those of color.

For centuries, black people have been targets of slavery, but as years have gone by and slavery has extinguished, a new form of minority suppression came about called incarceration. As of 2018, the documented number of white people totaled 76.6% of America, leaving 13.4% black people, 18.1% Hispanic and less than 6% of other races individually. (Census) Although black people make up the smallest fraction of the U.S.’s population, they make up 40% of the U.S.’s incarcerated population, which is a rate of 2,306 per 100,000 persons. (Sakala)

The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified in 1865 abolishing slavery, but only guaranteeing freedom to all except for criminals. Criminals the word the U.S. government uses as disguise for meaning African Americans. The government is still withholding the black community from obtaining actual freedom. The war on drugs was first coined by President Richard Nixon in 1971, aiming to terminate illegal drug use, production and distribution.

John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s drug policy advisor, spoke out on the untold goals of war on drugs: “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities.

We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course, we did.” (LoBianco) Even with the proof being exposed, many people still chose to disbelieve black people are targeted by the government and highly victimized by police brutality.

Police officers have consistently abused their power for several years and still remain to do so. Former officer, Larry Smith, has spoken out about the abuse he has witness and partaken in. “At the police academy, we were taught the basics of the job: driving, firearms training, report writing, and self-defense tactics. The academy did not teach us the fundamental difference between power and authority or how to judiciously apply either.” (Smith) The federal government has equipped unexperienced and untrained personnel with firearms lacking the right teachings that inform them on what situations are truly acceptable for using one.

Over three decades, the U.S. has been distributing larger amounts of shares towards law enforcements. “Today, the U.S. collectively spends $100 billion a year on policing and a further $80 billion on incarceration.” (McCarthy) The money going towards law enforcement is supposed to guarantee U.S. citizens safety within their communities, instead we are funding for heavy policing in minority communities in which are highly populated by African Americans and Hispanics.

Although most U.S. citizens may appear as bystanders to the shootings, they are actually funding them. Only $68.2 billion of our tax dollars are put into Education. U.S. citizens are paying more money to fund police and jails than they are on education. (Fiscal Year 1) Many people are unaware that they to partake in police brutality, as funders of the violence that creeps within the minority communities.

Black Lives Matter, first started as a hashtag, but quickly became an international activist movement against frequent police killings of black people and other issues including racial inequality in the U.S. criminal justice system, police brutality, and racial profiling. The movement began in 2013 after the acquittal of George Zimmerman’s killing of the African American 17-year-old, Trayvon Martin.

The shooting happened on February 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin was walking from 7-11 with his purchase of skittles and iced tea in Sanford, Florida when Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch, spotted him out. Zimmerman called the cops claiming Martin was “suspicious” and taking matters into his own hands, he approached the teenage boy. Within the encounter Zimmerman shot Martin, an unarmed teenager, killing him.

The jury freed Zimmerman of his previous charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter claiming killing to be out of self-defense under Florida’s stand-your-ground law. (Alvarez) According to chapter 776 of the 2013 Florida Statutes, the law states that one may use force in defense of person and use of deadly force in presumption of fear of death or great bodily harm. (Statutes) “A person is justified in using force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force.

However, a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if: He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony; or Under those circumstances permitted pursuant to s. 776.013.” (Statutes) There are more than enough cases in which an unarmed black man or teenager are killed by police due to their skin color being considered suspicious.

In front of a six-woman jury, Zimmerman was found not guilty because he assumed the “hoodie-clad teenager was a criminal.” (Alvarez) Yet again, the word criminal is used to describe a person of black descent. Criminal, “a person who has committed a crime.” (Criminal) Why is a person of color repeatedly referred to as a criminal, when no criminal activity is even present?

Prime example of how the government has brainwashed society into racial profiling. Most recently there was a shooting March 18 that resulted in the killing of 22-year-old African American man, Stephon Clark. (Del Real) He was another unarmed black man who’s killing was not justified. The number of unarmed black men is steady increasing, and the U.S. government has yet to make more effective changes.

Time for change. Black voices have been fighting to be heard and will not stop until justice has been served and change has come about. What is wrong with federal law enforcement system today? In 2018, there was a total of 24 school shootings, resulting in 114 people killed or injured. ( ) In most of those cases, the shooter is white and is safely detained, where a black man would have been shot and killed by the police on the spot. Police officers are allowed to use deadly force under two circumstances under the defense of life standard: to protect their life or the life of another innocent party.

These circumstances support the use of deadly force in case of preventing escape. Instead, of resorting to shooting first, officers should be required to chase down the suspect especially if they are unarmed. Police Academy training lasts to about 12 to 14 weeks, where they learn state laws, self-defense, criminal investigations, first aid, and computer skills. (Study) None of these tools teach cops about racial profiling or cultural sensitivity.

Before being equipped with a gun and put on duty an officer should first be tested in an image-based survey, where they have to choose from a picture of citizens, who would most likely be a suspect in a certain case. This survey can help distinct racial profiling before the officer goes on duty, which can prevent many unlawful killings of black men. As a response to previous shootings, the government has started to respond with supplying law enforcement with body-worn cameras.

The potential benefits for the body-worn cameras is to gain back community trust and confidence towards law enforcement. “Video footage captured during these officer-community interactions might provide better documentation to help confirm the nature of events and support accounts articulated by officers and community residents.” (Chapman) Although body-worn cameras sound like a good idea to capture most situations, it doesn’t truly prevent them from happening.

Several footages show that police still interact in killing unarmed African American men, knowing they would be caught on camera. On February 9, 2019, a California rapper, Willie McCoy, was killed by Vallejo, California police while he was sleeping in his car. (Lam) The police claimed to have seen a handgun on his lap and when he woke up was not following orders. On the other hand, according to the video, the man wasn’t alerted by police that they were there and when he moved, they shot him multiple times. The police officers were put on administrative leave and then were able to return to work. In the video, an officer claims that “body cameras do not always reflect what the officer’s eyes see.”

This is proof that cameras have no effect in the way officers react in certain situations especially in cases where black men are considered the suspect. “To gain insight and understanding of the perceived excessive and aggressive encounters with law enforcement officials among Black males, there is a need to examine not just historical foundations, but also White Privilege, police training practices, the state of mind of law enforcement officials during points of contact, and physiological factors which may affect the behaviors of members of law enforcement during a situation in which Black males are viewed as threats of criminality.”

Police officers should be trained to avoid racial profiling and how to approach people who may appear “suspicious.” A major problem is the assignment of officers to neighborhoods that they aren’t familiar with. To prevent most encounters with racial profiling, the government needs to place officers in neighborhoods they are familiar with regarding cultural behaviors and functionality of the ethnic groups. To add, to make body cams more effective, the video feed should be watched live from people who from that police department and are familiar with protocol.

Works Cited

  1. Smith, Larry. “I Was a Cop for 18 Years. I Witnessed and Participated in Abuses of Power.” Medium, Medium, 11 Mar. 2019, https://medium.com/s/powertrip/i-was-a-cop-for-18-years-i-witnessed-and-participated-in-abuses-of-power-8d057c18f9ee
  2. Lam, Kristin. “Police Release Bodycam Video in Fatal Shooting of California Rapper. His Family Says He Was a ‘Sitting Duck’.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 1 Apr. 2019, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/03/31/willie-mccoy-california-police-bodycam-video-fatal-shooting/3326239002/
  3. National Institute of Justice. “Body-Worn Cameras: What the Evidence Tells Us.” https://www.nij.gov/journals/280/Pages/body-worn-cameras-what-evidence-tells-us.aspx
  4. Sakala, Leah. “Breaking Down Mass Incarceration in the 2010 Census.” Breaking Down Mass Incarceration in the 2010 Census | Prison Policy Initiative, www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/rates.html
  5. “2017 Police Violence Report.” 2017 Police Violence Report, https://policeviolencereport.org
  6. “Police killed more than 100 unarmed black people in 2015.” Mapping Police Violence. https://mappingpoliceviolence.org/unarmed
  7. “U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: UNITED STATES.” Census Bureau QuickFacts, www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045218#PST045218
  8. Statutes & Constitution :View Statutes :-2013-Chapter 776 : Online Sunshine, 12 Apr. 2019, www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0700-0799%2F0776%2F0776ContentsIndex.html&StatuteYear=2013&Title=-%3E2013-%3EChapter%2B776
  9. McCarthy, Niall. “How Much Do U.S. Cities Spend Every Year On Policing? [Infographic].” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 7 Aug. 2017, www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2017/08/07/how-much-do-u-s-cities-spend-every-year-on-policing-infographic/#34ef93c8e7b7
  10. “Criminal.” Dictionary.com, Dictionary.com, www.dictionary.com/browse/criminal
  11. Baum, David. “Legalize All Drugs? The ‘Risks Are Tremendous’ Without Defining The Problem.” NPR, NPR, 27 Mar. 2016, www.npr.org/2016/03/27/472023148/legalize-all-drugs-the-risks-are-tremendous-without-defining-the-problem
  12. LoBianco, Tom. “Report: Nixon’s War on Drugs Targeted Black People.” CNN, Cable News Network, 24 Mar. 2016, www.cnn.com/2016/03/23/politics/john-ehrlichman-richard-nixon-drug-war-blacks-hippie/index.html
  13. Alvarez, Lizette, and Cara Buckley. “Zimmerman Is Acquitted in Trayvon Martin Killing.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 14 July 2013, www.nytimes.com/2013/07/14/us/george-zimmerman-verdict-trayvon-martin.html
  14. Biography.com Editors. “Trayvon Martin.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 24 Jan. 2019, www.biography.com/people/trayvon-martin-21283721
  15. Del Real, Jose A. “No Charges in Sacramento Police Shooting of Stephon Clark.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 2 Mar. 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/03/02/us/stephon-clark-police-shooting-sacramento.html
  16. Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Summary and Background Information. https://www2.ed.gov/about/overview/budget/budget18/summary/18summary.pdf
  17. Study.com, Study.com, https://study.com/articles/Police_Officer_An_Overview_of_Police_Academy_Training.html
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