Police Abuse of Power
Police brutality refers to systematic misuse of authority and powers through the unwarranted infliction of bodily or psychological pain to civilians by law enforcers during their official duties. The routine enforcement of law using excessive force against unarmed civilians and the correctional misuse of facilities to manipulate, inflict, injure or subject a civilian to torture amounts to police brutality. Militarily prisons and federal penal correctional facilities, through the personnel operating the facilities, can practice police brutality through extreme subjection of pain and torturous acts with attempts to solicit information or evidence form an inmate. Police brutality falls into two facets: physical and emotional torture. Physical torture, primarily involves excessive force through inflicting bodily harm and subjecting the victim to environments and circumstances that aims at inflicting discomfort and causing bodily pain.
Psychological torture involves denial of basic needs, abuse, and subjection to processes that are emotionally destabilizing. Though physical damage results in mental suffering and systematically alters the comfort of the victim. During the periods of the slave trade, the great force and physical execution of the slaves heralded the eternal evil of police brutality. The continuous attempts to champion a police brutality-free society is proving difficult since it is a tradition rooted in humiliation, subjugation, and belittling of other races and religions perceived as ‘social misfits’ or ‘lesser’ persons in society.
Notably, the transition of the slave society into enlightenment and glamor for equality, freedom and, democratic rights to vote in the 19th and 20th century ushered in another systemic and tragic emergence of systemized and legally enforced police brutality against civilians . The police acted under expressed orders in most cases during the civil rights movement era, and this resulted in thousands of unarmed civilians falling to the brutal torture of police. During the civil rights movement, police brutality was routine practice a way of suppressing the demonstrators. Despite the massive campaign against the constant torture and execution of innocent civilians, the system of cruelty increased and became more comprehensively evil.
Worthy to underscore is that police brutality was and is never meant for the weak and the local civilians but rather anyone going against the government/system during the movement era. A Majority of the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement were continuously victims of brutality, and some ended up assassinated in the process. It can be argued that the Civil Rights Movement era was the extreme moment of police brutality in the United States.
Police brutality, famously known as ‘savage cruelty’ against innocent civilians, continually receives condemnation across the country. Much legislation and governmental departments were established to combat the vice. Despite the efforts of a majority of police to protect the civilians, a rogue officers’ acts under orders of their own, still engaging in the act of brutalizing and terrorizing their victims. Rogue police officers perpetrate the act of brutality under the “”color of law.”” When cornered by the same law, they maneuver the system and cover-up their criminal activities4.
The ‘Black Lives Matter movement is the rebirth of a Civil Rights Movement era in America. The state of political, economic and social injustices black society feel subjected to has crossed the line. With police brutality still gaining noticeable attention nowadays in the United States, it begs the question: what are the triggering factors of police brutality and what are the legislative frameworks that seek to protect the civilians from this injustice and what is the statistical evidence of the situation in the United States within the last four years?
To successfully answer the research question, application of qualitative and quantitative assessment of the situation is necessary. The use of the two methods of research analysis is introduced to have more evidence and data to increase the support for my argument. The strength of this dual approach is that the models will systematically exhaust all the evidence that is quantifiable and at the same time show the degree of the situation in the United States. The only downside to the dual-approach is the inability to exhaustively consolidate all the pieces of evidence and harmonize the cases to create the needed answer.
Research on police brutality is an exciting yet convicting discourse since it seeks to descriptively lay bare the state of the long-hidden effects of racism and create a harmonized view and idea that as a country citizens can act upon the issue to entirely eradicate the vice of brutality.
After a critical appraisal of the previous similar researches surrounding police brutality, the answers converge to one point: there is little or no goodwill among the ruling class, the judicial system and the police force to wholly combat the vice. The state and level of negligence especially by the political class give the other arms of government the room to relax and overlook the excesses of police brutality. Additionally, the answers seem to continually point an accusing finger to other dominant races in the country for failing to stand-in for the minority races and demand justice for the victims.
The continuous abuse of public rights in any society is in all measures an act of incivility. Over the years, The US holds respect for its civility, home of democratic principles and human rights protection and equality. As a champion of the global respect for human rights, it is unfortunately barbaric for us to overlook the constant inhuman nature of the police force upon the minority groups in the country. Through a systematic and critical analysis of the state of police brutality in the United States of America, the essential aspect of the study is a race as the basis of the skewed cases of police brutality experienced in the United States. Furthermore, the analysis seeks to create a discourse that descriptively assesses the milestones, the setbacks, the legal, social, civil and religious framework that can significantly address the situation. With the help of statistical evidence, an argument and analysis of the position will establish the level of decline or increase of the cases in the past five years.
Police brutality associatively involves several factors such as religion, political affiliation, race, and socio-economic status. The competition is the most critical source of police brutality in the United States. The existing statistical evidence shows that a majority of the victims of police brutality are both African American and Latin American. The subject of understanding in this racial profiling is by crime, immigration illegalities and other activities that can warrant police intervention. Over time, the black community of the US has borne the brunt force of the brutality since the emergence of slavery through to the Civil Rights Movement era to date.
The worrying rate at which the black community experiences racial profiling for both real and imaginary crimes is alarming despite the USA being considered the most mature democracy and home of civility. Forceful detention and torture are common cases experienced by the black community especially the youth and young adults. Notably, racial profiling as a basis of police brutality is statistically substantiated based on the number of black persons in the prisons wrongfully detained or the justice system’s delay in hearing their case. Police brutality is directed to powerless groups without political protection, without economic strength to legally counter the misfortunes and experiences subjected to the black community over the years.
The use of a war model of policing is the main reason for police brutality’s reemergence and zestful application in racially profiled societies of the US. The application of a war model of policing results in the occurrence of fatalities and unnecessary deaths or injuries among civilians. Police view the combat against crime as a fight and war against the criminals or perceived evildoers in society and equate them as enemies. The full-force commonly experienced in war zones is the basis of the indiscriminate brutalities both across the innocent and the perceived criminals. These forceful acts of police create a society that directly views the police as enemies, not law enforcers4. Evidence has it that, police officers who have had an experience with war or subjected to war are 50% likely to exercise brutality on civilians compared to nonveterans.
From some angles, academia has found the systemic cruelty by the police a subject of study and established theories that try to explain this phenomenon.
Threat hypothesis theory and community violence hypothesis theory are some of the most popular arguments trying to solve the mystery underlying the actions of police descriptively 5. Threat hypothesis theory proposes that police use force with a direct or indirect response to a potential threat from a group/racial or social class considered as a possible threat factor to the social order of society.
The inculcation of this attitude of ‘fire for fire’ response among the police, systematically explains why, during demonstrations and peace picketing, the police view demonstrators as a threat to the coexistence and social order of society. The theory exemplifies that, police profiling along racial lines indicates that, the higher the cases of police brutality cases meted on a particular race, the higher the chances that that specific race was associated with social disturbances, economic sabotage, and law-breaking.
The weak points of the threat hypothesis theory
The theory has several downsides. Firstly, the approach in all measure is one-sided, supporting one known evil act (police brutality) against a potentially unverified evil (threat to social order). The point of argument of the theory is to justify the repulsive response and justified actions of brutality by police against mostly innocent civilians by profiling and to associate them to social misfits or threats to the social order and lawfulness.
According to the theory of community violence hypothesis, the idea postulates that the police use forces in direct responsiveness to the levels of existing or potential violence in the community posed by the threatening groups or directly raised to the police. The theory explains that the higher the threats a social misfit group pose on the society, the higher the police offensive power to counter the elements1.
Arguably, there is the sense in the argument that it underlines the principle and foundations of the theory, but the indiscriminate exercise of this force against the threat groups and by extension society is never justified in any case. There are many cases in which the siblings, parents and innocent friends of the perceived misfits are subjected to traumatizing experiences of police brutality in attempts to respond to crimes in equal measure unselectively.
Notably, the two theories lack the fundamental aspects of human life, the sanctity of human conscience and political and legal responsibility for its citizens by the government. The one-sided argument of the theories tries to substantiate that police brutality is the only underlying strength that can combat crime or alleviate threats to social order. The justified application of ‘fire to subdue fire’ as evident in the theories is the basis for the frequent cases of police brutality since the antagonists will never have a roundtable or common ground to make the right decisions.
Furthermore, to refute the foundational beliefs of the theory, the theories failed to capture the institutional protection and defense of human sanctity, freedoms, and responsibilities that police have over the wayward members of the society. In this context, the police fail to set the limits of applying the law and thus create an environment that civilians perceive police as evil and police see the civilians as agents of social distress and disruption of the socio-economic order.
Attempts have been extensively made to combat the excesses of police brutality. Through civil rights movements, agitators of protection of human rights and the legal systems of the country have developed comprehensive measures to assist in combating the cases of police brutality. The combat made on the various aspects surrounding the police subculture and the aberrant psychology that is a familiar character occurring when a person assumes total and absolute control over the welfare of others and authoritatively have complete control of their well-being.
Despite the new attempts to control the excesses of the vice, many doctrinarians have developed to justify the acts; the defense posted are; the discretion and the burden proof as some of the reason for the fragmented judicial pursuits of police misconduct. Doctrines such as federalism, separation of powers and burden proof are the significant aspects that have contributed to the slow-pace approaches in achieving a better, social-friendly and responsive police force that seek to create harmony and protect the rule of law in clear and dignified manner. This point is noted especially in societies with less privileged communities.
Besides the doctrines, other factors have stepped-down on efforts made to reduce police brutality. They include; the systemized training of the police force, the police management and the culture that has undergone generational transfer from time immemorial in the police force. Criminal justice is one major asset to the process of sanitizing police brutality since the system discourages the legal policies and prosecutors pursue police misconducts and vigorously institute punitive measures against the erred officers. Notably, the political system is quicker and more responsive to the police than to the civilians and systematically select the response to the brutality distressed depending on the community, social class and economic unit of the distressed3. Other factors that notably contribute to a slow response to the vice of police brutality is the aspect of a political culture that creates a society that does not respect other races.
With a political class that publicly demeans and under-values other races, the entire system follows suit in undermining the politically disadvantaged communities or races. Without a solidly substantial social change in society, there is little evidence of successfully interrogating the excesses of police brutality and systemizing the principles of accountability and law against the perpetrators of the cruelty without political, social and legal support of the existing structures of police accountability and confinement of their actions.
The onset of reforms and attempts to contain the effects of police brutality was the passage of the Volstead Act of 1919 popularly known as the National Prohibition Act. The basis of the doctrine was to establish the needed mechanism to contain the long-term negativities of police practices. Other notably legal jurisdictions that have been passed over time in the country with the sole purpose of fronting resistance to police brutality include; The Hoover Administration Act, the Law Observation and Enforcement (Wickersham Commission) established to contain lawlessness in law enforcement. During the clamor of the Civil Rights Movement, the responding increase of police brutality led the federal government to pass the ‘Third Degree Act’ against physical brutality on protesting civilians. Despite the many laws and Acts of the federal government, the cases of police brutality have increasingly become a civil disturbance that is negatively painting the American police workforce bleakly in the international media.
Since 2015, statistics on police brutality and excessive force still ranks black Americans as the most vulnerable group of Americans The national census shows that blacks’ account for 13% of the American population but, 26% of the deaths by police are black people. Thus, indicating a substantial proportion of black society under the threat of police brutality.
The graph further indicates that the black community accounted for 24% of the deaths in 2017. Blacks, being ranked the majority among the victims of police brutality, reinforce the belief that police racially profile black people and goes to the extent of indicating how grave the situation is rooted in the black community. Whites make up the majority of the population and only account for 41% of the entire cases of police brutality.
The comparative approach to determine the percentages of police brutality cases across the various American races is to try to establish the existence of racial profiling. Racial profiling is the chief factor contributing to police brutality; it is primarily evident through the statistics below that, the Black minority followed by the Hispanic community are the primary targets of police brutality.