Police Brutality and Racism
The Declaration of Independence was created to protect the inalienable rights that all Americans receive at birth, yet police brutality continues to threaten the rights of African Americans everywhere. Police everywhere need to be given mandatory psychological tests in order to gain awareness of racial bias in law enforcement and allow citizens to slowly gain trust for the officers in law enforcement. No one wants a child to grow up in a world filled with hate. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, children should live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character (King). Psychological tests are necessary in order to help police officers build the trust of the citizens, who have either witnessed police brutality or have experienced it. The systematic racism, killing, and dehumanization of African Americans has been happening since before the creation of The United States of America.
America was built on the oppression of African Americans. Since the creation of America, African Americans were perceived as inferior. Not only did the American government allow racial discrimination, but it was encouraged through policies that mandated slavery, sharecropping, Jim Crow, and a discriminatory criminal justice system which helped to reinforce the idea that African Americans were inherently criminal and untrustworthy (Fitch). In recent years, cases in which African Americans were killed by the police or died in police custody have risen to national prominence and increased racial tensions, often prompting demonstrations and protests around the country. On February 26, 2012 Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African American teen, was killed by George Zimmerman. Zimmerman was charged with second- degree murder, but he was later acquitted due to his claims of self defense. Due to the acquittal of George Zimmerman the Black Lives Matter Movement was created to speak out against police killings of African American people, and broader issues such as racial profiling, police brutality, and racial inequality in the United States’s criminal justice system (Yan). In order to reach its goal of equality, America needs to work as a unified country to fix the shortcomings and issues that are witnessed everyday, starting with the criminal justice system.
The United States’ criminal justice system is so unscrupulous, untrustworthy and corrupt that many police officers are racial profiling many innocent African Americans and killing them without being charged with murder. On July 6, 2016, Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez pulled Philando Castile over during a traffic stop. During the Facebook Live video, Castile’s girlfriend said he was reaching for his license; the officer later said he thought Castile was reaching for his gun and shot him five times. Yanez was acquitted of second-degree manslaughter (Yan). America’s criminal justice system will never fully change because despite video evidence of the obvious injustice, the officer was still acquitted. The corruption of America has progressed to a point where Americans are not as strongly affected by injustice due to being constantly exposed to it. Citizens have witnessed or experienced so much corruption, injustice, and racism that, in today’s society, it is almost the norm. Being recorded did not make the officer hesitate, which could lead to a grander problem in the foreseeable future. Despite fighting for equal rights for centuries black men who commit the same crimes as white men receive federal prison sentences that are, on average, nearly twenty percent longer, according to a new report on sentencing disparities from the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) (Ingraham). Racism and inequality will not disappear in one night. Racial profiling, inequality and racism will continue for generations.
On July 17, 2014 Eric Garner was held in a chokehold by police, for allegedly selling cigarettes illegally. Garner, who has asthma, said, “”I can’t breathe,”” died later that day due to suffocation. The Grand jury decided not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo for the death of Eric Garner (Park). There are thousands of cases in which police officers have unlawfully shot and killed African Americans and the results are always the same, the acquittal of the police officer responsible. Police officers are murdering citizens and eluding punishment. Murder is the unlawful killing of another human being with intent (or malice aforethought), and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide (such as manslaughter). In California murder, first or second degree, are punishable using anything from fifthteen to life and in severe cases it is punishable by death (California Murder Law (Penal Code 187)). Despite that, many law enforcement officers don’t receive the minimum sentence for unlawfully killing a innocent human. Law enforcement officers are not held to the same expectations as the millions of other individuals in the nation. Police officers have sworn to protect the liberties and rights of all Americans and yet it appears that officers are exempt from upholding the laws that they are sworn to protect and enforce. Although the results of police brutality appear constant, the perspective of police brutality is always changing.
There is no doubt that many people have different opinions about the Black Lives Matter Movement and police brutality being directed toward African Americans. Tomi Lahren, a conservative political commentator, acknowledged the Black Lives Matter Movement by calling the Black Lives Matter Movement the new KKK after five police officers were fatally shot in Dallas(Exclusive – Tomi Lahren Extended Interview – The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (Video Clip). The goals and motivations of the Black Lives Matter movement are positive. An entire group of people have nothing to do with the actions of a few individuals. The Black Lives Matter Movement is not a terrorist organization set on destroying police officers or Caucasian people. African Americans also are not trying to prove their superiority. The Black Lives Matter Movement is a peaceful protest trying to portray the worth of African American lives. According to Debate.com forty-five percent of people believe that police brutality is not an issue (Is Police Brutality a Problem?). Many people who believed this stated that the police have dangerous jobs and that officers do not know when they are going to live or die, so officers should use as much necessary to stay alive. In many cases officers do not have to use force in order to stay alive. The issue with police brutality is the unnecessary an unlawful force used against predominately African Americans. Fifty- five percent of people stated that police brutality is an issue and that the Black Lives Matter Movement is trying to fix the societal problems in America (Is Police Brutality a Problem?).
One step toward fixing racial profiling, police brutality, and racial inequality in the United States’s criminal justice system is routine mandatory psychological evaluations. The exam is used by law enforcement agencies to determine a police officer’s psychological capability of remaining on the job and to identify possible measures that would help improve their effectiveness or reasonable accommodations that would enable the officer to work in spite of his disabilities (Miller). Psychological tests are used to help the officers and their needs. Psychological evaluations don’t help to determine racial bias, they are used to determine the skills of the officer and the officers’ mental health. Also police officers are prone to exaggerate or minimize emotional difficulties or characterological problems (Grossman). After killing or harming someone, many police officers will state the fear experienced by them was the determining factor for the actions committed. People lie so there is no definite way to confirm the statements officers have made. Incorporating questions regarding the systematic racism, killing, and dehumanization of African Americans will make law enforcement acknowledge racism in the criminal justice system and evaluate the requirements for hiring a citizen to be a law enforcement officer. Inequality and racism are a significant part of America’s past and, eventually, it’s future.
The Declaration of Independence states that all men are created equal and are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If police brutality continues to happen, American society will be no different than the times of segregation and slavery that happened for centuries. In America we learn about slavery and history in order not to repeat the mistakes that was once made by our ancestors, but if people continue to ignore police brutality against African Americans then history will repeat itself. A four-year-old movement and the national organization that emerged from it are bound to stumble when it comes to providing resources, training, and support to places across the country faced with crisis. Nowadays, that feels like everywhere, and African American organizers are determined to establish a change. Rather than creating chaos, the Black Lives Matter Movement is looking for a way out of it. We are reflective of the needs of hundreds of thousands of people in this country who have been feeling that the government cannot and will not do its job (McClain). The Black Lives Matter Movement will continue to fight for the rights and liberties, stated in the Declaration of Independence, in spite of the government standing idly by, doing nothing to change the visible societal issues that are experienced everyday. Racism will continue for generations, but by taking action people will eventually be able to choose the point in time at which it ceases to exist. People need to take matters into their own hands if they actually want the country, the land of opportunity and happiness, to change. Many need to come to the realization that we are all the same race, human, but we differentiate in ethnicity and culture. We were all humans until race disconnected us, religion separated us, politics divided us and wealth classified us (Hurbungs). One step toward the centuries long goal of equality for all, despite of gender, age or ethnicity, is routine mandatory psychological tests for all law enforcement officers.