Police Brutality – Prevalent Problem in American Society
America has on average one of the highest rates of police violence compared to other developed countries. While it is hard to determine the precise reason to why that is, many argue that it is directly related to racism that has, and still exists today. Until recent times, people of Caucasian decent have held much of the power in the United States government. Meaning that policies were made with white favoritism in mind. This is known as systemic racism. One of the hardest things about dismantling systemic racism is admitting that it exists. Minority groups, which are mainly African Americans, try to prove that police brutality is racially motivated by sharing personal videos of themselves or loved ones who were victims of it. However, Ignorance on the oppressing side try to deny its existence and come up with other factors on why the event took place. These incidents have recently become publicized and are a hot topic in politics. The importance police brutality is large as on a macro level it creates problems with civilians and the police. This paper will demonstrate that African Americans experience higher amounts of police brutality incidents which damages the effectiveness of the police
Before we can go in depth about the African American experiences with the police, we need an accurate description of what police brutality is. Police brutality is the use of excessive and/or unnecessary force by police when dealing with civilians. The most obvious form of police brutality is physical abuse. Misuse of an officer’s pepper spray, stun a gun, baton, anatomical weapon, and lethal force are all considered physical force. Seventeen-year-old Robert had an altercation with the police that is questionable. Robert and his friend leave a party and are racially targeted for looking suspicious. As the confrontation continues, Robert realized that he had become a victim of racial targeting, so he stated the officer’s badge to leave the situation. I looked at the cop with the breath and I said Fuck you. That was the last thing he remembered as he woke up the next morning bloody. This was the first time Robert was directly involved in Police Brutality.
During the 20th century three definitive waves of rioting occurred. After 1917 labor migrants, which were mainly southern rural African Americans who traveled to the urban north in search of jobs, experienced racial police brutality. These migrations resulted in three major eras of riots that stemmed from conflicts between African Americans and the police. 1917-1919, 1943, and 1964-1968 are the time intervals that most experts believe were the most concentrated rioting times. The first wave of immigrants towards the north started after World War One. The second wave occurred during the peak of World War Two when factories in the north needed more labor workers. However, the time interval during the civil rights movement experienced the worst police brutality incidents.
The Black Panther party was founded October 6th, 1966 by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale to confront police brutality against African Americans. The group was formed following the assassination of black nationalist Malcom X. The groups main goal was to monitor police brutality in urban cities where minority groups had recently been a target. Their popularity eventually grew until they had roughly 2000 members in the organization. Their main goals were electing more African American officials, food banks, and fighting police brutality. However, the FBI labeled them as a terrorist group because of their Marxist ideology. This is an example of systemic racism and white supremacy as since they were labeled a threat to national security, the FBI could do what they needed to take the group down. In the late 60s the United States Government labeled the Black Panther Party a terrorist organization and a direct threat to the United States. Shortly after, they were a targeted by COINTELPRO, a secret FBI intelligence program. Eventually the FBI raided a Black Panther Party compound where they gunned down many of the leaders in their sleep. Events like this evoke trust issues between African Americans and the police. In Watershed, Robert overhears his grandfather and father speaking about this event. Robert was only fourteen, but this was his realization that he must be cautious when interacting with white police officers. He states, I was angry because I had to worry about how I was walking or where I was walking, whether it looked as if I were running, or whether I had too much or too little money The flashing lights of a police car made me and my friends hold our breath (Everette 129).
African Americans are about five times more likely to experience a police officer related injury than Caucasians. It’s interesting to note that between the races, African Americans are targeted five times fold of that of Caucasians, yet they have nearly the same percentage of U.S. incarcerated rate. With that said, many groups have conducted studies to get to the bottom of it. A research group led by health sciences professor Michael Siegel looked at information from 2013 to 2017 from the mapping police violence database. With the information they acquired they compared racial segregation, incarceration rate gaps, educational attainment gaps, the economic disparity index, and the employment disparity gap for each state. These indicators are what are looked at when analyzing systemic racism. They concluded that for each point higher that each state scored on the state racism index there is a 24% increase in unarmed killings of African Americans to that of unarmed killings of Caucasians. On a countrywide outlook, racial segregation was the highest indicator of inequality of the five. According to Data USA, seventy-nine percent of police officers in the United States are that of Caucasian decent. Minorities make up the rest accounting for the other twenty-one percent of police officers. When it comes to violence many studies show that racism plays a key part in the reason the trigger is pulled faster when dealing with black suspects.
To many it seems as if each week there is a new viral example of racially motivated police brutality. Whether each example is viable or not is another question. The persistent re-occurrences, however, are detrimental to one’s health, especially those who are African Americans. This can be tied directly to Robert during his experience as a seventeen-year-old. Walking home from a party they are stopped and frisked by white police officers. According to the police they matched the description of people of interest in the area. Because they are black they are targeted and mistreated. It’s these reoccurring experiences that solidify the distrust and fearful tendencies they exhibit towards the police. Being exposed to police brutality puts major stress on one’s body. The body counteracts stressors by producing hormones that are responsible for keeping the body alive for the short term. A person who is under stress will experience an accelerated heart rate paired with an increased respiratory output. In the short term these may seem like minuscule problems, but they are hardly that. Police brutality plays an interesting role in this. The repetitive occurrence and an increase awareness cause the body to be under a constant state of stress. Rapid deterioration of organs can occur as well as an increase in the allostatic load. To no surprise medical professionals have witnessed a higher percentage of African Americans with an increased allostatic load. This results in higher rates of strokes, diabetes, ulcers, cognitive impairment, autoimmune disorders, accelerated aging, and death. Even though only a small fraction of the overall community is directly affected by police brutality, the effects it has on the overall population is relevant and can cause many detrimental health effects.
With all this said one will start to question the effectiveness of our police force. People residing in any minority group now feels that the police racial profile in their daily lives. Each episode of police brutality has a negative physiological effect on individuals. Meaning that they perceive the police as the bad guys, instead, of the positive force that they should be. On a macro level this can be very damaging to the effectiveness of the police. The lack of good experiences that many minorities, especially African Americans, have with the police stirs a lack of trust between the two. This limits how well they can respond to nonthreatening calls like intervention during emergencies and disasters. While the job of an officer isn’t an easy one, Cao, L. (2015). Differentiating confidence in the police, trust in the police, and satisfaction with the police. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, 38(2), 239-249. It gives no excuses to unfairly treat others because of their race. Distrust with the police can also interfere with investigations. For example, Robert is a key interest in the FBI investigation. Two FBI agents are found dead in the forest near Robert’s home. When they come to his door to ask him questions Robert does something questionable. Instead of cooperating and helping, what in this case is the good guys, Robert interferes with the investigation and keeps the whereabouts of Louise. This is a direct example on how a distrust in the police can depress their effectiveness. On a large scale throughout communities across America situation like these unfold. These add up a there are many people who are living a civilian life that should be in prison. If we want the police to be more effective with crime stopping and disaster relief the trust between the police and the civilian population must be regained. The only way this is possible is to stop the unfair treatment and targeting that African Americans experience.
The police in the United States have a very challenging problem at hand. First, they need to preserve the country by keeping the people within it safe. A country without safety will result in widespread chaos, just look around the world. Providing safety should not be an excuse to practice racism. Lately, police brutality has caused two groups to emerge. One group denies it even exists and brushes each instance off with a semi plausible excuse. The other side states that police regularly target and brutalize African Americans daily. The two groups need to see past their differences if they want change. The police are guilty of some racial targeting and occasionally using excessive force towards people of color. However, the two groups must meet in the middle if they want the police to be effective at their job. Fear towards the police causes a lack of trust that lessens the effectiveness of the police force. A less productive police force is less than favorable. To conclude, we have witnessed three major waves of police brutality towards African Americans in the last century with the last wave proving to be the worst. It is no question that African Americans experience police targeting and brutality more often than any other racial group. With this in mind we need to change the way the police go about their jobs as racism today could cause unrest among the people, and a less effective police force for everyone.
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Police Brutality - Prevalent Problem in American Society. (2019, Feb 27). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/police-brutality-prevalent-problem-in-american-society/
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