Essay on Police Brutality in the USA
Essay on Police Brutality in the USA
Police brutality is the use of excessive illegal force against civilians by the United States police officers. It encompasses aspects related to unjustified arrest, verbal abuse, assault, torture, and murder. Over the years, police brutality in the USA has been the source of concern across the world. Recently, there was a global uproar when a police officer in Minneapolis brutally murdered George Floyd. Unfortunately, Floyd's death due to rogue police officers is not an isolated case in the US. The majority of the population have had unpleasant experiences with the police officers and harassed without probable cause. This incident triggered a global conversation on how police brutality is detrimental to our dignity, health, community, and nation. Social movements such as the Black Lives Matter have been vital in spreading the message of police cruelty across the country. However, the number of people killed by the police continues to increase yearly. Hence, interventions aimed at eliminating police brutality are crucial.
Americans, regardless of gender, race, or ethnicity, are susceptible to police cruelty. However, Blacks are more likely to report police violence than their White counterparts (Chaney & Robertson, 2013). This form of attack dates back to the slavery era when the Black community was subjected to abuse and mistreatment. Based on the Statista Research Department, police killings in the United States as of July 2020 were a total of 558 civilians, 111 of whom were Black folks. According to Edwards, Lee & Esposito (2019), aspects such as gender, race, and age are essential in the logistics made by the legal system and police. This approach is with regards to who should be targeted, interventions, and how much force will be used. Despite that, there are decent law enforcement officers; the majority who use their power unlawfully affect public perception.
The Black Panther Movement was formed as a self-defense approach towards police oppression. In the 1960s, police brutality was evident during the civil rights movements. This movement was instrumental during this period since they monitored the police activities in their areas. Further, they ensured that any African American individual interacting with the police was not assaulted or killed before or after an arrest (Emesowum, 2016). Initially, the government was inattentive to the needs of the people. Nonetheless, with the Black Panther Movement's presence, the legislature passed the Mulford Act (Emesowum, 2016). This act, commonly termed as the "Panther Bill" revoked a law that allowed possession of loaded firearms.
In this 21st century, the Black Lives Matter campaign represents the latest efforts in the legacy of Black resistance to police cruelty. The objective of these movements is the call for justice for law enforcement officers who are yet to be held accountable for their actions. In this post-civil era, people have conducted boycotts, protests, and marches to ensure police officers handle their encounters with civilians lawfully. Presently, social injustice is a ripple effect of poor policies and racial discrimination against people of color. In this case, the disregard of humanity and rights by the police should no longer be viewed as a civil rights problem. It should be deemed as a racial injustice that should have criminal charges for officers found guilty.
Impact of Police Brutality on the Citizens
According to the 2017 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, police cruelty accounts for more deaths annually than influenza, pneumonia, and chronic lower respiratory disease. It has been linked to various issues within the community. First, death and injury directly affect the health of the population. Death is not immediate since it occurs from a continuous physical injury in police custody. Second, psychological stress is associated with the daily encounters of police violence in the community. As an individual, experiencing or witnessing deaths, unwarranted searches, and harassment impacts your overall well-being. For instance, the video of George Floyd saying, "I can't breathe" until he died was disturbing. Police brutality triggers emotions of anger, frustration, and hopelessness that could cause stress and anxiety.
Next, financial and economic difficulties challenges are ripple effects of police injustice. According to Alang, McAlpine, McCreedy & Hardeman (2017), the survivors of police violence may have to live with disabilities due to excessive force use. Further job loss after incarceration will negatively affect the progress of the family and nation. These are events that take away opportunities and resources that are already scarce in the Black community. Finally, systematic oppression and racism continue to affect individuals who have experienced police brutality. The majority of people consider it a constant reminder of historical and present disregard of Black lives (Alang et al., 2017). The lack of government intervention sends a message that justice is non-existent in this post-civil era. Hence, this lack of judgment and accountability promotes mistrust, which continues to create a rift between the police and the Black community.
Police Brutality: Laws and Policies in the United States
1. Title 18 on Crimes and Criminal Procedure
This is a code that makes it illegal for law enforcement to conspire or intentionally hinder citizens from exercising their rights. Title 18 of the US code protects citizens from acts of police violence like an excessive physical force, intimidation, and assault. Nonetheless, under Title 18, citizens are not allowed to file civil suits against officers for financial gain.
2. Title 6 of the Civil Rights Act
This law was formulated as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It stipulates that individuals should not be discriminated against based on origin, color, or race in activities and programs that receive federal assistance. Based on Hersch & Shinall (2015), it is illegal for the local and state law enforcers to discriminate against the citizens. It is a policy that has been beneficial to individuals who have experienced police brutality.
3. Law Enforcement Misconduct Statute
It was formulated in 1991 after the Rodney King case. Congress used this act to facilitate change in the Police Departments across the nation. This section allows the Director of Criminal Justice to initiate an investigation against police departments that have been identified to have a pattern of unlawful conduct by police officers. These lawsuits are aimed at streamlining law enforcement agencies by promoting accountability and discipline.
4. The Americans with Disabilities Act
The American Disabilities Act was created to protect individuals with disabilities from police discrimination and violence. This act is applied in instances where people experience unjustified detainment, racial oppression, racial profiling, and lethal force. Moreover, people who have suffered the effects of police cruelty can file civil lawsuits.
Presently, there are ongoing protests with regards to the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor. Activists, scholars and celebrities alike are working together to advocate for justice that is yet to be achieved. This is an indication that police violence in the USA has yet to be addressed by the government. In this regard, policies need to be revised, and the justice system re-evalauted to protect individuals from acts of police cruelty.
Alang, S., McAlpine, D., McCreedy, E., & Hardeman, R. (2017). Police brutality and black health: Setting the agenda for public health scholars. American journal of public health, 107(5), 662-665.
Chaney, C., & Robertson, R. V. (2013). Racism and police brutality in America. Journal of African American Studies, 17(4), 480-505.
Edwards, F., Lee, H., & Esposito, M. (2019). Risk of being killed by police use of force in the United States by age, race–ethnicity, and sex. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(34), 16793-16798.
Emesowum, B. (2016). Police violence: understanding its basic history, causal origins, health consequences, and prevention strategies.
Hersch, J., & Shinall, J. B. (2015). Fifty years later: The legacy of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 34(2), 424-456.