Police Brutality

Racism and police brutality goes hand in hand, and causes a major concern in today’s society, in the United States. On March 3, 1991 in California, Rodney King an African American, was pulled over after a high-speed chase, and after stopping was beaten by four white police officers (Worsnop 635). Tracy Brock also an African American was arrested in Manhattan in November of 1986. An officer smashed his head through a plate glass window, when Brock refused to go into the officers lunchroom (Police Brutality and Excessive Force in the New York City Police Department 14). Ki Tae Kim a Korean grocer was assaulted when he was accused of passing a counterfeit bill. He was punched in the face, his head was slammed into the counter, and the officer also subjected him to racial slurs (Police Brutality and Excessive Force in the New York City Police Department 17). Marcos Maldonado a Latino grocer was mistaken for a suspect after an armed robbery to his store. He was handcuffed, thrown to the floor, repeatedly kicked, and beaten with the officers nightstick (Police Brutality and Excessive Force in the New York City Police Department 17). Abner Louima a Haitian immigrant was arrested outside a dance club in Brooklyn, and was brutally assaulted when he arrived at the police station. Volpe a long time police officer was accused of shoving a plunger into Louima’s rectum so far that his bladder and intestines were lacerated. Then he shoved the plunger into Louima’s mouth and broke his teeth (Steinback 8). These are just a few examples of the people who were affected of police brutality, and racism. There are five stages through which force can progress and lead to brutality: Verbal persuasion, unarmed physical force, force using non-lethal weapons, force using impact weapons and deadly force, which most of the officers mentioned before fell into this stage. The deadly force stage is only to be used only when an officers life or another persons life is in danger. The deadly force stage should be terminated, if not made illegal in the United States. By having the deadly force stage, by law you are permitting someone to commit a murder, and basically saying that it is just. In many of the cases stated before these guidelines were violated, and stronger action was used on the citizen than necessary. The officers who were accused in these cases were charged with only minor offenses, and some were charged with nothing at all. Stronger action should have been enforced on the police officers that committed these crimes. All of these victims mentioned are from minority groups, and were harmed by white New York City police officers. In less than four years fifty -five people have died while in being in police custody, in the New York City Police Department (Police Brutality and Excessive Force in the New York City Police Department 8). This number compared to earlier statistics seems to be low, but still seems extremely high, for the rules and regulations the officers are supposed to be following. Should the Federal Government increase the punishment on law enforcement officials who brutally hurt citizens that are in custody, or under arrest?
Many law enforcement officials appear to have a tough exterior towards crime, but are very sensitive to crime on the inside. Police officers build up negative feelings towards certain races, sexes, or religions. Officers tend to get the impression that if one or a few people treat them with disrespect, than other people of that same sex, race, or religion will treat the officer in the same way. It is has proven that less than five percent of all cops are the bad element, but if they other ninety five percent stand around and do nothing, then that is where the real problem lies (Worsnop 636). Another cause of police brutality and misconduct is the amount of stress that is put upon the law enforcement official. According to Robert Scully who is the president of the National Association of Police Organizations in Detroit, There obviously has to be some kind of stress factor at work in brutality cases because stress is an inherent part of policing.(Worsnop 636). A survey done by the Washington Post exposed a comparable local pattern of the sixty one police misconduct cases heard in 1990 by the District of Columbia Civilian Complaint review board. It has been discovered that excessive force was used only in eighteen out of the sixty-one cases that were reported. It has also been found that judges and juries side with police officers and not with the citizen. (Police Brutality and Excessive Force in the New York City Police Department 7).

Law enforcement officials who are accused of police brutality are required to attend a civil court hearing with a judge and a jury present. Most times the jury will find the officers not guilty, or guilty of a lesser crime. This is true in the case of the officer who used an illegal chokehold on Anthony Baez; a twenty eight-year old Puerto Rican, after Baezs football hit the patrol car. Baez was killed due to the force of the chokehold, but the officer was found not guilty (Contreras 30). Police officers are also required to go to a class that reteaches them how to act appropriately in an arrest. These classes last for between one week and two weeks depending on the state. This class is done on the officers own time and they do not receive pay for attending. This is required before the officer is allowed back on the street. The classes are usually held at night and seem pretty boring and useless to the officers. Most feel they did not commit a wrongdoing and that they are innocent.

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There are many ways to curb police brutality, and by implementing a new law, brutality should decrease. Right now officers know that there are laws dealing with etiquette during an arrest, but many don’t bother to apply what they know, and let physical strength, and force take over. The federal government needs to enact a law that will make officers think twice before using a nightstick unnecessarily, punching or kicking a person, or using excessive force. The law should read, Any officer accused by a citizen and two other witnesses of using excessive force, will be suspended without pay for thirty days, for a first time offense. For a repeated offense the officer will be subjected to a court hearing in which a jury will decide his/her fate. The jury could decide on another suspension for the officer, or as heavy as being permanently let go from the force. Another proposal for guarding against police brutality is by rewarding officers with raises and promotions. Police departments should give thought to honoring exemplary service to the community awards once a year. Private businesses and social groups could provide cash rewards for commendable behavior. Each year there could be a ceremony in the town hall of the local village, and the business that donated the money could present the check and a plaque to the recipient.
The preferred policy that I would like to enact would be allowing law enforcement officials get rewarded for long-term service and notable behavior. This will teach them that by thinking each situation though, and by taking each with a grain of salt, they don’t need excessive force to get cooperation. If local businesses were willing to donate at least ten dollars apiece, and only one reward was given a year it could really promote a positive influence over the police department. This would motivate officers to act accordingly, and this policy could easily be enacted with the help of the police department. In areas where crime rates are high often times so are stress rates. Police departments should offer stress management clinics that are mandatory to attend, once or twice a month. It will allow for police officers to share stores about how they managed their stress, and explain situations in which they failed. An intangible result would be in low crime areas should this still be a mandatory practice, and what if local businesses didnt want to participate? If a stress clinic was actually implemented who would run it? And would they have to pay someone to do it?
The likeness of implementing the recommended preferred policy is pretty likely because it costs very little money, and in some states it is already being considered. The money comes from donations and you could use some of it to by a plaque to display in the police department. There are many active players who think very strongly about police brutality. James Fyfe is strongly against police brutality and states that, Police practice has changed after a decade of long term turmoil. (Worsnop 635). At the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights a community group handles all police brutality cases that are subjected to court hearings in that state (Davidson 49). President Clinton has announced a forty-seven million-dollar program to strengthen police integrity. Twenty million alone would be used for expanding an officers integrity and ethics (Davidson 51). Laurie Levenson is standing up for all police brutality victims, not just those of minorities. She said, We were naive to think the Rodney King case would solve the problem of police abuse. Its a much bigger problem than one case…. You have to take these issues very seriously.(Goldman A1+). Rita Leitner whose son was a victim of police brutality speaks out, and is very active in preventing police brutality. She stands strong because her son was permanently injured in the hands of those who are supposed to protect. The players that are mentioned here are all against police brutality. It was pretty difficult to find players that thought brutality was not important and was not an issue. The prince analysis done on this issue shows an eighty three percent chance of being implemented. This is a highly likely rate of implementation.

Police Brutality in the United States and around the world needs to be totally abolished to protect the citizens, and the police officers.

Legal Issues Essays

Police Brutality

Police Brutality But they didnt have to beat me this bad. I dont know what I did to be beat up. Rodney King, March 3, 1991. Police brutality has been a long lasting problem in the United States since at least 1903 when police Captain Williams of the New York Police Departmen coined the phrase, There is more law at the end of a policemans nightstick than in a decision of the Supreme Court. In the 1920s the Wichersham Commission had a number of instances of police brutality. Many of these included the use of the third degree (beating to obtain a confession). This is a very effective way to get a confession out of somebody.

However, beating the accused could easily elicit a confession from a scared and innocent person. Also, this puts the accused persons life in danger. Police officers must make snap life and death decisions daily. Officers work in an environment where death (theirs, their partners, and an innocent or guilty person) is one decision away. How does that constant fear effect an officers perception? Unfortunately, many that are attracted to law enforcement are aggressive and prone towards violence as a solution.

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Police officers have a lot of power. With this power comes responsibility. Police brutality can be defined as the excessive or unreasonable use of force in dealing with citizens, suspects and offenders. A nationally known example occurred on the morning of March 3, 1991. Rodney King was pulled out of his vehicle and beaten by two Los Angeles police officers.

The LAPD had originally given chase to Mr. Kings vehicle due to a failure to yield. Officers fired a 50,000-volt Taser electric dart gun at Mr. King. They also hit King with batons.

Mr. King, according to police officials, was hit approximately 56 times. Mr. King had 11 broken bones at the base of his skull. Also, the bones holding his eye in the right socket were broken (LA Times March 19, 1991 p. A20). The policemen reported that Mr. King appeared to be on PCP at the time he was pulled over.

Subsequent tests indicated Mr. King had no drugs or alcohol in his system (Serrano, 1991 p. A1). The Rodney King incident was however, captured by a private citizen on videotape. This videotape has subsequently been broadcast nationally and the ensuing trial against the police officers involved captivated our nation.(LA Times March 19, 1991 p. A20).

Twenty-seven uniformed officers witnessed this incident from various law enforcement agencies. None of the officers (those individuals who are supposed to protect citizens) made any effort to stop this abuse.(LA Times March 19, 1991 p. A20). The level of escalation even went so far as to call in a police helicopter! (Ironically, the lights from the helicopter actually improved the lighting for the videotape.) The King beating brought complaints from the Mayor of Los Angeles Tom Bradley and national attention from civil rights leaders. Many believed the beating was racially motivated and extended from a pattern of abusive behavior by police towards blacks.

(McDonald 1991) This act of violent behavior from police officers has brought many questions to the national table, such as: Is police brutality on the rise? Is the police hiding behind their badges? How does the public view police brutality? How can we raise public awareness? Is police brutality on the rise? This is an important question to ask ourselves and the police departments. A study in seventeen counties in Northern California indicated that in the past two years excessive force and neglect has resulted in at least seven deaths and fatal injury. (Saari, no date) In fact a nine-month period from August 26, 1996 to June 29, 1997 seven citizens died as a result of police brutality. Sonoma County California currently has the highest rate of custody deaths in the bay area (Saari). In many cases the situation (according to police accounts) has rapidly escalated to a point where police feel the need to use deadly force. Many of those committing crimes are mentally ill.

The Sonoma County Alliance for the Mentally Ill advises that police officers in confrontations with people experiencing psychiatric episodes: Speak calmly and quietly Slow down the pace Be willing to repeat yourself Do not try to hurry a resolution This increase in violence is part of a toughened criminal justice system, which includes the war on drugs, the building of new prisons, and the garnering of federal habeas corpus rights. (Kerstetter, 1985 p.160) This rise in police brutality may come from a quick criminalization of people because the public wants safer streets and quick action by the police. (Rockwell, 1997) Pressure has been put on police to deal with the criminals, juveniles and other public problems, so it reasons that an overburdened police officer finds people or a group of people committing some kind of crime that they just beat the hell out of them to save time instead of arresting the assailants and filling out the proper paper work. (U.S. Department of Justice. (1994) An incident in the New York subway illustrates what (due to the publics level of fear) police officers are doing to suspicious albeit innocent citizens. July 1998 around 11 oclock at night 18 year old Lani Soto was riding the New York subway train (Herbert, 1999).

She had just left work and was on her way to Williamsburg, where she lives, when one of two officers came up to where she was sitting. The officer started asking her questions when one of them told her to stand up, she said no and the officer grabbed her by the hair and pushed her face into the train door. Then the police officer claimed to be frisking her. Instead of doing a routine frisk the officer put his hand in between her legs and then on her breasts. This was done for longer than necessary to ascertain whether or not she carried a weapon.

When the train stopped and the doors opened Lani stepped off the train and the police officers stood on the train laughing at her. It is not uncommon for officers to stop and ask questions or frisk a suspicious person or persons in the New York subway. But, to go as far as sexual harassment and beating these suspects is wrong. (Houppert, 1999 p. 40) Another case to support the statement of police abusing their power is Shawn Robbins, a 30 year old associate director for CBS Sports (Houpert, 1999). Mr.

Robbins was on his way to the gym on November 20, 1997 when he noticed a man cleaning out his car by tossing trash out on the street. The smell and the sight of the trash being thrown right onto the street became so overwhelming that Robbins felt he had to say something. He said to the man, Theres a trash can over on every block in the city, why dont you put it in the garbage? Then the man relpied, If you wanna pick it up, you *censored*ing pick it up! Robbins picked up a coffee cup and set it on the trunk of the off duty police officers car. At that point, the officer proceeded to arrest him for no reason at all. Officer Brian Moran threatened to pull out his gun and put it to Robbins head. Robbins was taken down town to the 17th precinct and charged with disorderly conduct.

After being held for several hours, Mr. Robbins was released. (DeSantis, 1994 p. 4) On his way out of the police station Mr. Robbins asked for the officers name that had arrested him. The officer behind the desk told him to get out of the station or he was really going to get it.

So the police threatened Mr. Robbins for a second time. On March 23rd criminal court quickly dismissed the charge against Robbins. Robbins also filed a complaint and a civil rights suit. Alleging police brutality, false arrest, and false imprisonment. The civilian complaint review board obtained the report and found the officer Morans version of events.

Moran said that he told Robbins that the trash wasnt his. He also said he never used the word *censored*. The desk officer denied making the threatening statement. Just because a cop has had a bad day at work or for whatever else that is bothering him doesnt give him the right to take advantage of his position. (DeSantis, 1994 p.4) Out of the cases reviewed, it sounds like that just because the officer on the subway had nothing better to do, he decided to harass a young woman. …


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