The police force is an important agent of maintaining peace and order in society by ensuring that there is peace by eliminating crime and delinquencies in society. The police force is an agent of the criminal justice system that is vested with the power and duty to serve and protect the citizens from anything that might disrupt their peace, order, or put their lives at risk (Lyle & Esmail, 2016). The police force is behavior and conduct is guided by a professional code of ethics which ensures that their actions are limited not to violate other citizens’ rights and freedom. But since time immemorial not every officer of the law follows the guidelines of the police code of conduct which leads to police brutality.
Police brutality can be defined as the use of excessive force by law enforcement agents on citizens which is illegal and unwarranted (Gray & Parker, 2020). According to the code of conduct that guides the law enforcement agencies in states that police officers are not allowed to use excessive force in situations that do not warrant it as if they do it is termed as police brutality. Police brutality is viewed as the misuse of the power that a police officer is given by mistreating other citizens which is inappropriate. Police brutality is classified in different forms such as torture, assault, murder of civilians, intimidation physical and verbal abuse.
In America police brutality has been an issue in the criminal justice system since time immemorial after the formulation of uniform wearing police force. Before the formal police force, we know today in the early days informal and communal police forces were in charge of enforcing the law in the society. The informal police force was ineffective and unprofessional as it was evidenced during a rivalry that came up between those who carried out night watch and those that did the day watch which leads to a disaster that gave birth to the formation of the formal uniformed police. The formation of a uniformed police force led to those police officers misusing their powers and mistreating civilians which resulted in police brutality.
Historically the police officers in uniform felt as if they were beyond the law and that they had the power to do whatever they deemed fit and since they were law enforcers no one would question them (Lyle & Esmail, 2016). Police mistreatment began from the arresting process up to the correcting justice process. Suspects and civilians were abused by the police officers in the name of correctional measures led to physical and psychological impacts on the civilians and suspects. Police brutality is caused by the lack of following the proper channels and processes when dealing with suspects or civilians especially the lack of proper investigations.
Investigations are a vital part of the policing processes or the criminal justice system. Proper investigations enable the police officers to acquire the needed evidence which they can use to prosecute and imprison a suspect. But without proper investigations, justice is not served and might lead to police brutality as a result of using excessive force on an innocent civilian (Graham et al., 2020).
Investigations are vital as they enable police officers to have facts about an issue at hand and it enables them to layout plans and tactics of how they can effectively deal with the issue without violating the rights of the suspect or other civilians. With proper investigations, the issue of police brutality can be a thing of the past but police taking matters in their hand and acting out of suspicion without probable cause will continue making police brutality a major issue of the criminal justice system.
Racial based Police brutality in America started was ignited in the period between 1916 to 1970 al known as the Great Migration when African Americans moved from the south into the northern urban areas. Due to their increasing numbers, the natives felt threatened as a result of the stereotypes they held against African American males which lead to them being treated harshly. After World War II especially in the southern part of the USA where the Ku Klux Klan operated and racism was practiced openly police brutality was rampant (Taylor, 2019). In 1965 the Watts riots, in 1967 the Detroit riots and 1980 the liberty city riots and in 1992 Los Angeles riots happened all protesting against the brutal murders of African American males by the police.
Currently, in America, the issue of police brutality has resulted in adverse protests and demonstrations throughout the country calling for the end of racial based police brutality. Since time immemorial police brutality has impacted the non-natives or immigrants more adversely that it has the natives (Angus & Crichlow, 2018). In recent days African American males have been the most affected with multiple deaths caused by police using excessive force on them.
The recent case being the brutal murder of a black American man by the name George Floyd, who was killed by a white police officer by the name Derek Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes. The brutal murder of Mr. Floyd was captured on video and the fact that even after begging say he could not breathe the police officer continued kneeling on his neck. The actions of the police officer gave rise to the protests and demonstrations against racial based police brutality as many more African Americans males have lost their lives due to the brutality of law enforcement officers.
A nationwide police brutality mapping of 2015 showed that police officers killed five times more unarmed African Americans compared to weaponless white citizens. Racial Police brutality in America has been taken away African American lives at a rate of 31.17 per million, compared to the lives of 1.47 per million white males (Angus & Crichlow, 2018). In 2015 1 out of 3 people who died in America were killed by police, and they were unarmed. The data translated to a minimum of 102 unarmed black people being killed at least twice a week.
The number of shooting and killing of unarmed men has been decreasing steadily for example in 2015 94 people, in 2016 54 people, and 2017 68 people. It is shocking that 99 percent of the officers involved in police brutality are not charged which has encouraged the continuation of brutality (Schlosser & Gahan, 2015). People of color in the United States of America barely make up 40 percent of the total population in the country but they make up for about 63 percent of the unarmed people killed by police. The trend indicates that if nothing is done to eliminate police brutality more lives will be lost as a result.
Ironically, the people expected to serve and protect the civilians as their sworn duty are the people on the front line mistreating them. Police brutality is fetal and if nothing is done by the government to regulate and eliminate it more innocent people will lose their lives as a result of using excessive force by police officers. Racism in the police force should be uprooted and police force reforms encouraged ensuring that there is a change in the way police officers deal with civilians and suspects. It is also essential to hold those responsible accountable for their actions so that they may serve as examples.
Angus, J., & Crichlow, V. (2018). A Race and Power Perspective on Police Brutality in America. Retrieved from https://journals.flvc.org/faurj/article/view/106404/101916
Chaney, C., & Robertson, R. V. (2013). Racism and police brutality in America. Journal of African American Studies, 17(4), 480-505.
Gray, A. C., & Parker, K. F. (2020). Race and police killings: examining the links between racial threat and police shootings of Black Americans. Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice, 1-26. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15377938.2020.1774952
Graham, A., Haner, M., Sloan, M. M., Cullen, F. T., Kulig, T. C., & Jonson, C. L. (2020). Race and Worrying About Police Brutality: The Hidden Injuries of Minority Status in America. Victims & Offenders, 1-25. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15564886.2020.1767252
Lyle, P., & Esmail, A. M. (2016). Sworn to Protect: Police Brutality–A Dilemma for America’s Police. Race, Gender & Class, 23(3-4), 155-185.
Schlosser, M., & Gahan, M. (2015). Police Use of Force: A Descriptive Analysis of Illinois Police Officers. Law Enforcement Executive Forum, 15(2). https://doi.org/10.19151/leef.2015.1502a
Taylor, C. (2019). Fight the power: African Americans and the long history of police brutality in New York City.