Not since the scenes of water hoses, dogs, and blatant beatings with billy clubs during the Civil Rights movement has America seen so many unnecessary acts of violence by the police. Police are no longer protecting and serving its citizens, instead they dress as quasi-military personnel and treat citizens as enemies; however, the “enemy” the police have set their sites on people of color. The ¨Black Lives Matter¨ movement is just one way citizens have begun to show their distrust, anger, and frustration with the brutality of the police. The citizens are rioting in cases where brutality has exceeded the standard range of punishment.
Fatal shootings have become common and surprisingly the police responsible are not detained long before being released back to their normal duties. Studies indicate that police more commonly use excessive force on minority groups. Many people in minority communities believe the police are purposefully targeting them as suspects or people under suspicion by assuming that they have committed a crime. In most cases, this “racial profiling” has caused the police to overlook the person or persons who have actually committed the crime by focusing their attention towards the person’s appearance. Some members of the majority community, as well as some police members, support excessive force and believe it is needed to help reduce the number of crimes in the future. Although not all police are overly aggressive with their handling of people or cases, the increase in reported cases of brutality indicate that police have forgotten their main purpose and duty to protect their citizens. It’s clear that racial profiling and stereotypical assumptions govern the handling of their cases and interactions with people.
Racial profiling refers to the discriminatory practice by law enforcement officials of targeting individuals for suspicion of crime based on the individual’s race, ethnicity, religion or national origin. Police brutality is defined as the use of any force exceeding which is reasonably necessary to accomplish a lawful purpose. Although there is a significant amount of whites who fall victim to police brutality, the illegal and unjustified nature of abuse against minority citizens outnumbers the brutality against white citizens. The demographics are drastically apparent among the unarmed victims with two-thirds of those victims being black or Hispanic.
In Stockton, California a 16-year old black teenager was tackled by multiple police officers after jaywalking. The young man was shouting for the officers to get off of him and his pleas resulted in him being violently hit twice with a baton. As if that weren’t enough, four more officers jumped on top of him while he was on the ground and handcuffed him. This boy was unarmed and did nothing more than jaywalk. Shockingly, the police department agreed that the officers actions were justified. In a similar case with a 16-year old white boy jaywalking, the policy only gave the young man a simple warning. The only difference between these two cases and these two boys was the color of their skin. What justification is there for this unequal treatment? When will the police be held accountable to these acts of public abuse?
In another case in California, deputies shot and wounded an innocent black man after mistaking his cell phone for a gun. Once again, the person was unarmed yet he was still fired upon by not one, but two separate officers. Instead of possibly yelling for the man to show his hands or even shouting a warning shot in the air, the policeman chose to simply shoot the man five times. The police should not have the right to shoot, beat, and kill unarmed harmless people without punishment. It needs to stop. It’s not acceptable. The police need to return to it’s core mission and purpose to protect and serve. How are the citizens of this nation supposed to feel safe if police are getting away with murder? There are unfortunately, countless more cases of excessive force, brutality and murder against women, men, and children of color.
Stereotypical beliefs have contributed the actions of several police officers and served as the foundation for their abusive actions against people of color. Stereotypes of black people include the belief they are dangerous, gang affiliated, and/or thugs prone to criminal behavior. These stereotypes have influenced the police and their belief in the need to use excessive force, like Oscar Grant who ended up dead because of these dangerous stereotypes. He was riding the bus when a fight broke out, but the police believed it was he and his friends that caused the fight when in truth it was a group of young white boys. As the police were pushing him and trying to force him to the ground, Oscar tried to proclaim his innocence, but his cries were met with a shot and his death. The officers claimed he was reaching for a taser gun, which few people believe. As usual, the police went free. If the police are allowed to act based on stereotypes, how are citizens supposed to feel safe? When so few policemen are punished for their brutality and unlawful killings, how are citizens supposed to believe in the police? There needs to be a change.
Even with the outrageous amounts of police brutality, the majority population believe police force is justified and has been successful at ending crime. Maintaining law and order can be difficult for police officers. Not everyone is innocent, not everyone is unarmed, and unfortunately there are bad people out there that would kill a police officer to avoid getting caught or going to jail. Why not try to scare or disarm the suspects, or even wound the suspect as opposed to killing them? Some would argue that if the police were not brutal, there would be higher crime rate.