Table of Contents
Police brutality entails using excessive and/or unnecessary violence by law enforcement officers. Even though there has never emerged a universal definition of this phrase and it varies depending on circumstances, police brutality has been around throughout policing history. The instances can be disproportionately concentrated in some populations. According to Marshall (2018), it is evident that police brutality in America has been concentrated within poor neighborhoods and among minorities. As such, this generates the necessity to understand the causes of police brutality and how this phenomenon can be prevented.
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Causes of Police Brutality
One of the major causes of police brutality is racial profiling in the American judicial system. All over America, profiling individuals based on their race have played a significant role in police using excessive force on certain individuals. Motley Jr et al (2018) write that, when the police abuse their power, it is mostly towards the minorities, primarily Hispanics and Black Americans. Since the American system supports profiling, the police feel justified to use excessive force during an arrest or any encounter. Black Americans are also subjected to police stops, observations, frisks, interrogations, and searches compared to other people (Obasogie & Newman, 2017). Therefore, police brutality is an institutionalized aspect in America.
Secondly, another factor contributing major to police brutality is corruption in the law enforcement sector. Although there are decent police officers, some law enforcers use their positions as power trips. Such officers enter the law enforcement sector through corruption and maintain the same as they serve the public. Most scholars claim that this is a law issue whereby the legislation has not been tightened enough to prevent recruiting corrupt individuals into the police force. These officers will threaten to arrest the potential suspects if they do not comply with their demands. When the suspects refuse to honor them, the officers will use force to get what they want or injure the individual for refusing to cooperate.
Thirdly, lack of enough training has been linked to police brutality. In this case, the focus is more on the system failures and not on individual police officers. Besides, lack of enough training foments distrust plus lowers the morale of the law enforcers. For example, a police officer will not be sure if a fellow officer will support him or her in certain decisions during life-or-death circumstances. As a result, the badly trained officer will use all his force to solve the situation because he does not trust his fellow officer.
Lastly, police brutality may be fueled by the absence of prosecution and accountability in the system. Most cases involving police killings tend to pass without the officers getting prosecuted or charged. Besides, many shootings are justified by the police departments. Since most of the fatal shootings of citizens are justified, there have been legitimate questions about the role of the system to hold the officers accountable. It is expected that police officers guilty of misconduct or wrongdoing are held accountable for their conduct. However, the constitution warrants them to use excessive force. Efforts to prove that officers have used excessive forces tend to bear no fruits since the systems protect them. It has also been proven difficult to define what excessive force is. As a result, officers have continued to hold their positions even after wrongdoings. Maintaining the constitutional definition of excessive force has also been difficult due to various interpretations during court cases involving the officers.
Preventing Police Brutality
One way of preventing police brutality is by changing the police culture. Although training has been cited as a measure of reducing racial discrimination among the officers and helping de-escalate it, some methods of training back up the biases. For example, as Harmon (2017) asserts, training on procedural justice that focuses on fairness has been demonstrated to reduce the use of force during arrests. However, training is conducted with minimal oversight. Thus, the methods used might not be effective, and since there is little attention to their success, chances of police brutality ending could be low. When this culture changes and more focus is placed on the type of training and its effectiveness, there are chances of preventing excessive use of violence. Ideally, as Pappas (2020) asserts, instilling oversight can help prevent police brutality. The use of civilian and independent departments can help reduce the bad behavior of the police. This involves reviewing and investigating complaints from the citizens. Research in 2015 found that investigating the claims instead of dismissing them can help determine their merit.
In summation, police brutality in the country is mainly institutionalized. It is a phenomenon that is deeply rooted in the system. This implies that dealing with it requires an overhaul of different departments that make it difficult to make changes. Nevertheless, it is something that can be prevented if the police culture is changed and the officers are properly trained. Also fighting racial discrimination can help reduce police use of force since racial profiling seems to be a major cause of the act. But one evident thing is that fighting police brutality requires the output of most departments including policymakers and law enforcers themselves.
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- Harmon, R. (2017). Legal Remedies for Police Misconduct. Rachel A. Harmon, Legal Remedies for Police Misconduct, in Academy for Justice, a Report on Scholarship and Criminal Justice Reform (Erik Luna ed., 2017) (Forthcoming), Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper, (2017-40).
- Marshall, L. (2018). An examination of police brutality in the United States: living and working in a state of fear.
- Motley Jr, R. O., & Joe, S. (2018). Police use of force by ethnicity, sex, and socioeconomic class. Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research, 9(1), 49-67.
- Obasogie, O. K., & Newman, Z. (2017). Police violence, use of force policies, and public health. American Journal of Law & Medicine, 43(2-3), 279-295.
- Pappas, S. (2020 June 4). How to actually stop police brutality, according to science. LiveScience. https://www.livescience.com/evidence-police-brutality-reform.html.