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In recent times, there has been increased cases of police-facilitated killings of people of color, especially the Blacks, across the United States. The recent and most controversial killing by police in the glare of cameras is the killing of George Floyd. This has continued to elicit protests and debates regarding the prevalence of systemic racism, particularly in the policing sector. In fact, in several instances, police have been accused of depicting stereotypical practices and emotions against racialized groups, which has significantly reduced trust in the criminal justice system. Besides, increase in police brutality against racialized groups has generated a pictorial discourse on how racism has become part of the institutions in the United States (DeAngelis, 2021). After all, if the police department exercises racism, there is also a high possibility that other institutions are doing the same.
Cases of racialized Police Brutality
There are many cases of racialized police brutality across the United States. Let us enumerate some of the cases that have attracted both national and international protests. In 2014, BLM protests emerged following the killing of two (2) unarmed African Americans, namely Michael Brown and Eric Garner, by the police (Britannica, n.d.). It is alleged that Garner died in New York (State Island) after a white law enforcement officer choked him. The event was evidently captured in a video by a bystander. On the other hand, Brown, an underage teenager, was brutally shot & killed in Ferguson, Missouri, by a white law enforcement officer. These deaths, accompanied by a refusal by the government prosecutors to institute charges against the involved police officers, elicited how racism has become formalized in institutions. On February 2020, Ahmaud Arbery, while jogging in Georgia (Glynn County), was fatally shot by two white police officers after a confrontation. In the following month (in March), Breonna Taylor, a professional medical technician for emergencies, was killed following a police raid in the apartment he used to live (Britannica, n.d.). The worst of it, in May 2020, an unarmed Black namely George Floyd, was brutally choked by a white Minneapolis-based police officer called Derek Chauvin, leading to his death. Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck for up to nine (9) minutes (Britannica, n.d.). This was despite the repeated indications that he was unable to breathe.
Causes of Racialized Police Brutality
According to DeAngelis (2021), one of the leading causes of racialized police brutality in the United States’ police is the lack of diversity. The police department is currently struggling with diversity issues; given that it is highly dominated by white men. As indicated by Data USA (n.d.), 66 percent of the police officers in the U.S are whites. The black police officers are merely 13.2%. Obviously, with such a racialized composition, there is a high possibility that one race, the dominant race, feels superior over the minority race, and hence, an increase in brutality. Another main cause of police brutality is poor training on ethics, courtesy, and self-defence. According to Bor et al. (2018), the lack of a proper professional code of conduct has made it difficult for white police officers to respond without excessive force, especially in the face of aggressive black Americans. They believe that police officers should be respected at all costs has led to fatal shootings, aggravated harm, and even death. Due to the dominant training of police officers, they have been made to believe that they need to use excessive force when dealing with perilous encounters (Ba B et al., 2021).
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Mechanism to reduce Racialized Police Brutality
The United States is a country that is governed by the rule of law. The Constitution governs all aspects of life, including human rights, fair trials, and judicial systems. According to the Constitution, a person is innocent until proven guilty. Hence, police officers must adhere to human rights provisions as enumerated in the Constitution. In line with this, they must exercise reasonableness, dignity, and humanity while interacting with and arresting people of color, irrespective of the crimes committed. Furthermore, in terms of the racial composition of the police department, there is a need to increase the number of Black police officers. Most importantly, all police officers should go through a thorough training on ethics, reasoning, courtesy, bias, prejudgement, and overall mechanisms on how to handle a rebellious suspect (DeAngelis, 2021).
In the world we live today, we expect a high level of professionalism, civilization, dignity, and humanity. However, this has not been the case in the U.S. Killing innocent and harmless Black Americans has sparked protests, not only in the U.S but also in other parts of the universe. Racialized composition of the police department, lack of diversity, and poor training on ethics are some of the factors that have significantly led to racialized police brutality. Going forward, there is a need to integrate other races into the police department. It is also critical to instill professionalism, ethics, and dignity among police officers.
- Ba B. A., Knox D., Mummolo J., Rivera R. (2021). The role of officer race and gender in police-civilian interactions in Chicago. Science, 371(6530), 696–702.
- Britannica. (n.d.). Subsequent protests: George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. https://www.britannica.com/event/shooting-of-Trayvon-Martin
- Bor J., Venkataramani A. S., Williams D. R., Tsai A. C. (2018). Police killings and their spillover effects on the mental health of black Americans: A population-based, quasi-experimental study. The Lancet, 392(10144), 302–310.
- DeAngelis, R. T. (2021). Systemic Racism in Police Killings: New Evidence from the Mapping Police Violence Database, 2013–2021. Race and Justice, 0(0). https://doi.org/10.1177/21533687211047943
- Data USA. (n.d.). Police Officers: Detailed Occupation. https://datausa.io/profile/soc/police-officers#:~:text=66%25%20of%20Police%20officers%20are,ethnic%20breakdown%20of%20Police%20officers.