Police Brutality Against African American
Is America a land of freedom where everyone exercises his or her democratic and human rights, and treated equally by the law? The constitution of the country granted its citizen freedom and equal treatment by the law. The ideal value of a nation also augments the very constitutional rights that have been granted. However, the actual values and practices that have seen ever since the country was founded have been inconsistent with the ideal values of America. Particularly, in recent days, America is a mess, and seeming to be full of contradictions. There are various unfair practices that have been occurring in the country. Among these unfair practices, the most widespread have been police brutality. As per Cassandra Chaney and Robertson Ray, “police brutality is the use of excessive physical force or verbal assault and psychological intimidation, which has been found to be detrimental to the victim, his family, and members of his community” (2014). It is any unreasonable force used by law enforcement officers in the name of protecting the public or themselves. Police brutality could be either verbal assault, psychological threat, or physical force, which sometimes results in death of the victim.
The occurrence of the problem traces back to decades in American history. Historically, police brutality has been used to hold back African Americans and to sustain the power structure and benefit of the dominant group. Early slave patrols hunting the then slaves, lynching and beating of African Americans, and turning fire hoses over African Americans for simply walking down in the street for peaceful protest can be considered as an example of police brutality in the past. As stated by Onyemaobim, Ikedi O, “police brutality in the United States is not a new phenomenon - its origin is linked to America’s earliest days” (2016). After been through all the past situations, as a civilized nation, the United States supposed to be safe, secure, and a nation that provides equal treatment to its citizens. However, the reality is almost a complete reverse. Teenagers and young adults are not safe, and their environment across the nation has been insecure. Sometimes, parents are become victims as well. Surprisingly, it is the law enforcement officers that assumed to protect the public, create the most insecure and horrifying environment: the recent police brutality. According to Gregory Dick, “The far too frequent brutal and excessive treatment of [African Americans] is intended to terrorize an entire race” (2017). The adversity is affecting almost all age category - children, young, and old age of African Americans. Police killing in the United States is way much higher as compared to other developed nations. “The U.S. rate of killings by police per million is 4.6 times that of Canada, 22 times the rate in Australia, 40 times higher than Germany, and more than 140 times the rate of killings by police shootings in England and Wales” (Zimring Franklin, 2016). Police brutality has been disproportionately affecting African American, and this is caused by racial profiling, police officer’s implicit bias, and malfunctioning criminal justice system of the nation.
Across the country, police officers are constantly chasing African Americans for suspicious crime, because, in most parts of the country, either the law permit racial profiling or does not explicitly state and inhibit racial profiling. This nonexistence or incompleteness of the law created suitable condition for police officers to practice their own belief, and such a belief is adversely affecting African Americans. Police officers are more likely to pull over and search African American driver for apparently no reason, which violets the fourth amendment of the constitution - the right of people to be secure in their effects against unreasonable search and seizures. According to Johnson Kevin R., law enforcement officers find themselves accused of physically abusing African Americans, and “police departments across the United States engage, on a daily basis, in racial profiling in traffic stops” (2016, p. 994). Those African Americans that are searched and pulled over are treated as a guilty person until they prove that they are innocent, where this is the opposite of how the justice system supposed to work. Instead of protecting the citizens equally, police officers are victimizing specific groups based on their racial background. The statistics of Snell, 2011, as stated by Dr. Jones Chenelle, “Although African Americans comprise 13% of the U.S. population, they account for 29% of arrests” (2013). The police action is particularly targeting African Americans. It is obviously understood that police officers embraced racist attitude while interacting with African Americans. Thus, racial profiling is a tool of oppression dressed up as a tool of law enforcement.
Police officer’s implicit bias is another core reason that African Americans become more victim of police brutality. Implicit bias, as stated by Fridell Lorie and Lim Hyeyoung, is a thought people link an individual to a stereotype based on certain background, such as race, which operate outside of conscious awareness (2016). Because of personal life experience, almost all people are exposed to develop implicit bias. The racial disparities existed in the United States for the past several decades created improper perception about certain groups in every citizen’s mind. Across the nation, it is revealed that African Americans are tied to misdemeanor. Like any other person, police officers do have the same perception where they link African Americans to crime, which is implicit bias. For example, an officer who pulls over African American man who driving through a rich, white neighborhood because he looks out of place may not have explicit racist belief, but he enacts racist attitude in his unconscious evaluation and responses. In the same scenario, officers believed that a given person was armed, and it turned out not to be the case. This failure of officers is usually occurred when the subject is African American. Police officers are 1.49 times more likely to use excessive force against African American compared to other races, even when important legal and other procedures are considered, which reflects the demonstration of implicit bias (Fridell Lorie and Lim Hyeyoung, 2016). All in all, police officers, because of their implicit bias, perceive African Americans as a threat, and this has been excessively affecting African American community.
The criminal Justice system is serving as a tool to oppress African Americans, and to sustain the power structure of the dominant group. Court and the criminal justice system operate in complex and subtle mechanism to discriminate and harass African Americans. Because of the existing democratic, civil and human right laws, the dominant groups are not directly attacking African Americans, as they did in the past. They constrain the advancement of African Americans by using indirect strategies. The criminal justice system has been meticulously planned and established, and cautiously implemented to attain the intended aim of the dominant group. As stated by Chiles Nick, “Because of America’s tragic racial history, even today many of the exonerations involve white people wrongfully accusing Black people of committing crimes - and the accusations being enough to send them to jail for much of their lives” (2015). This accusation is best exemplified by law enforcement offices, as most of them are whites, followed by the support from court. Sometimes African Americans are blamed for made-up or heinous crimes committed by someone else. Thus, criminal justice system is the main tool to implement the dominant group’s hidden agenda - sustaining the long-existed power structure by using police to brutalize innocent citizens. It can be argued as there is no justice, because the court and criminal justice system in the nation is a criminal system by itself, which serve as a tool to dehumanize and degrade African Americans. According to a study conducted by a Harvard University Scholars, “[law enforcement practices] have resulted not only in the vastly disproportionate incarceration of African Americans, but also now threaten the all-important legitimacy and claim to fairness that should be a hallmark of legal institutions in a democratic society” (Bobo Lawrence and Thompson Victor, 2006). This disproportionate incarceration and hostile situation indicates injustice of America’s contemporary low enforcement practices for African American community by design. The criminal justice system is purposely deceitfully designed in a way that unreasonably affects African Americans. Besides, when it comes to people being killed by police officers, shamefully, there is no national data. While there are statistics on all kinds of violent crimes, lack of national data on police brutality is deliberately made to abstract justice. This lack of comprehensive data by itself turn off the bulb on someone’s mind who is seeking or attempting to establish justice.
On the contrary there are some people, mostly from dominant group, attempt to diminish the depth or completely avoid the harsh reality of police brutality against African Americans. Some of those people argue that African Americans become victims because they are not obeying the police order, some say police is protecting citizens which is their job, some say African Americans are killed because they are thugs, and some others references the victim’s past manner for the present situations. However, these arguments all are vain which are purposefully created to hide and/or distract the existing reality. As per the National Public Radio Inc, for the question “Are black people more likely to be shot by the police than white people are?”, Michel Martin, the weekend host of All Things Considered, responded “yes, if you look at the rate, blacks were 2.5 times more likely to be killed by officers than whites” (2016). When we take a deep look at the police officers law enforcement process, it is an immoral act on innocent victims. Police officers are shooting and killing African Americans for no apparent reason. The death of Amandou Diallo in New York City, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Philando Castile in Minnesota, and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge by police officers can be mentioned as an example of some of irrational police conducts (Funke Daniel and Tina Susman, 2016). The victims are abused only because of their skin color. For every misconduct officers undertook against African Americans, they can cover themselves in the running tales of bravery, danger, and heroism that is available to a uniformed police officer by virtue of simple reporting for a duty.
The possible solution for the aforementioned issues would be, establishing standardized recruitment procedure that confirm manner of communication, developing customized training program, and employing comprehensive evaluation scheme. Before being hired, police officers should be required to possess sound communication manner. Communication is a process in which we try as clearly and accurately as we can, to convey our thoughts, intentions and objectives. Good communication is a key to achieve success in any profession. Hence, sound communication skill should be set as a prerequisite for every recruit in police department, because this will make it possible for the police officers to interact with offenders in times of crisis and eventually resolve the problem without chaos. When a police officer communicates with a suspect appropriately, there is a higher tendency that the suspect will comply with the officer than when the officer is discourteous towards that suspect. According to the National Communication Association, “One of the most common complaints civilians have about police officers is that, their communication style is rude and arrogant” (2008). Officers tend to send a wrong message to civilians by adopting such a stance. Inadequate communication skill triggers conflict and lack of trust between police officers and civilians. In order to be most effective in their roles, police officers should communicate in a way that is sensitive to the cultures, values and norms of people in a given society. This will not only reduce the tendencies of conflict between police officers and civilians, but also will considerably reduce the rate of police brutality against African American.
Regarding implicit bias, establishing strong hiring, training and firing procedure in place would be fundamental aspect to address the problem. During recruitment, police officers should pass through rigorous recruitment procedure, that tests their personality and perception. Subject matter specialists from several field should come together and develop well-constructed and technologically equipped tool to assess the perception and personality of the prospective police officer. If the recruit passes the assessment process, then customized training should be given based on the assessment result, which nurture the officer’s mindset. The training should not be a flicker, rather it should be provided continuously at a definite interval of time. Besides assessment test and provision of training, the prospective officers should be obliged to sign strict rules. Strict rules such as death sentence, imprisonment, job termination and removal of right to redeem benefits at work place should be imposed by the Police Department as part of the requirements to get hired. Signing these strict laws will not only minimize the tendency of unnecessary shootings, but will avert the officers’ impulsive decision making while exercising their duties. Moreover, comprehensive evaluation scheme should be in place to check the officers conduct regarding the already established rule. The scheme must be structured in a way that extract the hidden misconduct of police officers. If the evaluation finds out any inappropriate action of the officers, then it should be followed by applicable sanction. As part of evaluation process, officers who comply the rule and demonstrate better conduct, should be rewarded and promoted. The sanction would demotivate similar potential behavior, while the reward intensifies and enhance acceptable behavior.
Reforming the nation’s criminal justice system should also be part of the endeavor in addressing police brutality. The reform should be designed not only to address the greater incidences and the resulting tension of the public, but also intended to address a sense of smaller injustices that goes under the radar. ‘End Racial Profiling Act’ that has been floating through congress, for years should also be incorporated in the criminal justice reform. The reform should work towards narrowing the gap between police officers and the public, particularly African American community. Because justice exists between the people who care about each other.
In modern America, African Americans are not treated equally by the law, and have been abused by police officers. The abuse is mainly caused by racial profiling, police officer’s implicit bias, and putrid criminal justice system. African Americans are searched and pulled over at traffic stops for no ostensible reasons. Even though the profiling is violation of the victims’ constitutional right, the existing law is not explicitly demanding the police officers to be abstained from racial profiling. Officers who are engaged in racial profiling are not penalized for their misconduct. Long existed racial disparities in the country created tilted perception in the police officers mind that even unconsciously associate African Americans with crime. Sometimes police officers are unaware about their misconduct towards African Americans which is the product of implicit bias. Police department and criminal justice system are the main tools used by dominant group to ill- treat and hinder the advancement of African Americans. Police officers’ harassment and killing, and prejudicial judgment of the criminal justice system is a common phenomenon in modern America. To address the problem and lower the rate of police brutality, police officers should pass through thorough recruitment procedure, and sign strict rule that make them accountable for every single misconduct they will commit. Customized training should be developed, and consistently provided to law enforcement officers at every stage, and monitoring and evaluation of the officers’ interaction with the community should be part and parcel of police department job performances. Moreover, the countries criminal justice system should be revisited, ineffective parts should be pinpointed, and enormous reform should be made in a way that serves all citizens equally. Subject matter specialists should be invited to take a role in the reform process. Government in collaboration with appropriate authorities should establish national data base to track the crime associated with police brutality. Finally, progressive agents from both community and law enforcement side is required to play a role in bringing both parties to the table so that they can work on some common solutions through a dialogue. If these recommendations are prudently implemented, it will not only reduce the rate of police brutality against African American, but also will narrow the gap between police officers and the victim community, and put right the world’s view towards America. Hence, it is time to act before the problem divide a nation and reaches its untreatable stage.
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