Police Brutality and the Ethics of Force: Introduction to the Topic

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Law enforcement in any country has the important task of identifying. preventing, rehabilitating, and publishing individuals that do not follow the rules that have been put in place to govern our society. However, the society today has witnessed a situation in which the police have turned against the public. Police misconduct which involves the use of violence has been witnessed in different parts of the country. Even though ethical issues have been raised in regard to how the police conduct themselves, it has been claimed that is within the constructs of the law. African Americans more specifically have been targets and major victims of police brutality. There have been many cases in which these individuals have been arrested, tortured and killed as a result of coming from minority groups that have been painted as criminals. Police Brutality has negatively affected the African American community primarily due to racism and racial discrimination alone that aligns with police brutality. The goal of this paper is to discuss the ethics of police brutality among African Americans and how this has strongly impacted the American economy in relation to discrimination.

What is Police Brutality?: The Ethics of Force

The term “Police Brutality” refers to the use of excessive force, meaning in the act of unnecessary force when dealing with particular citizens primarily referencing African Americans. The police must choose from the “oath of service and protection” and use power to restore law and order. Police brutality is subjected to but not limited to a crime that violates the law enforcement agencies’ excessive physical violence that has not only wounded but killed hundreds of African Americans. In order to calm the critics, training police ethics and moral staff has become an integral part of modern police training. Nevertheless, law enforcement ethics training is still applicable despite this. For most officers, most formal training ends at the university exit, which prohibits the officer from truly valuing the importance of protecting the rights of many civilians. In related goodwill efforts, institutions have developed policies to deal with anticipated ethical behavior in order to limit more general and disturbing behavior of unethical acts. Many of these policies adversely affect ethics by prohibiting specific actions or censorship of officials. Police brutality is slavery recreated which has been shaped to either kill us or put us in prison systems for crimes we did not commit. Police brutality stems from something greater than racism or discrimination but it stems from years of gaining voting rights or even being able to sit in the same restaurant as the white man. Police Brutality has particularly stemmed from a lack of training, lack of moral value toward citizens and a lack of a hostile social era. The definition of police brutality is more than just the unethical arrest and torture of individuals but the possession of power and sanity taken away from the individual at hand. (Chaney & Robertson 482) Apart from the use of excessive force, verbal assault is another aspect of where police brutality has been brought into play. In some instances, psychological intimidation has been used in police brutality. Individuals are brutalized for operating their vehicles or are stopped while engaging in normal daily activities. (Krieger et al. 1) How are citizens supposed to ideally feel protected by the authorities when there the one’s being targeted against their own will?

The police have engaged in such acts of violence that has violated all laws of the protection of citizens. Specifically referring to Amendment 14 which states, “The Fourteenth Amendment addresses many aspects of citizenship and the rights of citizens. The most commonly used -- and frequently litigated -- phrase in the amendment is 'equal protection of the laws', which figures prominently in a wide variety of landmark cases, including Brown v. Board of Education (racial discrimination)”( Moran, 208). Police brutality has raised the issue of ethics. Human rights organizations, the public, and other interested parties have considered the actions of the police towards its citizens to be unethical. There have been different situations that have been used in explaining unethical practices in police brutality. Correctional facilities have witnessed cases of police brutality (Williams, 21). The police exploit individuals in these facilities in an attempt to ensure that they behave in line with the measures that have been put in place by these police officers. Police have misused their power in dealing with minority groups (Williams, 24). The police misuse power even in cases where these minority groups have not engaged in any illegal activity. The public has had negative perceptions on police misconduct due to some ethical reasons. Police brutality has focused on specific neighborhoods (Mason 16) Neighborhoods occupied by minority groups such as the African Americans have faced most cases of police brutality. This has raised an ethical issue regarding the activities of the policies. Demographics is another factor that has led to police brutality (Mason, 17). The young population and especially those from the minority groups have faced police brutality. This has been considered to be unethical. The perceptions of the police towards the minority groups have raised ethical issues about police brutality. Ethics in police brutality can be viewed from the perspective of the police. The police officers must ensure that they report their fellow police officers if they engage in police brutality (Porter & Prenzler). The policies on reporting police misconduct by police officers have been clearly explained in police departments across the United States and the constitution. Minority officers willing to report their fellow officers for brutality have no option but to keep silent about it (Porter & Prenzler). This is because they are also part of the minority groups and as such might be afraid of being implicated by the majority groups.

Police Brutality at a Glance: Stories

Stephon Clark is dead. Left with not only 2 kids at the age of 22, but a lost of memories that he will no longer remember. March 18th, 2018 there was a call from a neighborhood resident in Sacramento, who reported a young man, Clark to be breaking in homes and windows. Police quickly rushed to the scene and was on an immediate hunt to find Clark. Police found Clark in his grandmother’s backyard with a cell phone, when they reportedly thought the cell phone was a gun. The shot at Stephon 20 times and aimed to hit him 15 times which ended his life instantly. With this, evidence has been proven with body cam footage that Clark was surrendering to authorities when they repeatedly stated, “ Show us your hands”. No further actions have been taken upon law enforcement (Richard, 12). Trayvon Martin is dead. Lost his life at 17 years old with so much more life ahead of him. Walking from a corner store in a black hoodie, with a red pack of skittles in his hand, labeled as another young black man to be stealing. Who you may know as George Zimmerman and who I know as my oppressor ended this 17 year old boy’s life. Zimmerman, who at the time was the Sanford, Florida’s neighborhood watch captain reportedly called 911 to report a “suspicious person” in the means of seeing Martin walking down the street. Reports say that Zimmerman was told to stay in his vehicle and not to approach Trayvon, in which he disregarded. (Weir, 22) The neighborhood witnesses say they suddenly heard gun fire go off in the area, and Zimmerman claimed the gun fire shot 2 times was in an act of self defense. (Davis and Block, 1) What’s still not making sense to this day is that, Zimmerman was told by 911 operators so my sources say, to stay in his vehicle, how would he have time to claim self defense if he stayed in his vehicle, no contact at all with Martin would have taken place.

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George Zimmerman is a free man and has faced no charges. Rodney King luckily did not die after his brutal attack on March 3rd, 1991, though his injuries were fatal. King was reportedly kicked and club by officers 56 times and luckily footage was taken by a bystander and multiple audiences who saw the video reported law enforcement to be using excessive force against Rodney. King’s high speed chase did result in his high speed chase, but beated repeatedly for over 81 seconds is deemed unconstitutional and unlawful at the hands of authority. (APA,8) Minority groups in the United States have been the most affected by police brutality. The African American communities have witnessed different cases of police brutality that has led them to have a negative perception of the police. Despite the concerns of the African American communities, police brutality that results from racial discrimination has continued to increase (Obasogie & Newman 279). African Americans have developed social movements that are aimed at fighting for their rights as citizens of the United States. In most instances, these social movements have failed to achieve their purpose and instead escalated the issue of police brutality. There has been evidence that shows that police brutality has been based on inequality and discrimination towards African Americans.

The killing of unarmed individuals is the second form of police brutality. In the period between 2011 and 2014, a large number of unarmed African Americans were killed (Weir). These killings were based on bias and the hatred that the White police officers have towards the African Americans. During this period, the unarmed African Americans were killed more as compared to the unarmed White Americans. An unarmed African American is 3.5 times highly likely to be killed as compared to an unarmed White American (Weir). Majority of the police killings in this form have been considered to be illegal. In the past, it was difficult to account for the number of people that had been killed by the police in a given year. However, new laws were enacted and as such the number of African Americans killed each year can be recorded and retrieved. In 2015, 995 individuals were killed by the police (Davis & Block 1). Out of this number, 26% were African Americans. In 2016, 963 individuals were killed by the police (Davis & Block 1). The African Americans represented a significant population accounting for 233 deaths. African Americans represent only a small part of the American population but still face the highest cases of brutality. Shooting that is not aimed at killing is a way through which police brutality is carried out. African Americans who own weapons legally are highly likely to be killed as compared to the White Americans (Davis & Block 2). Even in cases where these Africans do not pose any kind of threat, they are shot or killed. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has in the past given its own account of police brutality towards the African Americans. This organization agrees to the fact that African Americans are more likely to experience police brutality as compared to Whites. African American males aged between 15 to 34 years are 9 times more likely to be killed when compared to the rest of the races in America (American Psychiatric Association 1). This information was based on the data that had been collected by the organization in 2015. In 2015, African American males were killed four times more than any other race (American Psychiatric Association 1). The profiling of African American males as criminals has contributed to this vice.

How the Community Responds

The African American and the White communities have responded differently to the issue of police brutality. African Americans have been seen as individuals that come from low high crime and low income communities. These communities have cited the lack of procedural justice in the way police officers deal with them (La Vigne, Fontaine, & Dwivedi 7). The African American communities believe that they should be allowed to speak when they are dealing with the police. The police should build trust with the community members and appropriately apply the law. The African American community has felt that they are not given an opportunity to speak when the police arrest them. The People’s Coalition was formed to engage the Americans in dealing with the issue of police brutality. This coalition was composed of the Whites, the African Americans, and other races in the United States. Support committees have been formed to help the victims in dealing. with the consequences of police brutality (Hutto & Green 26). For example, when Trayvon Martin was murdered in Sanford through police brutality, a support committee was formed to help the family. The committee mobilized the whole country to take part in this action. One way in which mobilization was done was by holding meetings in churches. The same was also done on the anniversary of the killing of Martin Luther King Jr.

There have been divided opinions or reactions regarding police brutality towards the African Americans. The main issue has been related to the confidence that the American community has towards the police officers. In 2015, 57% of the Whites indicated that they had confidence in the police (The Opportunity Agenda). The rest of the population including the African American had low confidence level in the police. The Whites that were involved in this study argued that it was easy to build trust with the police. However, African Americans felt otherwise. The Whites have also argued that they had positive experiences with the police compared to the African Americans who have felt otherwise. The second issue is related to how the police have treated African Americans. Majority of the Whites have felt that the police have treated them in the right way (National Institute of Justice). These individuals have not had an issue even in cases where they are given speeding tickets. The African Americans have felt that the police have interacted with them in a negative way (National Institute of Justice). These individuals have complained about the poor communication strategies between them and the police. They have also complained about the failure of the police to listen to them or treat them in a kind manner. The way the media has portrayed the actions of the police have led to African Americans have a negative perception towards them. The creation of social movements has also been a way through which the American community has responded to police brutality. One of the famous social movements in the United States today is the Black Lives Matter (Kramer, Remster, &Charles). The Black Lives Matter movement has elicited different reactions from the public. The African Americans have felt that this movement recognizes them as individuals who should be accorded equal rights. On the other hand, the Whites have felt that this movement is aimed at tarnishing the image of police departments based on the killing of African Americans that has been witnessed before. The movement has been accused of inciting violence and making the community unsafe for individuals who are not African Americans.

The Effects of Police Brutality

Police brutality in the United States has had effects for the African Americans and the whole community. Police brutality has had an impact on local crime. Police brutality has helped in deterring crime while at the same time increasing crime in some areas of the United States. In Chicago, violent crimes have been prevented as a result of police brutality (Noray 60). However, local crimes in the districts and communities in Chicago have increased as a result of police brutality. The increase in local crimes has led to an increase in the number of African Americans that are killed as a result of police brutality. The assumption has been that a majority of the young population in areas such as Chicago has been involved in different types of crime. The communication process between African Americans and the police has been affected (Desmond et al. 858). The African Americans have been afraid of communicating to the police for the fear of being victimized and as such are left to protect themselves. Police brutality on African American has affected mental health. African Americans that are exposed to three or more killings within three months are highly likely to have a 035% increase in mental health challenges (Moran). When compared to Whites, African Americans witnessed cases of advanced mental health conditions (Moran). Unarmed African Americans witnessed more cases of advanced mental conditions as compared to unarmed Whites. Other factors have been related to the mental challenges that are experienced by African Americans. African Americans feel that police brutality threatens their lives, lowers their status, and is as a result of unfairness (Moran). Dealing with these challenges affects the mental capabilities of African Americans.

Police brutality on African Americans has had an impact on their wellbeing. The brutality alters the lives of the victims, and this extends to their families and communities (Delgado 16). For example, an individual that is mentally challenged as a result of exposure to police brutality will not have the same relationship they had before with their families. This also applies in cases that individuals are arrested and incarcerated or killed (Bejan et al 1). The incarcerated individuals get out the prisons with a different mindset while the dead ones live their families without a breadwinner. Police brutality is an issue that has affected the United States today. Even though the government has put all measures to ensure that the police act in the right way, police brutality is still experienced and especially towards the minority groups. African Americans have suffered the consequences of police brutality more as compared to the other races. Police brutality has raised ethical issues about the need to avoid discrimination and serve all American citizens equally. There have been many cases in which police have used brutality towards African Americans. Shooting, killing, body slamming, and torturing are some of the forms in which police brutality has been carried out. The community has responded differently to the issue of police brutality. African Americans have felt that the actions of the police are unwarranted and illegal. On the other hand, the Whites have felt that the police are doing their job.

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