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Imagine someone growing up in a neighborhood and knowing a person of color who was only a few houses down, they’ve always been down to earth and friendly, but the next morning on the news, they see that this person got shot by a police officer. Many news lines over time have exhibited incidents where civilians and minorities are violated by police in such a way that has people outraged. This type of force is known as police brutality, “this is the unwarranted or excessive and often illegal use of force against civilians by U.S. police officers. Forms of police brutality have ranged from beatings, to mayhem, torture, and even murder.” (Moore, Leonard. “Police Brutality in the United States.”) Most wouldn’t expect those who are given the job to protect us and our civil rights would wrongfully do such a thing and violate us as people. Occurrences like that happen for several different reasons, some of which are known to be the undying issue of racial profiling, criminalizing, and the failure to properly train police for violent and non-violent situations. These acts make certain minorities or people feel targeted and unsafe in their community, despite if this force was accidental or mistaken, police brutality is wrong and makes it hard for civilians to trust our protective forces.
Police Brutality is a societal issue that can be traced all the way back to the Industrial Revolution in the 1870s as well as the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Around the 1870s, police brutality was a way to oppress worker strikes by resulting with physical violence. Worker or labor strikes are defined as a work stoppage, caused by the mass refusal of employees to work. A strike usually takes place in response to employee grievances. (“Strike Action.” Wikipedia.) Violence by our protective forces was permitted to citizens who challenged big industries and they were often arrested without a cause. (Hg.org.) This first act of brutality created more awareness to how far police are willing to go to put a stop to something or “protect” others and big businesses. As for the Civil Rights Movement, violence was taken to another level with outrageous behavior towards minorities. The Civil Rights Movement was “a struggle for social justice that took place mainly during the 1950s and 1960s for blacks to gain equal rights under the law in the United States.” (“Civil Rights Movement.” History.com.) With slavery abolished but racism still in tact but being fought against, we can assume that the government and police figured they had to act fast to get their way. The battle for equal rights took place in 1963 in a city in Alabama known as Birmingham. Violence broke out when police officers used high-power water hoses against the civilians to knock them to the ground, they also sent their dogs to attack protestors, most were held by cops while being attacked or mauled by their dogs. (“What Is Police Brutality?” The Law Dictionary.) This is a report from the incident talking about some of the victims, ‘A Negro woman was bitten on the leg by a police dog,’ United Press International reported. ‘A Negro man had four or five deep gashes on his leg where he had been bitten by a dog. A sobbing Negro woman said she had been kicked in the stomach by a policeman.’ (Siemaszko, Corky. Nydailynews.com.) These points in history both illustrate how bad police brutality got throughout history and the unfairness created around equal rights between those of different races. The idea and occurrences of this behavior is still around but not as severe as the actions made before.
Just like any problem, police brutality can be caused in a variety of different ways. Some of which are the criminalizing of behaviors by civilians, racial profiling views by officers, and the failure or lack of training towards police for violent and non-violent situations. The first cause, criminalizing, can be described as ‘the process by which behaviors and individuals are transformed into crime and criminals’. (“Criminalization.” Wikipedia.) Meaning, the act or behavior a person supposedly “committed” wasn’t actually a crime. When you criminalize someone, you make their behavior illegal when it’s legal. If an officer criminalizes a civilian, that has them to believe that they are legally allowed to respond to a situation when provoked, and that can later lead to brutalizing people. As for properly training police, some academies do not properly teach officers the fine line between a violent situation and a non-violent situation. Those who can’t tell the differences between the two will be more likely to respond inappropriately with violence when there was only a reason to be cautious not provoked. “In the absence of this training, police are less likely to view violence as a last resort.” (Kristian, Bonnie. Business Insider.) One of the last most major causes of police brutality is racial profiling, it “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.” (American Civil Liberties Union.) This issue has been around for so long and is connected with racist biased opinions towards people, this creates assumptions towards minorities being more likely to be committing a crime. African Americans are said to be 3x more likely to be killed by the police than white people. (Mapping Police Violence.) These three causes, as well as many others, are some of the main reasons why the issue of police brutality is so big today.
Police Brutality has significant visible impacts on communities and towns, but mostly the psychological health of those who were involved. The moment an incident happens, news lines and reports are made, riots and protests break out, people feel unsafe, trust is lost, deaths happen, and charges are placed. The whereabouts for where these happen often never appear the same to those who live there. “In one case of 2018, there was a boy named Antwon Rose Jr., a 17-year-old unarmed black male, who was killed in a Pittsburgh suburb as he fled a car that had been stopped by police. He was shot in the back by Officer Michael Rosfeld, who had been hired one month before, and had only been formally sworn in hours before he took the teenager’s life.” (USA Today.) Shortly after his death, a series of riots and protests broke out with hundreds of people, many with signs that read “Black Lives Matter,” as well as a study from Woodland Hills Intermediate School in Swissvale that released that “the high rate of unarmed African Americans being killed at the hands of police has caused more incidents of depression, stress and other mental health issues among blacks.” (USA Today.) In spite of these types of incidents, many face an overwhelming damage to their mental health, their community, and themselves as a whole, even if they weren’t personally connected to the victim.
How can the likelihood of police brutality be minimized as much as possible, if not gone completely? There are many solutions out there, but one that seems the most successful would be getting more minorities and females as police officers. You can assume that a black person wouldn’t view another black person as much of a threat compared to a white person in that situation. Having more minorities as officers would create less rage towards mistakes that many would blame on racial profiling. As for more women in the police force, it is said “that female officers are not reluctant to use force, but they are not nearly as likely to be involved in use of excessive force.” (Bagri, Neha Thirani. Quartz.) In 2015, a report was made in New York that states that “55 police officers who intentionally discharged their firearms during an adversarial confrontation 4% were female while 96% were male; 17% of the department’s officers are female while 83% are men. Female police officers are also less likely to have civilian complaints lodged against them.” (Bagri, Neha Thirani. Quartz.) These reports and facts prove that having more diversity in police departments would solve the issue, if not it would at least lessen the cases of police brutality in the United States.
The excessive force by our officers that we call police brutality had been around for ages and has created nothing but issues throughout history. It is extremely wrong to violate someone’s rights as an individual and assert more force when it wasn’t necessary. The countless reports, protests, riots, and charges against those who were involved will continue until solutions are put in play, but until then civilians and victims will keep facing psychological struggles, distrust in their community, and the deaths will sadly continue. With little changes such as involving more women in our police departments, there could be more support toward minorities and a socially acceptable environment in towns can be created.
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