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Understanding a nation: Police brutality, and ways to stop it.
Police brutality has become a growing issue. With shootings of unarmed citizens as well as protests, police brutality has become one of the most talked about issues in the United States. Police brutality is a term used for undue violence by members of the police force, this violence often directed at minorities. With growing awareness towards police brutality, there has also been a growth in questions surrounding the issue. Is police brutality really an issue?Are there solutions? The answer to both of those questions is yes, although some may disagree with the methods.
Now, this argument is not meant as an attack towards the police. I think the police force and I have a common goal, which is the well-being of the community they are in charge of(In this case the ferguson community). But there is no denying that police brutality does occur. Police brutality is an important issue to discuss because it is still going on today in various cities. And it still affects minorities throughout the US. Not to mention, this is not a new issue at all; police brutality is something people have protested about since the civil rights movement. However, there are various solutions that will help prevent, reduce, and eventually get rid of police brutality if the police implements them.
Police brutality is not a worldwide issue. But It is something that is highly recurring here in the United States. Compared to the the rest of the world, the US seems to have a much higher number of police shootings. This means that the issue is maybe not limited to this country, but certainly a bigger deal here. The article “american police shoot and kill far more people than their peers in other countries” shows statistics to back this up. According to the FBI’s data police deaths from last year stand at around 458, which is an incredible amount when compared to japan’s, and britain 0 deaths(Lopez, par.2).
Of course there are other factors. The chart does not separate justified deaths from unjustified one’s, and one could argue that this number is parallel to the crime rate in the United States. Still, i think that no cop, no matter how good or bad, wants to take a life. As it stands now, the police seems to be losing reliability every day. By trying to at the very least reduce this number no matter the circumstance, the police could begin to regain the trust it has begun to lose.
This issue comes from our past history of racism. To be more precise, our current police system has gradually begun to replace groups that used to hunt and hurt African Americans. Of course it’s far fetched, but there is no denying that the police force has become a force for controlling black bodies, as stated by David G. Embrick in the journal article “Two Nations, Revisited: The Lynching of Black and Brown Bodies, Police Brutality, and Racial Control in ‘Post-Racial’ Amerikkka.” Most minorities agree that the justice system does not favor them. This is also something that Embrick mentions, when he gives the example of a poll in which minorities were asked whether or not the justice system favored whites over blacks. 69% of the minorities asked, said that they think the criminal justice system favors whites over blacks (Embrick, par. 8). Even if it is just an opinion and not an actual fact, 69% is a pretty big number. That sort of mentality does not just spread on baseless facts and myths. If this mentality spreads then trust in the police will be lost. Which would lead to things like resistance, in turn causing the police to use force more often, and amplifying the issue. The police should work to try and change this growing mentality, so that they become more trusted, and be labeled as discriminatory less. Police brutality was born from our long history with inequality.
There are some people that say police brutality is not an issue. Or at the very least, not a big one. One of these people would be Andrew Sullivan, writer of an article called “Kaepernick’s Message Is Getting Lost — Along With the Facts on Race and Police Violence” in which he talks about how people make a big deal out of police brutality, when the facts show that it is not a common occurrence. Sullivan mainly breaks down a Washington Post chart which shows police shooting statistics. Sullivan says that in reality only about 0.5 percent of black people are actually abused by police, and that black people are only around 0.3 percent more likely to be stopped by police than white people(Sullivan, par. 9). Sullivan closes the article by saying that we should respect the spirit of protestors, but that we should not “Let emotion overwhelm reality” (Sullivan, par. 12).
Sullivan is right in that we shouldn’t let our emotions overwhelm the facts. But he seems to be misunderstanding the issue. Sullivan seems to think that all of these movements and protests are mostly because people think the police are slaughtering black people in the streets. And although some people might think this, most people protesting and supporting these movements know that’s not really the case. Most people are protesting because those few that got shot were shot brutally, and the officers responsible usually do not go to jail. They are protesting for someone like Timothy Russell, who was shot a 137 times by 13 police officers while he was unarmed (Embrick, par. 10). They are not protesting because of numbers, but because of the brutality of each case.We should not let emotion overwhelm the data, but we should not let the data stop us from looking at the story behind each case.
Many people say police brutality is not a big deal, that it only happens in certain cities, and it happens rarely. This is to some extent true. However, it is also not fair to dismiss this issue simply because it happens “in certain cities.” The truth is that the families of these people are hurting, and will keep hurting for a very long time.
There are examples of these stories in the book they can’t kill us all by Wesley Lowery. There are several accounts and individual stories that offer insight into the feelings of the people connected to the victims. A very good example is when the mother of Michael Brown, a man shot by a police officer, steps to the microphone and says ¨To some it has become a cliche, to us these are our children¨(Lowery 35). Just a simple quote like this one relays the feelings of most black communities across the United States.
Another example of how people have been affected by police brutality, this time concerning protests, would be when Lowery is interviewing a protester who says one of the main reasons to protest is because we live in a society devaluing black life (Lowery 180). listening to these stories is important, because they are from those who usually don’t get a voice. These are not characters in a story, these are real people. Another quote from the mother of Michael Brown’s mother was “My son deserved to go to jail, he did not deserve to die” (Lowery 53). This stands true for most of these cases of offenders who are shot and killed by police.
So there are facts, and data, as well as the opinion of the courts and justice system. But how do black people feel about all of this?Unfortunately, there is no sure way to know the feelings of each person, but we can look at one figurehead and look at his thoughts. Michael Eric Dyson, in the article “death in black and white”. talks about how white people will always struggle to understand black America.
Dyson also says that black people do not want to see dead cops, but they also don’t want to see cops who kill with no fear of going to jail (Dyson, par. 3). This seems to be one of the main issues fueling the protests. The fact is that most of the police who fire their weapon inappropriately usually do not go to jail, even when they kill unarmed and innocent people. Dyson seems to speak with sadness. Sadness that the country is in the state it is. That cops are killing people. This editorial shows how the black community is not only losing trust in the white community, but in cops as well.The police need to attempt making a connection with the black community, so that together they can find a way to put a stop to the violence.
Unfortunately there is no instant way to end police brutality, it will take time. But there are things police can start to do. One would be to try and communicate with the community more. The lack of communication between police officers and their community is one of the bigger problems. Another solution would be to apply national laws to the police. Lowery mentions that the police force is a decentralized institution, because there are thousands of police agencies that are only accountable for their communities. There is almost no regulatory control over them (Lowery 111). This is why we should place more control over police officers. Not only will this allow us to keep an eye on our police system, but it would also help us prove the officers innocent when accused of police brutality, as well as allow us to judge each situation better. There are other solutions, a few of which are mentioned in the article “How to dismantle racism and prevent police brutality” by Sirry Alang. Alang provies tip for civilians like educating yourself, evaluating policies and negative consequences, and supporting black lives matter (Alang, par. 11). But one that police could apply would be the decriminalization of behavior like loitering and minor traffic violations (Alang, par. 11). These solutions are a step in the right direction.
The police is a great institution that protects our cities. We should not consider this issue as police versus minorities. Instead, we should work together to stop police brutality. There are solutions that, with effort, could eventually rid us of this issue. We are a diverse nation, and so it can be hard to understand each other But if an effort is made by the police, we can begin to alleviate this issue. From regulations that limit the freedom and leeway of the police, to simple things like interacting and understanding the community more, these solutions are a step towards the right direction. All the police, the government, and of course the community, need to do is take these steps together.
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